Mirror’s only resident bawa has tips on negotiating Parsi new year bhonu like a pro.
Until two days ago, there was a strange fidgety unquiet around the house. We were the oddballs. Everyone else in a community of 45,000 seemed to have placed ‘the order’. That the latest issue of the Jam-e-Jamshed, a community weekly the Parsis devour front to back, was packed with no less than 13 ads by caterers calling on ‘esteemed patrons’ to ‘book early to avoid disappointment’ wasn’t helping.
Now that five patra-ni-macchis (full pomfret only) have been booked, the sun’s shining brighter. Figuring out the bhonu (local term for meal) order every year before Pateti – the last day of the year when old accounts are closed and sins are atoned for – and Navroze (new year) this Sunday, is a task that takes careful consideration.
Interestingly, there are as many foodies outside the community curious about whether the same chutney used in patra fish goes into stuffing the eeda chatni no pattice (plump roundel of half a boiled egg coated with a film of tangy chutney, followed by a shroud of mashed potato; crumbfried).
This one’s for them – a 10-point advisory on negotiating a traditional Parsi meal on Navroze like a pro. Saal Mubarak.
1 Do not go looking for dhansak on new year. Auspicious occasions demand ‘happy’ dishes like kesari pulao dal. When a loved one passes away, the immediate family turns vegetarian for the next three days, and ‘returns’ to meat on the fourth day with a dhansak meal. Alternatives? Kashmiri pulao dal (chicken and mutton) and prawn pulao dal.
2 Before Farrokh Khambhata became the swish SoBo restaurateur he is, he was a reliable wedding caterer. He is still one of the best go-to names if you want a lavish purist bawa feast, and his lunch and dinner buffets at Umame and Cafe at the NCPA are first-rate (try chicken cocktail pulao dal and leg of ham with peach-prune stuffing). But if it’s a takeaway you are thinking of, prepare to wait a lifetime for your feast to be packed. The last time, we waited an hour before the staff figured which container fitted which lid.
Achar-saria-rotli, patra-ni-macchi, jardallo salli chicken, mutton pulao dal and blue berry cheese cake for takeaway. Call: 9821026507
3 Yes, the big guns assure you fancy trimmings (Ratan Tata Institute; call 66236969), but sometimes it’s worth giving the fringe players a shot. The genial Nergish Lala, who runs Allrounders, may have shifted kitchens from Marine Lines to Tardeo, but her fans have followed her. Go for her mutton cocktail kababs and kid gosht. Call: 9819002500
4 Kid gosht has nothing to do with underage humans. It’s a stew made using falloff-the-bone meat of a young lamb or goat, fragrant with ginger, peppercorns and cumin in a light white gravy.
Try it at By the Way, Gamdevi (call: 23803532) or Cafe at the NCPA buffet (call: 22821212)
5 Achar (pickle) is dear to Parsis, and specials span the sweet (gajar-mewa-nu-achar; dry fruits and shredded carrot) to the fiery (Tarapori patio; dry Bombay duck pickle that made up for the absence of seafood in the monsoon). Dadar Parsi Colony-based Zenobia Schroff is the queen of preservativefree Parsi pickles, but also dishes up a Navroze takeaway.
Try salli boti, kebab and mutton pulao and garab-nu-achar (fish roe pickle). Call: 4135650
6 The late Katy Dalal was a Renaissance woman. She cooked like a dream, knew as much about chilli varieties as the Mexicans, was a trained archaeologist, and an engaging storyteller. Her son Kurush now holds fort at Katy’s Kitchen, and the taste of their specialities hasn’t changed despite her departure.
Go for their patra-ni-macchi (the most generous portions you’ll find), saas-ni-macchi (tricky to do because most others overdo the vinegar in the burly white gravy that swims around the chunky pomfret slice), and the baked lagan-nucustard. Call: 9820136511
7 Britannia Co. is iconic for a million reasons – including a deceased cock for brand ambassador – but it’s their Persian-inspired berry pulao and Boman Kohinoor’s hospitality that are clear winners. Son Romin manages the show, while his father, now in his 90s, potters around, spinning yarns about Yezd. The pulao that gets its flavour from zereshk (maroon tangy berries native to Iran), is a recipe his late wife, Bachan thought up. The place stays shut on Sundays, but is open this week (only for lunch) to mark the auspicious occasion.
Also try their salli boti/chicken and mutton cutlets in gravy. Call: 22615264
8 Ideal Corner on Gunbow Street has marghi-na-farcha (chicken leg fried in egg batter) and lagansara tarkari mawa nu stew that are must-trys. On Khordad Saal (Zoroaster’s birthday; August 23), order the dhan daar fish patia. It’s the simplest, heartiest bawa dish you’ll savour. Call: 22621930
9 The golden oldies never disappoint. Sassanians at Marine Lines, Colaba’s Cafe Paradise and Cafe Military at Fort offer economical, no-frills. Try Military’s Bharuchi pulao dal. Paradise does homestyle dishes, and there’s no better host than the softspoken Jimmy Kadkhodai, who will make small talk with one eye on BBC news running on a wall mounted TV.
Call: 22006198 (Sassanians), 66352714 (Paradise), 22654181 (Military)
10 Perzen Patel runs The Bawi Bride, a blog that’s all things Parsi and edible. It trains you in the art of making ‘dhansak in 8 easy steps’ and offers a range of dips (in parmesan basil pesto dip, we trust) and desserts. For Navroze, she’s serving nano kheema kebabs, surf ‘n turf pulao, lagannu-custard and kopra pak, for Rs 525.