Eid Ul Adha 2024: Celebrate Bakra Eid The Bohri Way

Long before Munaf Kapadia started his home dining and delivery venture, The Bohri Kitchen, in December 2014, his childhood memories of celebrating Eid Ul Adha involved being sent to deliver mutton dishes to about 50 families to who his family wanted the food distributed to. “My dad would send us off with an allowance and a handwritten note from my mother in either a cab or a bus. It all started in my house and then inspired the entire food delivery system of Swiggy and Zomato,” Munaf jokes. 

His mother, Nafisa Kapadia, who helms the culinary affairs at TBK, shares that all begins by offering prayers and then, as it goes for all Bohri festivals, the food takes over. After the prayers, the goat is sacrificed and then the focus shifts towards food. The mutton is distributed among the needy and among family members. The larger motivation is supposed to be to distribute food, especially meat, to people who need it. Post this, we invite friends and family to come eat with us,” Nafisa explains.

The Feast

Unlike some Muslim communities that make Sheer Khurma during Bakra Eid, the Bohris traditionally make another dessert called Malida. “During Ramzan Eid, we make Sheer Khurma; for Bakri Eid, we make Malida. I think the Parsis make a version of the Malida too but ours is different. It's made out of atta, gundal, or gondh, edible gum and lots of ghee,” says Nafisa. “It's a sticky, chewy, sweet dish. We make a muthiya out of atta and rava; we add lots of ghee to it and we make a dough. And then we make balls and fry them. This is then lightly crushed and the gur, dry fruits and other ingredients are added,” she adds.

The food during this festival revolves around mutton. The Bohris make a Bhuna mutton with a special masala, the recipe for which is a closely guarded secret. They also make a special Raan in a red masala. “We cook the shoulder of a goat for a couple of hours over a high flame. It is marinated for over two days with brista, dahi and my mom's signature masala. It is served without cutlery. The reason it is more tender, juicier and flavourful than even the most expensive raan available in the market has something to do with our community's approach towards meat and slow cooking.”

The Bohri Biryani

According to Munaf, what makes the Bohri Biryani different is the way in which the technique of dum is used. “It's about patience, letting the meat cook and treating it with respect. A dum-style biryani is an original Bohri biryani. So, it has to be made in layers inside a tapela: rice, mutton, and rice, and there is a layer in between, which is the coloured rice. The mutton is marinated in curd; masala and potatoes play a very important role,” he says.

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When cooked slowly, the flavour of that meat spreads across the rice and the potatoes. The original Bohri-style biryani is not a red masala biryani but a white biryani. The flavours and spices are subtle. Biryani is usually served with corn soup on the side and kachumber raita. 

“If you ever eat a thal at a traditional Bohri function or wedding, it is always divided into three parts: kharaas, meethaas, and jaman. You usually start with the kharaas, the savoury items, but some more ambitious thals even start with ice cream. So, you start with a slab of ice cream, then you will go into savoury items, the kharaas. Then, if it is a bigger event, there will be another mithaas to reset your palate, and then you get into the jaman, which is the main course and usually a rice-based item, such as a dum biryani or a dal chawal palida. The Biryani is always served with a cup of soup alongside corn soup with a piece of a corn cob inside it.”

The core flavours of Bohri food are Middle Eastern foods influenced by Gujarat and then other places in India where the Bohri families settled. “In Bombay, the average Bohri thal has a pineapple raita, which you may not find on a festive plate in, say, Kochi or Chennai.”