Dawoodi Bohras: Food Traditions Of A Close-Knit Community
Image Credit: Image credit: Shutterstock| Bohri Thaal

Dawoodi Bohra cuisine, which developed over hundreds of years and was influenced by the community's ties to both Gujarat and the Middle East, was virtually off-limits to most foreigners. It was only available at a Bohri home, wedding, or festival. Mumbai, where the community is most prevalent in India, has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. While there aren't any upscale eateries serving Bohri food in the city yet, some foodies are employing cutting-edge strategies to introduce this delectable cuisine to more people. 

In all its majestic splendor, the Bohri dinner plate, or thaal, is a celebration of community, family, and delicious food. When commemorating a wedding or religious ceremony, these magnificent thaals, each shared by 7-8 people, are exceptionally elaborate. A dash of salt is added to the food before a mitha (sweet dish), which is typically an ice cream, phirni, sheer khurma, halwa, or flaky malai khaja. The first kharas, or savoury meal, follows, which is typically fried and includes chicken drumsticks, kheema samosas, and bheja cutlets. Continuity of the rounds of mithas and kharas depends on the host's generosity. 

Image credit: Shutterstock

A lot of meat is offered in the spectacular parade of rich meals that are liberally garnished with nuts and cream. A complex meat meal, such as a raan, nalli nihari, or kaju chicken, is served after the final kharas. A rice dish, such as dum biryani, is always served as the final dish at a Bohri thaal. 

Many Bohri households still eat their regular meals from thaals, though they are noticeably less lavish. They think that this style of group dining is what binds this delicate neighbourhood together. Other eating customs in this meat-loving tribe had origins that are now lost to fading memories. For instance, chana bateta thulli (a festive dish made of black chickpeas and potatoes) and sweet dalia (cereal with dry fruits) are traditional Bohra celebration foods for birthdays. When khichda is made, the tenth day of Muharram is signalled (a slow-cooked stew of meat, lentils and spices). Additionally, a bowl of masoor chawal is served on the first day of each Bohra calendar month (lentils and rice). 

The Dawoodi Bohra Muslims are a powerful force in India, yet they prefer to keep to themselves, donning magnificent ridas, the colourful skirt and cape worn by Bohra women, and distinctive white headgear with gold rims. As a result, even in Mumbai, a place that is very important to the Bohra community, one is more likely to have eaten sushi or guacamole than an actual dal chawal paleedu.