The Parsis are a small community with a rich culinary heritage that a lot of people don’t have a clue about. Recently, Bangalore was treated to an array of authentic Parsi dishes whipped up by none other than the legendary Parvez Patel, at Cubbon Pavilion at ITC Gardenia. Chef Patel has been serving Parsi food in many cities, over the years, as part of ITC’s food festivals and promotions.
Parsi cuisine is a tantalising mix of Persian food influenced by Gujarati style of cooking and is popular in western India. The curries are spice laden and flavoured with nuts and apricots. The Parsis, a fun-loving and hard working people, have always loved their food and have been passionate about it.
Meeting the quiet, soft spoken and unassuming Parvez Patel is a delightful experience. He is a treasure of culinary secrets and is known for keeping alive Parsi recipes, handed from one generation to the next, at his restaurant, Ideal Corner in Mumbai. He makes you realise that there is more to Parsi food that mutton dhansak! Now, that’s a happy thought.
Patel began his career at a one-dish-a-day garage restaurant but he has mastered the full range of Parsi delicacies since and even cooks for Tata Steel employees at their annual function (in Jamshedpur) which even Ratan Tata doesn’t miss! “Ideal Corner is an intrinsic part of the celebrated Mumbai Food Walks. But it wasn’t always a restaurant, it started out being a garage for servicing Yezdi bikes. With the two-wheeler going out of production, I began selling tea and snacks before fully embracing the food business,” he says. The restaurant’s name, it is believed, is derived from Ideal Jawa, the manufacturer of the Yezdi motorcycle. As a teenager, when the young Pervez wasn’t hanging around motorcycles, he would be in the kitchen, watching his mother and aunts conjure up delectable Parsi food, taking in every little detail keenly. Soon it was time to put his skills to the test and he began by serving his favourite snacks—chicken rolls, cutlets, kebabs and biscuits. As the popularity grew, he included one main course daily. Encouraged by the response, he expanded his menu to include all the traditional Parsi staples.
“I believe in the freshness and authenticity of my ingredients. My masalas are all hand pounded and the vinegar I use is made from natural sugarcane juice, made in one village in Gujarat,” the chef says proudly.
I began my meal with saria or strips of rice wafers, Parsi style and Tarkari nu Stew which is a mix of five vegetables in tomato based gravy, flavoured with cinnamon and cloves. Like typical Gujarati food, this has a sweet-sour flavour and is best eaten with rotis. The piece de resistance had to be the Patra ni Macchi, pomfret fish, which is a rarity to find in Bangalore, coated in coriander and mint sauce, steamed in banana leaves and the lacy Margina Cutlets which is chicken mince marinated and shaped into cutlets and fried in whipped egg. The Mutton Dhansak Kabab is a combination of browned rice served with a slow cooked mutton dhansak dal and accompanied with minced mutton kebabs.
The meal ended with a generous helping of Lagan nu Custard, a traditional Parsi dessert made of milk, eggs, sugar and nutmeg. Other delicacies that Patel made were Sali Ma Murghi (spiced chicken garnished with finely sliced fried potatoes) and the Bharuchi Akuri which is a sinful combination of scrambled eggs with ghee, whole cream, broken cashews, raisins and mashed potato.
While there isn’t that much choice for vegetarians, they might relish the Tarkari nu Kebab (mixed vegetables in traditional spices), Kharo Papeto (potato curry seasoned with cumin and green chilli paste) and Athelu Paneer which is paneer cooked in cumin gravy.