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Oman dining: From the Parsi kitchen

24thHaving grown up in an authentic Parsi family, when I first came to Oman I was filled with apprehensions about almost everything here, be it the place, people, culture, or the food. But soon to my surprise I got introduced to Muscat’s small yet well-knit Parsi community. From food and drinks to culture, and festivals, we bonded well over almost everything. Each time we would meet, we had loads to share, but food inevitably always topped the priority list. Being a novice I loved the recipes and all the cooking tips and tricks that were shared during such get-togethers.

For the uninitiated Parsis came to India from Iran sometime around the 10th century and settled in Gujarat. It is said that the good things in life necessarily include good food for the Parsis. And so they freely experimented with meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables.

In a Parsi household there will be biryani during Eid, roast turkey during Christmas, and vermicelli at Diwali. There is always mutton or chicken dhansak on Sundays for lunch. Parsis only believe in feasting and there is no wedding without a huge feast. A traditional wedding serves food on banana leaves with a lot of different meats, fish, eggs, pulao, dal, and sweet dish.

Most of the Parsi cuisines have a distinctive taste — neither too spicy nor too bland. And some are on the sweet and spicy side.

Here are a few recipes which you can try and I am sure one can relish and discover the true taste of Parsi cuisine. If you are making something new for the first time, taste it before bringing the dish to the table. As the Parsis say Jamva Chaloji. (Come on, let’s eat.)

—ashishdubash@timesofoman.com

DHANSAK NA CHAWAL

(Brown Rice)

Ingredients

1 cup rice soaked in water for 1 hr

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons oil

1 large chopped onion

6 cloves

4 cardamoms

1” piece broken cinnamon

6 peppercorns

Salt

Preparation

Melt sugar on a low flame until it browns. Add 1 cup of hot water and keep aside. Heat oil, add onions, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Fry until onions are browned. Add rice, sugar water, salt and 21/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the rice is cooked.

GOSHT NU DHANSAK

(Mixed Spicy Lentils with Mutton)

This is a favourite community dish of the Parsis and is often eaten on Sunday afternoons. Dhansak dal can be kept in the refrigerator for a day after which it tastes even better.

Ingredients

50g val dal

50g tuvar dal

50g moong dal

50g masoor dal

500g cubed mutton with bones

50g red pumpkin, chopped

1 small brinjal, chopped

50g white pumpkin, chopped 1 carrot, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 bunch fenugreek (methi) leaves, chopped

4 tablespoons oil

2 sliced onions

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 large chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped coriander

1 tablespoon, jaggery

salt

To grind

8 red dry chillies

1/2 teaspoon, roasted cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon, roasted coriander seeds

½” piece cinnamon

6 cloves

6 peppercorns

1” piece ginger

8 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon Parsi sambhar powder

Preparation

Soak all the lentils for an hour. Mix together the lentils, mutton, chopped vegetables, and enough water, and pressure cook it. When ready, separate the meat from the dal. Heat oil, fry the onions until brown, add the ground masala and fry, stirring all the time. Add tomatoes, coriander leaves, jaggery, and salt and cook on a low flame for another minute or two. Liquidise the dal and add to the masala mixture and cook on a low flame stirring occasionally until it boils. Add meat and continue cooking. It is ready when it is thick. Serve hot with brown rice.

JARDALOO MA GOSHT SALI SATHE

(Sweet and sour mutton gravy with apricots and potato shoestrings)

Ingredients

1/2 cup oil

5 large onions finely chopped

salt

1kg mutton pieces

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

2 tablespoons garam masala powder

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder

2 cups chopped tomatoes

Two-inch piece of dried coconut finely ground in a little water

3 tablespoons raisins +3 tablespoons cashewnuts ground in a little water

20 dried apricots, washed and soaked overnight with quarter cup vinegar, half cup water and half cup sugar

400g sali or potato shoestrings

Coriander leaves for garnishing

Preparation

Heat half cup oil and add onions in a pan. When golden coloured, add the salted washed mutton pieces, ginger-garlic paste and fry the mutton till brown. Gradually add the powdered masalas, tomatoes, and ground dried coconut and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Pour water and pressure cook till the meat is tender. When the meat is cooked, add the ground raisins and cashewnuts and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the apricots along with the liquid. Cover the pan, cook for 5 minutes and remove from the fire. Sprinkle lavishly with potato shoestrings and chopped coriander leaves.

PATRA-NI-MACCHI

(Fish in Banana Leaves)

Ingredients

2 large pomfrets, each cut into 5 slices

2 tablespoons sugar

salt to taste

6 large banana leaves

1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup oil

For the chutney:

1 freshly grated coconut

2 cups freshly chopped coriander

1 tablespoon chopped mint

1” piece fresh ginger

20 cloves garlic

6 green chillies deseeded

10 peppercorns

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

Juice of 2 lemons

Preparation

Wash the pomfrets, apply salt and keep aside. Grind the chutney masala till it is soft. Use half a cup of water if necessary. Prepare the banana leaves by removing the centre stalk. You will have a dozen pieces now. Take one slice of fish at a time and smother it in the chutney. It should be well coated and then wrap it in one piece of banana leaf into a neat package. Tie with thin white thread. When all the slices are neatly packed take a tray and grease it with half a cup of oil. Place on a medium flame and arrange the fish packets on the hot tray. Leave for three minutes, then turn over once. Sprinkle with water and vinegar and cover tightly. Allow to cook over a low flame for 15 minutes, turning over the packets at least once. Serve immediately.

LAGAN-NU-CUSTARD

(Wedding Custard)

Ingredients

3 litres full cream milk

1/2 tin condensed milk

600g sugar

Butter for greasing the dish

10 eggs

11/2 teaspoons vanilla essence

1/2 teaspoon powdered nutmeg and cardamom

15 boiled and sliced almonds

50g boiled and sliced pistachios

Preparation

Bring the milk to a boil in a large pan. Remove from the fire and stir in the condensed milk, sugar, and cook over a slow fire. Taste the milk and add sugar if required. Keep stirring the milk till it is sticky and ivory in colour. Remove from the fire and cool. Grease a dish with butter. Beat the eggs till frothy and stir into the cooled milk. Beat in the vanilla, nutmeg, and cardamom powder. Pour into the dish and bake in the oven at 175°C till golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with the sliced nuts and pop it back into the oven and switch off. Chill and serve.
Published on the Times Of Oman

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