Eid Ul Adha 2024: Celebrate Bakra Eid With Irani Muslim Cuisine

Iranian Muslims in India celebrate Bakra Eid by preparing a mix of traditional Iranian dishes infused with Indian flavours and ingredients. These dishes are not only delicious but also reflect the rich cultural heritage and culinary diversity of both Iran and India. From a hearty stew to flavourful rice, a variety of mutton gravies or succulent kebabs, the Bakra Eid feast has it all.

The migration of the Irani community from Iran (Persia) to India began primarily due to trade and cultural exchanges. Ancient Persian traders and scholars visited Indian shores, establishing early links between the two regions. 

During the Mughal era, Persian became the court language, and many Persian poets, scholars, and nobles found patronage in India. Some of them even played significant roles in the Mughal court and administration.

Even during the British colonial period, Iranian merchants and traders, known as the "Irani" community, migrated primarily for economic opportunities. Some of these Irani immigrants established iconic Irani cafes and restaurants, particularly in cities like Mumbai (then Bombay), Pune and Hyderabad. Over the years, these cafes have become cultural landmarks, and they are known for their unique blend of Iranian and Indian culinary traditions.

The Memories

Chef Seema Sadequian is a self-taught culinary artist specialising in home-style cooking and is an expert in Iranian cuisine. The treasured legacy is passed down through multiple generations and lovingly taught to her by her mother. While she has perfected the art of creating authentic Persian food, she has also infused her own creative flair into traditional recipes.  

Seema comes from a family that has been in the hospitality industry for many years. Her grandfather, late Sayed Ali Akbar Hussaini, started the Lucky restaurant in Bandra in 1938. “My grandparents came to India about 90 years ago. My grandfather started his business with only 7 items on the menu,” says Seema, who now helms Cafe Mommyjoon, in Bandra, Mumbai.

Talking about her memories of Bakra Eid and the stories she heard about the celebrations in Iran, she says. “In our hometown in Iran, the butcher comes and sacrifices the goat, and then the family prepares kebabs or soups, and they all have it together. The men go for morning prayers, and then they distribute the mutton to family and friends, and then they meet for lunch.”

In India, she remembers the goat being brought to the house a week prior and kept in the courtyard. “Other Iranian families would also come and join our family for the sacrifice, and then a soup was made and relished by everyone. Bakra Eid is more of a family affair, where members of the family meet in an elderly person's house and enjoy meaty dishes,” she says.

The Feast

According to Seema, the gurda and kaleji are grilled in Iran while in India, they are cooked. Kaleji is actually a street food in Iran. “In India, mutton dishes such as Mutton Biryani are commonly eaten on Bakra Eid. The mutton here is different, too. It is more fatty. In Iran, too, different parts of the mutton are cooked in different ways. All mutton dishes, except for the ones that are grilled, are slow-cooked on a low flame. Iranians are very particular about how their rice is cooked and is a staple. One needs a lot of patience to cook Iranian dishes,” says Seema.

“In one dish, small pieces of mutton are cooked with Chana Dal. Another popular dish is the Mahiche, which is a lamb shank that's slow-cooked for around 10-12 hours. It is served on a bed of dill and saffron rice with a side of Tahchin, stuffed jalapenos, grilled tomato, onion and gravy. Sheer Khurma, for example, is not prepared in Iran at all. It is something only Iranian families settled in India make,” she explains.

Dishes such as Kebab-e Koobideh,a minced meat Kebab and  Ghormeh Sabzi a Persian Herb Stew are also popular in Iran.

Many of the ingredients for the Iranian dishes that Seema makes at home and at the restaurant have to be brought in from Iran because they aren’t available in India. “The ingredients make a lot of difference to the taste. We get our saffron from Iran. There are also other key ingredients such as zershk (Iranian barberries), kashk (whey protein), pomegranate molasses, and herbs that are used in traditional dishes and need to be brought from Iran.”