What is Parsi Cuisine
By Abhishek Rajan
Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India
The parsi community originated from Persia now known as Iran. Zoroastrian Persians migrated to India after the fall of the Sassanian Empire and gave rise to the modern Indian Parsi community. According to the Qissa, Persian moved by sea to India and landed in Diu from Bushehr. The Parsi when settled in India carried along with them some of their Persian tradition. They also adopted part of the local cuisine but maintained their distinctive culture.
Over the years Parsis accumulated to new Land – Gujrat as a result Parsi food is a mix of vegetarian Gujarati cuisine and non-vegetarian Iranian cuisine. Since Parsi settled in Sajjan, in Gujarat, which is the coastal area their cuisine is influence by fish. Coconut is the ingredient most of the Parsi food. In their cuisine herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, apricot and raisins.
The main Persian cuisines are rice with meat, lamb or fish. and some onion, vegetables, nuts and herbs. To achieve balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavoring such as saffron. Cinnamon, parsley and dried lime are mixed delicately and used in special dishes. Since they settled in India they started using Garlic, Ginger, Red chilles and tamarind in their cuisine.
The Parsis believe in Humata, Hukha, Huvarshta which mean good thought, good words, and good deeds. The impact of these can be very clearly seen on their food, where good living is incomplete without good food. Parsi food is a mix of vegetarian Gujarati cuisine and non-vegetarian Iranian cuisine
· The Parsi curry is composed of coconut and spices.
· In Parsi tradition, the dinner is considered the main meal of the day.
· In Parsi cooking, people do not prefer to roast too many spices as they believe in the preserving the nutrition and the rich flavour of the condiments.
· Coconut, fish, and rice are considered to be the way of life and any Parsi feast is incomplete without the inclusion of these three.
· Parsis are connoisseurs of non-vegetarian food and drink.
· Sweet dishes also are an area of importance in this cuisine like soova pak, doodh Pak, Dar ni Pori, Kamas etc.
· Because of the Iranian roots, the stewing of vegetables, lentils and meat together in Parsi cuisine is quite common. The meat is combined with vegetables such as okra, green peas and nuts.
· Rose water is commonly used to flavour dishes.
· The halwas and the murabbas are also commonly made in this cuisine.
· The parsi prefer egg known as eeda. This has led to the making of certain egg specialities such as kera per eeda (eggs cooked on banana) and akuri (masala scrambled eggs)
· The preferred cooking medium is ghee. Mustard oil and peanut oil are also commonly used.
· Ginger and garlic are very prominent used in the Parsi cuisine.
· Garnishing of the dishes with fine straw potatoes (Sali) is common.
· Parsis use unique balance of acid and sweetness called ‘khattu mithu’ (Vinegar and sugar) in many dishes. Such as Parsi tomato-based curry known as ‘Patio’and turkey mince (Kheemo).
· Snacks such as bhakra (deep fried sweet dough), batasa (flour and butter tea biscuits) etc are an influence of the Gujrati cuisine
PARSI COOKING EQUIPMENT
The equipments used in parsi cuisine are similar to those used in other states of India however the name of essentail equipments could be different depending upon the regional language. Few of the special equipmets used are:
· Karasio and kuth: These are jugs without any handle which are traditionally made out of silver. The smaller version is called the kuth. These are usually used to take out water from the container or even to bring it.
· Boiyu: It is a large colander which is used to drain rice after boiling. It could be used for draining many other things such but used primarily for rice.
· Tapeli: These are pans of various shapes and sizes used for cooking food. The shape of a tapeli almost resembles handi or patila used in other parts of India.
· Patio: It is a flat pan with a broad base and wide mouth, usually used for making a dish called patio, and hence the name.
· Lohri: It is frying pan which is something between an kadhai and a tawa. It resembles the sauteuse pan used in western cooking and is used for making stir – fried dried vegetables.
· Popatji nu panu: It is a type of wok that has got 4 – 8 depressions to make a dish called Popatji nu panu that is eaten as tea time snacks. The utensil is made of cast iron and has depressions in which the batter is poured. The dish is placed directly on the heat source and when heated, it is oiled and batter is poured into the depression and cooked on both sides.
· Sadhna nu vasan: This is a kind of steamer used for preparing a special dish called sadhna made from rice flour. This vessel is quite similar to an idli vessel. It is filled with water upto the marked level and is kept directly on the heat source. The batter is poured on the perforated tray and is placed inside the container with the lid tightly closed. The steam thus generated cooks the sadhna.
PARSI MEAL STYLE
Their breakfast consists of eggs, bread and tea.
The basic feature of a Parsi lunch is rice, eaten with lentils, meat, fish or vegetable curry. Curry is normally coconut based.
Dinner is considered the main meal of the day and is a combination of eggs, fish, meat and poultry eaten with rice and finished with fruits and nuts. Potatoes or other vegetable curries along with Kachumber (onion salad) accompanies most meals.
SPECIAL DISHES OF PASRSI CUISINE
· MALAI NA KHAJA: This parsi speciality is specially prepared during the weddings. It is a kind of layered puff pastry that is made by combining rice flour and flour. The thick cream flavoured with rose is stuffed between two layered sheets of dough, which are then deep fried. The fried pastries are then dipped into sugar syrup and served warm.
· SALLI OR WAFERS: These are essential to the Parsi cuisine. Potatoes are thinly sliced or shredded and then washed several times in water to get rid of the starch. They are then dipped in cold salted water for at least 30 mins and are then drained, dried between towels and deep fat fried until crisp.
· DHANSAK: This is a very famous dish of the Parsis made by cooking lentils with meat, vegetables along with spring onion, mint , fenugreek and coriander.
(This particular dish is not preferred in any auspicious occasions because it is connected with death. The Parsi custom says that they are forbidden to eat meat for at least three days after the death of the loved one. It is believed that due to flow of emotions and mourning, the digestive systems do not work normally, and hence there could be a possibility of food not getting digested. The fourth day of this abstinence is broken by eating Dhansak.)
· AKOORI: the love for eggs of the Parsis has led to the making of many dishes with egg as the main ingredient. This is basically masala scrambled egg that is flavoured with garlic, onion and tomatoes. It is spiced with turmeric and can be eaten bread or even with roti. There are many variations of this in the Parsi cuisine.
· PORA: Parsi omelette.
· TARELI MACHI: This is the most common fish preparation in the parsi cuisine. The fish slices are marinated with turmeric, salt, red chilli powder, and cumin powder and shallow – fried in seesame seed oil until crisp.
· PATRANI MACHCHI: This is by far the most popular fish preparation in this cuisine. Pomfret slices are marinated with a chutney of coconut, mint leaves, green chillies, coriander leaves, ginger and garlic along with turmeric, cumin powder, and lime juice. The fish is then packed in banana leaves and steamed.
· SAAS NI MACHCHI: Pomfret cooked in a sweet and spicy gravy.
· MURGH JARDALOO: This dish consists of chicken stewed with dried or soaked apricots. The sweet taste of the apricots combine well with the sharp taste of the chillies and Worcestershire sauce.
· BATERO: This again is a unique dish of meat stewed in toddy vinegar. The meat is marinated with ground spices such as turmeric, chilli, cumin, ginger, garlic, peppercorns and toddy vinegar. The meat is shallow fried in ghee and the rest of the marinade is added to the meat, which is cooked until tender.
· DHAN DAAL PATIO: Rice, lentils and fish cooked in a sweet and tangy coconut-based gravy with drumsticks.
· KOLMI NO PATIO: Curried shrimp in a thickish tangy curry sauce. Usually served with a plain lentil side dish, and rice.
· SUKHA BOOMLA ACHAR: Sweet and sour dried seafood pickle.
· RAVO: It is a simple semolina pudding and the most famous dessert eaten on any occasions. The semolina is sautéed in ghee for a minute and then cooked in water and milk until it thickens, it is then garnished with slivered nuts and served chilled.
· SOOTERFENI: This is dessert made from sugar and looks like thin threads rolled into large circular size. It is flavoured with rose, cardamom and nutmeg. It is garnished by sprinkling rose petals, chopped pistachios and charoli seeds on top.
· FALOODA: This rose – sweetened milk often combined with ice – cream and corn flour vermicelli. It can also be garnished with soaked basil seeds that swell up like a drop of jelly with a black dot inside.
· LAGANU CUSTARD: A Parsi community wedding speciality. To prepare this the milk is boiled along with sugar until it is reduced to half. Powdered nutmeg is added for flavour and when the mixture is cool enough, eggs are beaten into it along with dry fruits. This is then baked in a moderate oven, until the top surface is golden brown and the custard is firm.
TRADITIONAL PARSI MENU
The Wedding Dinner (Lagan nu Bhonu) traditionally served on a Banana Leaf
Patrani Macchi (fish in banana-leaf parcels)
Taamota Par Eenda (egg preparation with tomato sauce)
Khari Murghi Ma Sali (chicken in gravy with potatoes)
Mutton Bafat (mutton stew)
Laganshala (Parsi Vegetable stew)
Gosh nu pulao (Mutton pulao)
Lagan Nu Custard (Parsi Custard)
Sweets and Nuts
Plus Curd, Chappaties, Sweet fruit pickle and potato chips.