Then there is of course the family of actor Boman Irani with whom I spend way too many lunches dinners and now even holidays. His wife Zenobia’s cooking is spicy with masalas that are brawny. The meats are generous and voluptuous, and her cuisine can easily be described as hot and heavy. Whatever Zenobia’s kitchen provides is buxom, lavish and bountiful, and abundant with meat, fish, and eggs. So let me start with the eggs. Starting with the most rudimentary, yet call for art and technique. The Charvelu Eedu or scrambled egg. Soft scrambled eggs slowly cooked with milk, with just the hint of a slit green chilli. Eggs that always taste better with dollops of butter and, in winter months, with finely chopped fresh green garlic. To these scrambled eggs, if you add masala, fried or spring onions, maybe tomato, it turns magically into an Akuri, a creamy, spicy preparation that is often dishonoured when inexcusably called a “bhurji”. As if one “Akuri” was not enough, other Parsis make two more versions of the classic Akuri; the Bharuchi Akuri and the Bafela Eeda Ni Akuri. The Bharuchi Akuri is a nutty luxurious variant of scrambled eggs, made in ghee, with finely chopped green chillies and crisply fried onions with dry fruit like raisins and cashews and pine nuts. The Bharuchi Akuri is a rich, nutty delightful dish that is often served at traditional Parsi weddings.
But Zenobia Irani’s home cooked banquet doesn’t necessarily wait for new years to come and go. Every meal is a feast. Masala Bheja with fried onions and curry leaves, Kolmi Na Kebab (prawn kebabs), Salli Chicken and an orgasmic Mutton Pulao with homemade Dal. Chunks of tender mutton, spiced and cooked in long grain rice, and eaten in a puddle of thick, spicy dal.
My friend Fali Unwala, designer and all-round aesthete, now rarely makes his mother’s recipe of Mithoo Pulao Dal. A mutton pulao, made with sugar and eggs, eaten with a fiery spiced brown masala dal. But what he does make is a sumptuous savoury Bacon Papeta ma Gosh. Chunks of meat, cooked in ghee, with rashers of bacon, with whole spices and dry red chillies.
And my friends who come from Parsi catering royalty, first, Khurush Dalal is an archeologist, 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. And this is one place you can actually order a good Parsi meal from especially during the festivals. Kurush now runs “Katy’s Kitchen” and he lovingly sends me my Navroz feast if I am in town, and not trying to lose weight. Even this year, his menu is out. There is Patra Ni Machchi, Sali Jardaloo Chicken, Mutton Pulao Dala, and for the vegetarians, there’s Vegetable Cutlets, Lagan nu Istew, Ravaiyya and Vegetable Pulao Dal.
And then finally the Queen of Parsi Catering herself, Tanaaz Godiwala. Her portions are gargantuan as is her heart and hearth. Her recopies are from generations ago, that she has tweaked to perfection. There is no question about the spread she lays out at a Parsi wedding, or during festivals. The food is of the highest quality and the tallest taste. Her crowning glory is, however, her Parsi Lagan Nu Custard, cooked using the same ingredients and method as a caramel custard, laden with added riches such as condensed milk, almonds, cashews, nutmeg and cardamom. This pudding is baked, unlike caramel custard, which is normally steamed.
Just writing this column has added a few kilos onto my already heavy frame. I am hoping that the amount of water that I have lost from my lips writing this column will help, just a little bit.
Kunal Vijayakar is a food writer based in Mumbai. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.