Parsi food is a combination of Gujarati and Persian cuisines, wherein meat plays an essential role. The main ingredient in the Parsi food is white sugar or jaggery, besides three basic spices – Parsi garam masala, sambhar masala and dhansak masala. They have a lot to offer, from Dhansak, Chicken Farcha to Sali Boti, so we did some digging and found some traditional Parsi recipes straight from the treasure trove of Mumbai-based Perzen Patel aka Bawi Bride, a Parsi food expert.
Dhansak is the most popular Parsi food, which is known to almost all non-Parsis. It is a lamb-based main course dish, cooked in tur daal with spices. It tastes best with rice.
2 cup toor dal
1 cup moong dal
1 cup orange masoor dal
2 small onions
Ginger-garlic paste to marinate the meat
2 teaspoons each of turmeric, red chilli, garam masala, and dry dhansak masala powders
2 tsp of methi seeds
1 small slice pumpkin
1 small capsicum
2 small brinjals (about 1 cup chopped)
1 kg mutton/chicken pieces washed and cleaned
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
- First, soak the dals and marinate the your meat in salt/ginger-garlic paste either overnight or 4 -5 hours prior to you cooking. This step is crucial to ensure that the dal comes out smooth and the meat becomes tender so don’t cut corners here.
- Prepare a step further and before you even switch on the gas, finely chop the pumpkin, onion and capsicum. If you want to use fresh methi (a small handful or your dal will get bitter) rather than methi seeds chop that now too.
- Now you are ready to begin. In a big pressure cooker, saute the onion with oil and a tsp of ginger garlic paste until the onion becomes golden brown. Add in the masalas and the salt. When you start to cough it means the masalas have cooked and you can add in all the veges to stir fry.
- Once all the vegetables are coated in the masala and have become semi-soft add in all the dal with about 3-4 cups of water.
- Close the cooker and let the whole thing cook for about 3 whistles + 10 mins on slow flame. If you would like to eat your Dhansak vegetarian, simply skip the chicken cooking below and proceed to the final step.
- However, if you are a meat lover, now, in a separate crockpot, heat up a little oil and add in the chicken. If needed add a little water, close the lid and let it steam cook for about 15 – 20 minutes while the dal is cooking in the other pot. I recommend cooking the meat separately so that it doesn’t overcook and become tough.
- Once the dal is off the stove, empty it out of the cooker into a big crockpot. Give it a quick blend using a hand mixer to make the dal smooth. The dal will be quite thick so you can get it to the right consistency using the chicken stock to add that meaty flavour. Add in the chicken, squeeze in juice of one lemon and let the Dhansak simmer on the stove for another 10 minutes while you scrape away at the dal stuck to the bottom of the cooker.
2. Parsi Mutton Kebab
A great appetiser, Parsis love Kebabs and this delectable dish tastes best when accompanied with warm rotli.
1/2 kg goat/lamb mince
4 slices of bread
4 medium boiled potatoes
2 tsp turmeric
3 tsp red chilli powder
2 small green chillies
A handful of chopped coriander
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tsp garam masala and dhana-jeera powder
Salt to taste
2 cups of fine rawa (semolina)
Oil for deep frying
- Kebabs is all about preperation so before you start, soak bread in water while you mash the boiled potatoes. Once the potatoes are mashed remove the bread from the water and squeeze dry. Take a big plate and add all the ingredients in except for the rawa and oil. With your fingers mix well and let the mixture marinate for 15 minutes.
- Now, taking a little mixture at a time, roll into small kebabs.
- Once rolled, you will need to coat all of them with the semolina before deep frying. Before you start coating, heat the oil – to test if the oil is hot enough sprinkle some rawa into the oil. If the rawa sizzles, the oil is ready for your kebabs. Depending on the size of your pan, fry about 7-8 kebabs at a time.
- Once in the pan let them get brown and crispy before turning over to fry the other side. After both sides are crispy, remove them by draining the oil and set aside.
- Serve them hot garnished with lemon juice and wrapped in a warm rotli.
3. Patra Ni Machhi
Patra Ni Machhi is cooked in a unique way. Marinate fish using green chutney and wrap it in banana leaves. Later steam the wrapped fish.
4 pieces of pomfret or rawas
Green Chutney made with 1/2 coconut
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to Taste
2 Banana Leaves or Baking Paper
Rubber Bands or String
- Clean the fish and marinate it in the spices and salt. Once marinated, using your grinder, whip up a batch of the green chutney.
- Cut pieces of banana leaves or baking paper into small pieces and sandwich a fillet of the fish between two tablespoons of chutney. Make sure that every inch of the fish is coated with chutney and then wrap the banana leaf with string or rubber band to make a neat parcel.
- After all the fish is parceled, you can pop it into a preheated oven for 15 mins or go with the more authentic steamed version. To do that, fill up a pressure cooker with boiling water until it just touches the base of your steamer. Place the parcels of fish on the steamer and shut your cooker (without the whistle). Now, let the fish steam for 10 minutes on each side.
- Once the fish is steamed, serve the fish with the banana leaf still on and let your guests unwrap the yummy surprise!
4. Chicken Farcha
This wholesome starter is basically a Parsi-style crispy fried.
2 full chicken legs (2 drumsticks and 2 thighs)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red-chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp dhana-jeera powder
1 tbsp crushed garlic paste
1 tbsp red chilli paste
Juice of 1 lemon
1 fist of coriander leaves
Breadcrumbs to coat
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Marinate the chicken in red chilli paste, garlic paste, turmeric, red chilli powder, salt, garam masala, chopped coriander and lemon juice. Mix well and let the chicken marinate for atleast two hours or preferably overnight
- Before you fry the chicken, cook the marinated chicken in the microwave for 3 minutes on high to partly cook it from the inside. Once this is done, cool the chicken on a chopping board or plate while you get the breadcrumb and egg coating ready.
- To prepare the egg coating, vigorously whisk the eggs with the salt, pepper and dhana jeera masala.
- In a shallow frying pan, heat the oil until it is very hot. Now, taking one piece of chicken at a time coat it in breadcrumbs first and then in egg and slowly lower them into the oil.
- Fry on both sides until the chicken coating is golden brown. Remove the chicken and drain on a dish covered with paper towels.
- Serve hot with some yogurt raita or with crispy wedges.
5. Sali Boti
Also known as Salli Chicken, this spicy boti dish is cooked with onions and tomatoes and topped with thin potato sticks.
800 gm boneless mutton cut into small chunks
1 heaped tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 heaped tbsp green chilli and jeera paste
1/2 cup yoghurt
2 tbsp oil
4 large onions chopped very finely
4 tomatoes pureed in the grinder
1/2 bottle pasta sauce
4 bay leaves
2 tsp each of turmeric, red chilli and garam masala powders
2 tbsp vinegar
lemon – if required for added sourness
2 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
Finely chopped coriander as garnish
150 gm fine sali (potato sticks)
- Marinate the boneless mutton in some salt, ginger garlic and green chilli pastes as well as the yoghurt. Cover the bowl with some cling wrap and let the meat marinate for atleast 2 – 3 hours. The longer you marinate the faster your meat will cook and the better it will taste so I recommend you take your time with this – I prefer to marinate this overnight if time permits.
- Now, in a earthern pot (if you have one) or else a nonstick, heat the oil and add in the finely chopped onions. Fry the onions till they are golden pink in colour. Don’t rush this step or your onions will not emulsify into the dish later – they must cook fully and become translucent first. Now, add in the tomato puree as well as the pasta sauce – I have used chopped tomatoes below but had to puree them later so don’t make the mistake I did.
- Once you have a thick gravy of the pasta sauce and the tomatoes, add in the mutton pieces, all the masalas, vinegar, sugar and bay leaves. Give everything a good stir and cover your pot so that the meat can start slow cooking on a low-medium flame.
- Check in on the meat every 10 – 15 minutes. Covering the pot may have made your gravy slightly watery so for the next 15 minutes, leave the pot slightly open so that water can evaporate. Now that the masala’s have had time to cook, you can now also adjust the flavour. If it’s too spicy or not sour enough I suggest squeezing in the juice of one lemon as that is often all the adjustments you will need to make. You can also add in some sugar if you prefer it to be sour as well as sweet. The whole process of the muttton cooking and the tomato gravy evaporating will take about 35 – 40 minutes.
- When the meat becomes tender and the tomato gravy has reduced by almost half its contents then your Sali Boti is ready. Add in some finely chopped coriander and give it a final stir. Serve hot with some sali and chappatis – enjoy!
Images & Recipe Courtesy: Perzen Patel