Parsi cuisine is an eclectic mix of hot and sweet, nice and spice. It involves simple yet diverse ingredients that in theory seem a bit odd but make complete sense on a plate. ‘Parsis’ or ‘parsees’ are descendants of Zoroastrians who fled Iran during the Arab invasion in the 17th century. They eventually settled along the west coast of India and it’s during that time they developed a distinct cuisine, one that proudly boasts of Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Iranian and British flavours.
From their Irani roots they borrowed a flare for extravagant feasts. They love to spend hours cooking before a big ceremony and prepare dishes that are absolutely mind-blowing: Koimino patio (a sweet and sour prawn curry), Dhandal patio (fish curry served with rice and lentils), Akoori, Dhan Daal with Khaari fish and Kopra Pak (Coconut Fudge).
Key Ingredients used in Parsi food
Parsis use a lot of white sugar or jaggery – unrefined cane or palm sugar depending on the dish in question. They also have three basic spices that are used routinely: The Parsigaram masala, sambhar masala and dhansak masala. Though many urban households don’t make them from scratch, they use them in most of their food.
The Parsis are also known to have a serious affinity for coconuts. Coconuts were considered to be exotic in ancient Persia and thus made their way into Parsi ceremonial life and food. Some other key ingredients include dried red chilli, fresh green chilli, coconut milk, ginger-garlic paste and tamarind juice.
We did some digging and found the 10 most popular, traditional recipes that are a hallmark of Parsi cuisine and most commonly featured in festive occasions and daily meals.
This one is a an ideal example of the Parsi’s need to mix hot and sweet. Succulent mutton chunks are cooked in tomatoes, onions, jaggery and vinegar. It reeks of bold flavours like turmeric and ginger, and is best served hot with fried potato snacks.
Mutton Cutlets are one of the most common Parsi snacks and are prepared by mixing mutton with potatoes, ginger, turmeric and other aromatic spices. They’re then deep-fried and served with a gorgeous bowl of Tomato Gravy.
Patrani Ni Machi
Recipe by Chef Roopa Gulati
Patra means leaf and macchi means fish. This dish is every seafood lovers dream come true. Medium sized fish is marinated with mild spices, lime juice, spiced coconut chutney and then steamed in glorious green banana leaves. There is also a healthier version of this classic recipe which used a pepper based marination with mustard oil.
Dhansak, is arguably the most popular of all Parsi dishes. It’s an aromatic mix of spices and elements from Persian and Gujarati cuisine and is used as base for cooking chicken, meat and other main ingredients.