Eid Ul Adha 2024: Celebrate Bakra Eid Cutchi Memon Style

When Faiziya Soomar started the Cutchi Memon Table to create her family’s heirloom recipes, she wanted to shine the spotlight on her community’s food. Like the Bohris, the Cutchi Memons too, have a strong connection with Gujarat. “Our ancestors are from Kutch. I have never been to Kutch, but the food traditions have been passed on. Our food has seen influences from Gujarat and other Muslim communities, but the end product is quite different from what you’ll taste anywhere else,” says Faiziya. 

The community has their own masalas and specific cooking techniques. “Like everyone else, our garam masalas include tej pata, cloves and elaichi. We also have our Thande Masale, which includes spices that cool the body, such as pathar ke phool (stone flower) and rose petals. We use a lot of saffron and fried onions in our food and like to marinate meat for a long time. Nothing is done in a hurry or in a jiffy, in a Cutchi Memon home,” she explains.

While some rituals remain the same, over the years, Bakra Eid rituals have evolved. “In the morning, the men do congregational prayers. This is optional for women. Once they're done with that, they go to sacrifice the goat. It was different back in the day. I grew up in Bangalore, and in the bungalows, the community came together for the slaughter. Even when I got married and came to Mumbai, many people from society and buildings came together for sacrifice. These days, in more cosmopolitan societies, this has changed,” Faiziya observes.

Faiziya’s family now has a share in the sacrifice that takes place in their village and makes arrangements to have the meat distributed to the needy there. “There is a rule we follow by which one-third of the meat is distributed to the poor, one-third is given to our relatives, and one-third we keep for ourselves. That's how the meat is distributed.”

The Feast

“Earlier, when the slaughter happened where we lived, the butcher would give us the cuts we wanted, and then I would grill the liver and kidney. Later, I would make the biryani, and the whole family would eat. I still make the biryani, but it's done with meat we get from a meat shop,” says Faiziya.

She insists that the Cutchi Memon biryani tastes different from the ones made by other communities. “While every region has its own Biryani, it’s interesting how even with similar ingredients, every region will have different tastes. We marinate the meat for the biryani with a lot of yoghurt and fried onions. We combine the saffron with milk and pour it over the rice to give that extra flavour and aroma,” she explains. 

“There is the mutton layer at the bottom, then we have the masala over that, and then we put the rice, which is half cooked. This is then topped with the oil that is removed from the mutton. The saffron milk is poured over this, and then it's slow cooked on a very slow flame, preferably kept on a tawa so that it takes its own sweet time to steam up and the aromas go through the rice,” she adds.

According to Faiziya, it's not just the Biryani; the accompaniments also change in every region. “In Hyderabad, they always serve the biryani with a Mirchi Ka Salan. In Bangalore, a Biryani always comes with a brinjal curry made with dahi and peanuts, a raita and definitely a sweet, such as a rice kheer. Brinjal is supposed to absorb the cholesterol and the oil from the mutton biryani. In Mumbai, however, only a dahi raita is served with the Biryani,” she points out.

The Cutchi Memons also cook Raan and sheer khurma during Eid. The Raan is bought and cleaned, and all the fat is taken off before being marinated with a lot of lime, ground ginger, garlic paste, and yoghurt and left overnight. It is slow-cooked the next day or sometimes even after 48 hours. “The longer it marinates, the better it cooks as the flavour reaches right inside,” says Faiziya.

During  Ramzan Eid Faiziya makes about 25-30 kilos of Sheer Khurma to distribute among friends and family. During Bakra Eid it’s a more family affair. Sweets such as Khubani Ka Meetha and Shahi Tukda are also made. “In the evening, our extended family gathers and eats together. Our calendar is 10 days shorter than the English calendar. Sometimes, when Bakra Eid falls in the winter, we also make Gajar Ka Halwa,” she shares.

Early Memories

Faiziya’s childhood memories of Bakra Eid revolve around the festivities in her grandmother’s house, where her large family would gather.``If you consider my parents’ siblings and their children, we are a large family and Eid celebrations meant everyone coming together. My grandma would cook up a feast for us. My aunt would sit and make pulpy grape juice, for which you remove all the seeds and the skin by hand and then make the juice. It was such a tedious task. Now, when I cook for the family, I realise how tough it must have been for my mom and grandma.”