In 1923, Rashid Kohinoor started Britannia & Co in Ballard Estate. Until 1947, it served Continental fare, with British dishes like Fish and Chips. In 1947, after India’s Independence on August 15, the menu conveniently changed to Mughlai and Mangalorean dishes. In 1982, his daughter-in-law and present generation owner Boman Kohinoor’s mother, Parveen, decided to stick to her Zorastrian roots and introduced a Parsi and Iranian menu. Along with Sali Boti, Sali Chicken, Keema Pav, Patra Ni Macchi and Dhansak, she introduced one more dish – Berry Pulao, which was saffron rice, a chicken leg and Zereshk berries.
The Iranians use Zereshk berries (barberries) on a variety of pulaos like Shirin Polow and Baghali Polow (fava beans and rice) but it’s interesting to note that they have no dish such as Berry Pulao.
When Mumbaikars first ate it, they found a lack of masala and curry that they were used to in Indian food. “My mother started serving it with mutton seek kebab and white rice with a half-boiled egg, which they thought was kacchu (uncooked). My mother then decided to improvise to adapt the dish to Indian taste. The rice remained and she introduced a Berry Pulao masala, which she marinated the boneless chicken with, and topped it with berries, fried cashews, barista (fried) onions and two marble-sized kebabs. It was a hit overnight!” says Boman, who today sells seven variations of the Berry Pulao with tiger prawns, paneer, vegetables, keema, etc.
Archaeologist and historian Kurush Dalal who runs food service Katy’s Kitchen confirms, “There is no such thing as Berry Pulao in Iran. We use berries called Zereshk in many different pulaos, along with dry fruits, raisins, sultanas, jardalu (dried apricots) and dates. This is a dish evolved at Irani restaurant, Britiannia & Co, and used to be a way of recycling the previous day’s meat. It was shredded mutton tossed in cooked rice, topped with berries,” says Dalal. Pulao is cooked layered in a vessel like biryani, but not Berry Pulao. Everything is cooked separately, he explains, adding, “Much later, it evolved into the present-day dish consisting of three pieces of meat, boiled in its own gravy. All said and done, it is a fun dish to eat. I first ate the original as a seven-year-old. The taste is imprinted on my memory.”
At SodaBottleOpenerwala, chef de cuisine Danesh Vakshoor, explains Parsi food is a result of Iranian food with Indian elements. “The Berry pulao we make has an onion tomato masala with an onion garlic paste, and is topped with mint and berries. Ours is on the slightly sweeter side. This is similar to what my granny used to make, and every household has their version of this dish,” he concludes.
Where to Bite into Berry Pulao
Where: Across outlets in BKC, Powai and Thane
Price: Rs 425 – Rs 515
Britannia & Co
Where: Wakefield House,11, Sport Rd, 16, Opposite New Custom House, Ballard Estate
Timings: 11.30 am to 4 pm
Price: Rs 350 – Rs 750
Where: 75-77, Donald House, SBS Road, Opposite Electric House, Colaba
Timings: 8 am to midnight
Price: Rs 340 – Rs 380
Contact: +91 9820136511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: Rs 450