I don’t know how much justified it to say that Parsi food is actually unexplored. Well, if we consult the availability of reference on the internet it is needless to say that the food history, recipes etc. are not available in abundant alike other cuisines. My relation with Parsi community is actually limited to having Dhansak or Lagan Nu Curtard or the knowledge I gathered from a few books that I have in my collection, “Parsi Food and Drink and Customs” by B. J. Manekshaw, “Jamva Chaloji” by Katy Dalal and a few more. Obviously, my not-much-long stay in Mumbai a few years back helped me a bit.
I do have tasted Parsi food in Delhi though several times at Soda Bottle Opener Wala but that not at all meet the requirement of knowing about the Parsi cuisine though the books helped me a lot. Coming back to my own city, Parsi Food is available in limited places apart from Parsi Dharamsala. Mancherji’s is probably the decent option in absence of typical joints, however, nowadays few fine dine has come up with one or two options. This post is actually going to elaborate my experience of sampling authentic or it is better to say the home-cooked Parsi food here in Kolkata on January, 17 and, my take on Dhansak which I ended on making at home upon returning.
With this kind of bookish knowledge and experience of having eaten in few Iranian Café, when I got an invitation from Rukshana to attend the Food Festival at Parsee Club, there was no reason for me to not to attend the event. After all, there is no reason to not to indulge me with authentic home-cooked Parsi Food.
It was my first time there at Parsee Club on a lovely wintery afternoon and amazing to see the reflection of one of the richest cultural heritage of our country. The afternoon was more flavorful with the aroma of home-cooked food and I have to mention the price of the food items was something to cherish for. I was there with a blogger friend of mine, Indrajit and we were already informed by Rukshana that timely visit is must else there was no guarantee of getting the food and we ended on noticing empty bowls of Prawn Patia and Lagan Nu Custard and naturally our presence of mind spoke and we ended on grabbing other items available till then.
We had the Fried Bumla(Fried Bombay Duck) followed by Pork Vindaloo (we got this packed), the typical platter of Mutton Dhansak, Brown Rice and Kachumber, a portion of Papeto-Ma-Gosht with French fries and Mutton Cutlet, Chutney Patti and Faluda ice cream. All the dishes were complemented with either Chapatti or Bread slice and for me the Fried Bumla and Pork Vindaloo were the cream of the day.
Apart from the dishes mentioned, Masala Dal Chawal with Soybean Kebab and Salad, Sali Ma Marghi, Aleti Paleti, Veg Stew, Masoor Dal, Akoori, Malido, and Bhakra were there as part of the Parsi feast and the item price was ranging from INR 30 to INR 130 maximum. For me, the event served as a food map and I ended on re-reading B. J. Manekshaw’s “Parsi Food and Drink and Customs”.
Now that, I had spent a pleasant afternoon at Parsee Club and Rukshana gifted me two packets of authentic Parsi spices (one pack Dhansak Masala and a pack of red garlic spice), I ended on utilizing the spices with the help of the recipes I have (well, I am available with 3 recipes of Dhansak and I have tried all three. Here, I have referred to the elaborated one which I found more authentic ).
I know this post is actually getting longer. However, I felt it is required to give a brief before going further with Dhansak as I can’t be able to translate Dhansak. A dish that is kind of synonymous to the Parsi cuisine. A group of people who believe in humata, hukhta, havashta (good thoughts, good words, and good deeds) is nothing but the believer of happy living.
When it comes to food, apart from the 11th month and a few days Parsi’s take meat all through the year and they love protein as part of their food. Dhansak is one for the famous Parsi dish and is influenced by the Iranian cooking and mainly a dish named Khoreste esfannaj which is prepared with meat, lentil, and spinach. Dhansak, in fact, has evaluated a lot over the years to match with the changing palate. Dhanksak though is considered as a comfort food but typically it is not prepared during auspicious occasions.
A Parsi Curry is characterized by the balance of sweetness and sourness and Dhansak is no exception and hence “Doru” (a mixture of tamarind and Jaggery) is a must for this dish. Though the recipe calls for slow cooking, however, the lazy me decided to use the pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time a bit.
- Mutton: 1 Kg (medium size pieces)
- Red lentil/ Masoor Daal: 3 Tbsp.
- Split Green Gram/ Moong Daal: 3 Tbsp.
- Split Red gram/ Tuvar dal / Arhar dal: 3 Tbsp.
- Urad dal/ Split Black gram / kalai dal: 3 Tbsp.
- Split Bengal Gram/ Cholar Daal/ Chana Daal: 3 Tbsp.
- Potato: 2
- Pumpkin: 200g
- Eggplant: 1 (small)
- Tomato: 3
- Onion: 4
- Spring Onion: 3-4
- Coriander Leaves: ½ Cup
- Mint leaves: ⅓ Cup
- Fenugreek Leaves: ½ Cup
- Kasuri Methi: 1 Tbsp.
- Ginger paste: 1 Tbsp.
- Garlic Paste: 2 Tbsp.
- Whole Cinnamon: 2”
- Clove: 5-6
- Black Cardamom: 2-3
- Star Anise: 2
- Turmeric Powder: 1 Tbsp.
- Cumin Powder: 2 Tbsp.
- Coriander Powder: 2 Tbsp.
- Dhansak Masala: 3 Tbsp.
- Sambhar Masala: 1 Tbsp.
- Salt: to taste
- Ghee: 2 Tbsp.
- Tamarind Paste: 1 Tbsp.
- Jaggery: 2 Tbsp.
- Lime Juice: 1 Tbsp.
- Wash and pat dry Mutton Chunks.
- Soak Fenugreek leaves and Kasuri Methi separately in water for 20 minutes and use the leaves after discarding the water.
- Wash all the lentils mentioned under running water before use.
- Cut Potatoes, Eggplant and Pumpkin into 1” square pieces and thinly slice Tomatoes and Onion and chop Spring onion.
- Liter boiling water is required and that will be added in batches.
- I have used a 5 lit Pressure Cooker to make Dhansak with the ingredient measures mentioned.
- Fill the Pressure cooker (till ½ of the cooker level) Lentils, Mutton pieces, Potatoes, Eggplant and Pumpkin, half of Tomato and Onion, Spring Onion.
- Coriander Leaves, Mint leaves, Fenugreek Leaves, Kasuri Methi, Ginger paste, Garlic Paste and half of Turmeric Powder, Cumin Powder, Coriander Powder, Dhansak Masala, Sambhar Masala and salt to be added as well.
- Add 2 cups of boiling water and cook in medium flame with the lid and vent weight on until 4-5 whistles come.
- Switch the flame off and wait till the pressure drops completely.
- Separate mutton chunks from the mixture.
- Leave the mixture at room temperature for 30 minutes so that the temperature drops completely.
- Using a food processor/ mixer/ colander make a smooth (semi-smooth) paste of the lentil vegetable mixture.
- Now Heat Ghee in a pan and temper the Ghee with Whole Cinnamon, Clove, Black Cardamom, and Star Anise.
- Add rest of the onion slices and fry till the onion turns pink in color.
- Add remaining chopped tomatoes, Spring Onion, Coriander Leaves, Mint leaves, Fenugreek Leaves, Kasuri Methi, Ginger paste, Garlic Paste.
- Cook till the raw aroma goes completely.
- Now add Turmeric Powder, Cumin Powder, Coriander Powder, and Dhansak Masala, Sambhar Masala and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Now Pour the Dal mixture over the cooked spices along with the mutton chunks and add 3 cups of water and cook on low flame for 20 minutes.
- Add water if required to maintain the consistency.
- In ½ cup of hot water add Jaggery, tamarind paste, and lemon juice and strain the same and pour over the Dhansak and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Serve Dhansak with Brown Rice and Kachumber.
What to Serve with Dhansak:
Though can be served with any variety of rice, however, I love mine with Vagharela Chawal (Parsi Brown Rice) and Kachumber. I will be sharing the recipe of Brown Rice and Kachumber separately.