The Long And Buttery History Of Khari Biscuits

Tea without snacks is hardly tea at all. Whether you’re a fan of sweet or savoury, munchies are a must. For Parsis this means dropping some batasa bombs in every mug or maybe some patrel or dar ni pori if you’re feeling adventurous. But an all-time favourite has got to be the simple but addictive Khari Biscuit. Flaky and light, they crumble at the slightest touch and melt in your mouth with a unique buttery finish. Though they borrow a lot from French puff pastry, the version we know in India most likely has origins much closer to home. 

The story of puff pastry is one that’s always worth telling because this legendary creation was actually born from error. Artist and amateur chef Claudius Gelee is the one to thank for starting us down this path as he was busy preparing a meal for his sick father. The doctor had given strict orders that he could consume nothing more complex than water, flour and butter so Gelee was hard at work making a cake from the directed ingredients. 

He layered up the dough and butter and against the advice of his mentor who believed the butter would just melt out in the oven, he baked the creation and then both men stepped back to admire their creation. Claudius went on to work at a pastry shop in Paris and his puff pastry became world-renowned.

Though there are some who debate that origin story, there is very little doubt about how they made their way to India. The onus for that lies firmly with the Zoroastrian Persians when fleeing their country for India at the time of Islamic persecution in Iran. They settled in Gujarat and quickly adapted their old recipes to Indian tastes. Today you can sample most of these delights at Irani cafes where Bhakaras, Nankhatai, Pattice and other treats can be found stacked in, ready for the taking.

Though the Parsis are still an integral part of India’s food culture, small features like khari are loved and embraced by all regions. The quintessential tea time snack, this flaky, buttery biscuit has travelled many continents and centuries to get to us and as they shatter and crumble into millions of particles at the first bite, remember you’re really being showered in delicious history.