Dhan Dar Patio Is The Ultimate Parsi Comfort Food For Navroz
- Shireen Jamooji
Updated : August 10, 2022 15:08 IST
For any reason or season, this simple but flavourful dish is in high demand at every Parsi table.
Growing up in London, the only tangible link I had to my Parsi heritage was through the food I ate. My mother would cook dishes from memory, drawing on her own childhood with occasional prompts from an old and slightly bedraggled copy of 101 Parsi Recipes by Jeroo Mehta. It’s not that Indian cuisine as a whole is a mystery in England – as their very culturally creative concept of a National Dish goes to show – but Parsi food is still hidden away within the small pockets of the community scattered across the country. It was only after relocating to Mumbai that I truly understood the vast scope that Parsi food had beyond the kitchens of friends and family. Learning how its Persian roots worked in flawless collaboration with Gujarati additions and then sprinkling in with some off-the-rails Bombay flair, opened up a whole new world. But despite having old institutions to explore, new restaurants to haunt and endless recipes to experiment with, there was one dish that had an unshakeable vice on my heart, soul and stomach. And that was the somewhat humble but eternally exquisite Dhan Dar Patio.
Made up of 3 parts – Dhan (rice), Dar (yellow arhar or toor dal) and Patio (prawns or fish in a sweet-sour tomato sauce) – it is a consummate dish for all occasions but is seen most often during celebrations. It somehow manages to be light on the stomach while bursting with rich flavours, probably why it’s the lifeblood of most Parsis when struck down by illness. The sweet but acidic Patio perfectly balances the uneventful but wholesome Dhan Dar like an unlikely but comfortably happy marriage.
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Most families have their own twists and tricks to make the dish their own. Some prefer jeera rice over the standard white basmati. Others sweeten their Patio with jaggery instead of sugar or add a specific type of vinegar to their mix. An oft-debated issue is the nature of the dal itself. Opinions vary on whether it needs to be arhar or toor dal or whether should you just split the difference and add both. Some are judged for blending their dal to a smooth consistency or relying on ghee and butter to make it creamier while others believe that chunkier is better. I for one don’t feel like the dish is complete without a topping of crispy fried garlic slices for some extra texture. Everyone’s sure to have very specific opinions on their Dhan Dar Patio, and when serving it to other people you’ll probably get a passive-aggressive comment or two if you miss their mark.
Whatever variations you add to your dish, the three elements only truly need each other. They can be served up alongside fried fish, Parsi kebabs or maybe some kachoober if you’re feeling rebellious though. It’s doled out on birthdays, weddings, navjotes and of course, no Navroz is complete without it, but it could also show up on a completely unremarkable Tuesday to the same enthusiastic welcome. Such is the magic of Dhan dar Patio.
- ½ cup Basmati rice per persont
- 1 ¼ cup water for each serving of rice (2.5 times more water than rice)
- Salt to taste (optional)
- Rinse the rice in running water at least 3 times to get rid of excess starch, until the water runs clear.
- Put the rice in a saucepan, pour in the measured water and salt, and put on medium to hot heat until the water comes to a rolling boil.
- Turn the heat down, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat, leaving it covered and leave the rice to finish cooking in its own heat/steam.
- Take the lid off, fluff up the hot rice with a fork before serving.
- 1 cup of toor/arhar dal per person
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 cup of water for each cup of lentils, plus 2 cups extra.
- 1 tsp salt or more to taste
- 1 generous knob of butter or ghee (optional)
- Soak the lentils in water for about an hour. Rinse under running water until it runs clear.
- Add the lentils, turmeric and water for cooking to the saucepan, turn up the heat to medium hot, and boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- If using a pressure cooker, cook for 10 minutes or 3 whistles.
- The lentils are cooked when you press them gently with the back of a spoon and they mash immediately
- Add salt, and if it’s too thick, add extra water
- If you want a creamier texture blend the dal with a spoonful of ghee or butter.
- Return to a medium heat until it reaches a pourable consistency.
- Serve hot.
Patio (Fish or prawns in tomato sauce)
- 2 fillets or slices of firm white fish or 250gm uncooked prawns, per person
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 large onion
- 1 tsp garlic-ginger paste or equivalent
- 1 level tsp turmeric powder
- 1 level tsp red chilli powder (or more or less, to taste)
- 1 heaped tsp cumin powder
- 1 heaped tsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp water
- 6 medium red tomatoes or tinned tomatoes
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves
- 3 heaped tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp sugarcane vinegar
- Salt to taste
- Rinse and clean the fish or prawns.
- Dust with a little turmeric powder and chilli powder as a marinade and leave aside.
- Peel and finely chop the onion; chop the tomatoes into small pieces; finely chop the coriander leaves.
- In a large deep pan, fry the onion in oil over medium heat until just browned before turning down the heat.
- Add the garlic-ginger paste, turmeric, chilli, cumin and coriander powders and water, cook stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, or until the oil starts separating.
- Add the tomatoes, stir well, cover with a lid and cook over low to medium heat until the tomatoes disintegrate.
- Stir occasionally to mash down the tomatoes, and prevent burning.
- Add the coriander leaves, salt, sugar and vinegar, stir well and slowly add the fish or prawns, push gently down until they are covered with the sauce.
- Lower the heat and cover with the lid and cook for about 5-10 minutes, giving the pan a shake occasionally.
- Check to season, it should be spicy, hot, sweet and slightly sour.
- Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.