Udwada is a sleepy town in Gujarat and one of the most sacred places in the world for any Parsi- Irani Zoroastrian. It is the home of our beloved Iran Shah, which houses the holy fire which the Zoroastrians brought with them when they escaped Iran centuries ago. Trips to Udwada are more of religious pilgrimages and people usually do day trips or stay the night. It’s a small town with barely anything to do and for most city slickers a day is probably all they can tolerate.
It’s hot like a furnace with faint cool sea breeze teasing you; no source of entertainment in the sense no cinema halls, restaurants or any touristy things to do. Just small hotels and lodges to crash for a night or two and fire temples. To a city bum it’s probably their worst night mare, to me it’s beautiful.
Where you see dead – I see calm. Where you see simple old albeit boring hotels, I see charming cottages with character. Where you see just fire temples and houses of religion, I see history and a place of peace. The best word to sum up this sleepy town which looks like it’s trapped in the 1800’s is quaint. Udwada is a quaint town which on the outside probably has nothing to offer but for a spiritual person like myself, the two days I’ve spent there I will treasure in a way I didn’t even realise was possible.
I spent two days in this holy town and it was spent doing three things. Praying, meeting the local priests and their families who lived there and EATING! Which to any Parsi Zorastrian is an integral part of the religious experience. The people of Udwada are humble and so adorable they remind me of Parsi’s from another world. A world so far away from what I’m exposed to in the city and it was just wonderful to interact with them. My tales about the locals is best kept for another post but apart from that a LOT of time was spent eating. Our breakfast was a typical Parsi meal though I have to be honest I was expecting chunks of chicken or pork along with toast and jam. Sounds ridiculous I know but the more unusual it sounds the more likely some Parsi on the planet somewhere has eaten it!
Spicy akuri, lovely light fluffy ‘charvela eeda’ which is scrambled eggs and safe to say some of the best eggs I’ve eaten. Fried egg , mildly toasted bread, butter and the sweetest jam ( probably one of those mala or wit jams). Of course there MUST be some meat to kick start the day so the first day was this beautiful spicy as hell kheema with potatoes. The kheema was my favourite so when we were served kaleji ( liver) the next day I just couldn’t help miss that yummy kheema.
Instead of describing each meal I thought I’d just pick my favourite things or as I like to call them my slurp-worthy surprises. The first is the beautiful doodh na puff. This puffy, frothy white dish is what I like to call the Parsi Coke Float because the foam on top reminds me of just that! It’s basically boiled milk that cools over night which is then ferociously whipped to get this lovely froth which is scooped out and put into a glass. It’s a child’s delight and just so much fun to eat! I don’t see doodh na puff in too many places around town but they should! It’s delicious (if you’re a milky person) and looks too tempting. This is what we food craving Parsis come to Udwada for!
Doodh Na Puff
Another thing distinctly found in Udwada is the local Gujarati girls will come to your hotel, shout under your building if you want to buy any local treats and fix up a time to come the next day and show you what she has in stock. I brought home packets of saaria ( white puffy crispy wafer like treat that is served at most weddings ) baby papads, plain and garlic flavoured which you’re suppose to fry but I baked them instead and they turned out yummy. We also bought fresh peppermint just because she had some. It’s easy to get the papad and the saaria from a store in Bombay but the fun was in buying something different NOT from a store but from a sweet lady who probably made them at home and sold it in her basket on her head. She’s the same lady who brought us the doodh na puff.
Papads, Saaria, Peppermint etc
A common dish at almost every lunch in this town is their famous ” Boi ni Macchi”. It’s a local river fish which is fried and everyone swears by it. Crispy on the outside but soft and delicious on the inside this fried fish is a hot favourite to eat plain, with chapati’s or even with dal and rice.
My lunch on the second day was not at Globe Hotel, where I was staying and had all my meals but at a dharamsala. The food was lovely with of course the usual suspects like salli chicken and the boi ni macchi but there was also a mutton pulao daal. Now it’s a normal Parsi dish, not even something local or known only to Udwada but then I had to give it a special mention because in all probability it was the best Pulao daal ka daal I have ever eaten. Usually the daal is thick and sometimes so thick that it’s plonked on top of the rice almost like a blob and I dislike that. This daal was much thinner (perfect daal like consistency if you ask me) and wonderfully balanced. Not too spicy, not plain and boring but just the perfect gravy to pour on top of soft fragrant rice with tender pieces of mutton. Sodawaterwalla Dharamsala you have outdone our self which just that daal.
My greatest discovery in Udwada was the cold drinks we were offered. Move over Coke Pepsi, Fanta, there is a new player in town and it’s called ‘SUNTA’. The named had me in splits and the shape of the bottle was so cute it reminded me of an old school cola bottle from the 70’s or 80’s! With an array of flavours I stuck to my favourite Raspberry and my friend got a Masala. It’s so strange because the raspberry didn’t taste like any of the raspberry drinks I’ve had. Not like Pallonji’s, Adeshirs, Rustom’s ( all available in Pune) or even the widely popular Dukes. Two sips of this reminded me of ‘poppins’ or even the red coloured standard ravelgon sweeties. If you grew up in the 90’s you know what Poppins’ are and drinking this just took me back to school where I haggled with the sweet shop afterschool to buy whatever I could so I could share it with my friends on the school bus ride back home. A sip of the masala one tasted exactly like Hajmola! It really was as if I was back on the school bus all grubby after school saving all the raspberry flavoured sweets for myself and making faces at my friends attacking the hajmolas.
Sunta’s Range Of Cold drinks( Displayed after the big coke bottle )
Sunta Flavoured Drinks
Udwada was full of surpises and it was wonderful because I wasn’t expecting anything. I’ve just documented some of my food stories but maybe the next post will have my entire experience and new Udwada stories to share.
A couple of shots from my meals – read more on Roxanne Bamboat’s blog article