Does Parsi food mean Dhansak or bun maska chai to you? Well then this is for you! Explore the world of Parsi fare beyond the staples and get to know the hidden gems of the cuisine.
When you say ‘Parsi Food’, most people envision one thing. Dhansak. And while that’s of course a beloved dish, it’s by no means the end all and be all of Parsi food. By nature, the cuisine is a cultural kaleidoscope of influences, starting from all the way back in Persia where the Zoroastrian religion began and winding its way across the seas to Gujarat where it gathered a whole host of new influences and flavours that aligned better with the Indian palate.
As legend goes, when the first ships of Zoroastrians fleeing from the Persian empire landed on Indian shores, the King Jadi Rana was reluctant to add more burden to his population. A priest from the Zoroastrian party asked for a bowl of milk, full to the brim, saying that the bowl was like his kingdom, there was no space for any more and then sprinkled in sugar. The milk didn’t overflow and the milk was now sweetened. The priest assured the king that this was what the Zoroastrian travellers would do, simply sweeten his kingdom. Impressed by this wisdom, the King granted them asylum and the rest, as they say, is history.
That adaptability is still seen in Parsi cuisine to this day, with dishes that echo ideas of the middle-east but that embrace and integrate flavours from India’s western coastline. Today, in honour of Parsi New Year, let’s explore some lesser known dishes that are just as beloved to Parsi cuisine.
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Salli Boti is a hearty Parsi mutton curry that combines tender pieces of meat with crispy fried potato matchsticks, known as "salli." The curry boasts a rich and robust gravy made from tomatoes, onions, ginger, and garlic, spiced with traditional elements like red chilli powder and garam masala. The interplay of textures between the succulent meat and crunchy sali is a hallmark of this dish.
Kolmi no Patio:
Parsi cuisine has a special tendency to combine sweet and sour and this prawn curry with a twist, Kolmi no Patio does just that. Made by cooking prawns in a tangy tomato and tamarind sauce, sweetened with jaggery or sugar it is an explosion of different flavours. Often also made with fish, the balance of flavours make this dish a favourite among seafood enthusiasts. It’s most commonly served alongside dal and rice (dhan dar) for a simple but fulfilling meal.
Saas ni Macchi:
Saas ni Macchi is a delightful Parsi fish curry that exemplifies the blend of sweet, sour, and spicy flavours. Tender fish pieces are simmered in a creamy sauce made from simple ingredients like onion, chillies and garlic, spiced and then made into a thin roux with flour. A splash of vinegar with a few spoons of sugar creates a beautiful contrast of flavours. The dish is usually garnished with fresh coriander and served with steamed rice or ‘rotli’. The creamy texture and harmonious combination of ingredients make Saas ni Macchi a beloved Parsi culinary treasure.
Jardaloo ma Ghosh:
Jardaloo ma Ghosh, or Parsi-style mutton with dried apricots, offers another punchy contrast of flavours. Succulent pieces of mutton are cooked with fragrant spices like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom, creating a rich and aromatic base. The addition of dried apricots imparts a subtle sweetness that balances the savoury notes. The dish is often accompanied by fluffy rice or rotis.
Often found at Parsi homes and occasionally finding its way onto a wedding menu, this delightful Parsi dish brings together tender pieces of chicken and a spiced gravy. The word "atheli" refers to the process of marinating the chicken in a blend of aromatic spices before cooking. The marinated chicken is then slow-cooked in its own juices gravy that includes tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger. The result is a dish with deep, complex flavours and a beautiful harmony between the spices and the succulent chicken.
Aleti Paleti is a unique Parsi dish that is a game changer in minimising food waste. The term "aleti paleti" is derived from the Gujarati words for "intestines" and "tripe," which are common components of the dish.This hearty (no pun intended) dish is essentially a combination of various leftover meats and organs, cooked with spices and vegetables to create a rich and satisfying gravy. Alongside these, you might find liver, kidney, heart, and other offal, all simmered in a spicy tomato-based gravy seasoned with ginger, garlic, and aromatic spices. The dish turns humble ingredients into a meal that embodies the spirit of sustainability and tradition.