Parsi food fest: Flavours to die for

Those craving delectable Parsi food were in for a treat at a recent festival in Kolkata.

Delectable Parsi cuisine in Kolkata is a rarity unlike other exotic regional delicacies. Parsis are Indians of Persian origin and Zoroastrian by faith —they escaped to India many centuries ago fearing the religious intolerance of Islamic fundamentalists in Persia or modern day Iran.

Today Parsis may be deemed the smallest minority in India and a dwindling community whose small population is scattered across the country.

To popularise Parsi dishes in the city, the Calcutta Zoroastrian community’s religious and charity fund and the Parzor Unesco Foundation presented a Parsi Food Festival recently at the Olpadvala Hall under the banner of “Threads of Community” coupled with an exhibition of gift articles.

The Parsi food fest was introduced by Meher Caterers under the stewardship of Meher Dara Hansotia, a teacher from Mumbai who stays in Ahmedabad. It was much later that she got engaged in the hotel industry at the behest of her brother-in-law.

From a food supervisor, Hansotia gradually got roped into the catering industry supplying food for domestic consumption, parties and marriages.

While talking about Parsi cuisine, she said that the spices and preparation methods differ from one state to another. In the profession for a good two decades, she is an absolute connoisseur.

The specialties on offer were Mutton Dhansak, Salli Chicken, Parsi sweet and sour stew, Patra Fish served with brown rice and rounded off with Ravo and Lagan nu Custard.

The starter was Akoori, a breakfast snack of spicy scrambled eggs, minced onion, chopped tomatoes, ginger garlic paste, chopped green chillies garnished with coriander leaves and served with buttered toast.

Definitely a must is the Dhansak, a blend of five different kinds of lentils that are combined into a mixture of pumpkin, gourd, methi bhaji, mint, brinjal, tomatoes, garlic-ginger paste and topped with mutton pieces — it veritably melts in the mouth.

For vegetarians, the Parsi stew was on offer with a mix of vegetables —chopped carrot, potatoes, capsicum, beans and onions — to which spices are added with a dash of vinegar and sugar to give it a tangy flavour.

Prawns in a spicy gravy was extremely savoury as were the fried prawns. The latter blended well with chopped onions and was topped with tomatoes and tomato puree.

Among the spices Parsis like a lot of garlic and ginger in the preparation of their meals. The menu was rounded off with the desserts Ravo — made with milk and semolina, it is the Parsi version of kheer — and Lagan Nu Custard, which comprises baked caramel and is light and soft. It is augmented with the flavour of beaten eggs, vanilla essence, milk and cornflower.

If one’s in the mood, they can call Hansotia at 9831403863, provided she’s in the city. If she is, then a toothsome Parsi meal awaits one!

Published on The StatesMan