Parsi Ladies of Mumbai
Gulnar and Havovi, Mani aunty’s vivacious daughters are a joy to meet. Both incredibly talented ladies, one a fabulous writer and the other a passionate cook, kept us going for hours one afternoon. As we spoke to Gulnar about every Parsi food memory she could remember, Havovi entertained us with an endless stream of one-liners and commentary on her people including gems likes,
‘Vegetarian food? Parsi’s like mutton in their vegetarian food and eedu on everything.’
This family of Parsi ladies has lived in the Tata Blocks, better know as Parsi Colony, in Bandra, for years. They’ve married and moved out of their mother’s home but still live not more than 5 minutes from each other and even meet every evening at Mani aunty’s home for a game of Scrabble.
Gulnar’s favorite food memory from her childhood is unsurprisingly, Dhansak. And what’s great is the way in which she says it – ‘Could there be anything better?’. Dhansak and Meatballs are not only her favorite but also one of her greatest hits. One of these days, we’re going to get that recipe from her and if we’re lucky, maybe a Sunday lunch with the Tarapore’s.
Gulnar learned the tricks of her Parsi kitchen at 24 when she married into a Tarapori Parsi family. Learning at her mother-in-law’s side, assisting her, she learned some fantastic recipes, but more than that, she learned a love of cooking and feeding.
Parsi’s from Tarapore like their food very sour and spicy and a huge favorite in Gulnar’s husband’s family is the Taraporee Patia – a fish dish prepared with either dry Bombay duck, rawas, or pomfret and this recipe is passed down from her husband’s grand-mother who moved to Bombay and taught her own daughter.
For about 4 people
About 400 grams of fish (either dry Bombay Duck, Rawas, or Pomfret – cleaned, prepped and cut into large pieces)
½ cup Ginger garlic paste
1 tsp Powdered ginger
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Dhanajeera (A ready mix of spices used in many Parsi dishes)
Chili powder to taste
Vinegar as required
Salt to taste
2 tbs Jaggery, optional
Heat oil in a wide pan and add the ginger garlic paste. Stir the paste and add the turmeric, dhanajeera and chili powder. Cook the paste and spices for 5 minutes. Add your fish pieces and coat with spice paste. Add enough vinegar to cover the fish (about ½ – 1 cup) and add salt. Turn off the heat and let the pan sit for about 5- 10 minutes. Then place the pan back on the heat and bring to a boil with the lid on but with the pan slightly uncovered.
Some families add jaggery to cut the sourness. To do this, take about 2 tbs of jaggery and dissolve in about 2-3 tbs water. Add this mixture it to the fish just before turning off the heat to rest the pan.