The masalas are brawny, the meats voluptuous, the fish steamy, the feast is debauched, and the appetite is libidinous. It’s the one cuisine I describe as hot and heavy. And for a week, I have snogged every Parsi delicacy in the land. After all it was Jamshedji Navroz this week (March 20).
The Parsis are a lucky lot. Their cuisine is lavish and bountiful, abundant with meat, fish, and eggs. And I’m lucky to have good friends from this community of epicures. And there’s no better way to celebrate Parsi New Year than with food, drinks and a Parsi play. And that’s exactly how my Navroz was spent.
Everybody knows Kurush Dalal. He’s an archaeologist, a treasure trove of food knowledge, and Mumbai’s foremost Parsi caterer. He’s lovingly holding up the gastronomical flag, hoisted by his mother, the great Katy Dalal. I remember meeting Katy in 2006 in her Fort home. I was shooting an episode of my food show, The Foodie. Katy was the doyen of Parsi catering. And there she was, a gregarious and loving matron, resplendent in traditional Parsi attire. A billowing (Kor) sari, with a full-sleeved frilly blouse, and her lace sadra stylishly covering her midriff. She plunged straight into making a Patra ni Machchi, explaining the use of vinegar, chutney, the banana leaves and the bain-marie with passion, in between giggles.
Kurush now runs Katy’s Kitchen, and he lovingly sent me a Navroz feast. Starting with a savoury fried staple, Bheja na Cutlet -- goat brain marinated in ginger-garlic, turmeric and chilli powder, coated with green chutney, dipped in crumbs and fried with eggs. It was followed by Patra ni Macchi, and Sali Jardaloo Marghi (chicken). Instead of the customary Kid-Ghos, Kurush included a Ghos nu Baffat on the menu. The Mangaloreans make a Bafat as do the Goans and Portuguese. But the Parsi Bafat is different. It is a slightly sour and sweet mutton curry with carrots and, often with French beans and potatoes. All to be wiped up with oily, thin Parsi rotlis. No celebratory Parsi meal can end without a Mutton Palao Daar. Chunks of tender mutton, spiced and cooked in long grain rice, and eaten in a puddle of thick, spicy daal. I had this meal brought over to Cyrus Broacha’s house so that my celebration of Navroz lunch would be replete with conversation, humour and cacophony with his family.
If you are a Parsi, the next thing you do after this heavy lunch is sleep. And if you wake up early enough, you go and watch a Parsee Natak (a play). It’s a tradition carried on by veterans like Sam Kerawala and Pervez Mehta, but recently spruced up by this young lot who call themselves, Silly Point. So, at the NCPA, I watched a play called Amar Akbar and Akuri, along with Boman and Zenobia Irani, and their family of 12 senior citizens.
Post-natak, most Parsis from the NCPA would head for (don’t ask me why) a Chinese meal. Their current favourite restaurant is Royal China, which would shut down if the Parsis stopped going.
But we headed back to Boman and Zenobia’s in Dadar Parsi Colony. Waiting for us was a home-cooked Parsi banquet. Masala Bheja with fried onions and curry leaves, Kolmina Kavab (prawn kababs), Salli Boti and mutton biryani with home-made dal. Eating at the Irani’s has always been special. Now it’s even more special with little baby Ziaan demanding his pound of ghos.
Author and TV show host Vijayakar is “always hungry”. He tweets as @kunalvijayakar