Friday, February 3, 2012


Parsi Cuisine


*Historical Background of the cuisine:


The Parsis are one of the two major communities of the Zoroastrianism religion in India. The other being Iranis. The Parsis belong to the Aryan race.

When the Parsis, in their flight from Persia landed on the west coast of India, almost 1300 years ago they were allowed by the benign Hindu Kings to follow their own way of life. They practiced their religious customs without hindrance, and were left in peace to start again away from the persecution they had suffered. Though many of their dishes are similar to the Persian ones, most of the cooking underwent subtle changes through centuries. The west coast cooking includes essential coconut, garlic, coriander seeds, and red chillies,and these condiments, from the basis of most parsi recipes

According to the Qissa-i Sanjan "Story of Sanjan", the only existing account of the early years of Zoroastrian refugees in India but composed at least six centuries after the tentative date of arrival, one group of immigrants originated from Khorasan. Zoroastrian Persians migrated to India after the fall of the Sassanian Empire, and gave rise to the modern Indian Parsi community. This region in Central Asia is in part in North-Eastern Iran in part in Northern Afghanistan, and in part in three Central-Asian republics of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. According to the Qissa, Then moved by sea in seven ships to India.The first group landed in Diu from Bushehr.

The immigrants were granted permission to stay by the local ruler Jadi Rana on the condition that they adopt the local language, that their women adopt local dress Parsis had to hold their wedding processions only in the dark like the Hindus and that they henceforth cease to bear arms. The refugees accepted the conditions and founded the settlement of Sanjan, which is said to have been named after the city of their origin. Five years after this they built the first fire temple, Atash Behram, to shelter the holy fire rescued from Iran. This first group was followed by a second group, also from Greater Khorasan, within five years of the first, and this time having religious implements with them. In addition to these Khorasanis or Kohistanis - mountain folk, at least one other group is said to have come overland from Mazandaran, Iran.

The persecution by the muslims was the sole motivating factor to emigrate has also been questioned by Parsis themselves, and "both factors - the need to open new avenues of trade, and the desire to establish a Zoroastrian community in an area that was free from Muslim harassment - entered into the decision to emigrate to Gujarat.

Over the years this community accultured to the new land. Gujarati became the native language of the community and the sari the garment of the women. However the Parsis preserved their separate cultural and religious identity.

Towards the end of the 10th century, the Parsis began to settle in other parts of Gujarat. This gave rise to difficulties in defining the limits of priestly jurisdiction, which were resolved in 1290 AD by the establishment of five panthaks or districts-- Sanjan, Nausari, Godareh-Ankleswar, Broach and Cambay.

Late in the 15th century Sanjan was attacked by a Muslim army, probably a war of conquest by the sixth Sultan of Gujarat. The Parsis supported the local Hindu king with 1400 men, and were annihilated. The survivors fled with the holy fire, which was installed in Nausari in 1516. Later, due to disputes between priests, it was transferred and came to its present location in Udvada in 1742.

From the 16th century, Surat became a major centre of trade, and more and more Parsis migrated to this town. The newly arrived European traders preferred to conduct business through this community, since their status as a minority gave them the necessary flexibility in their new role as brokers. The first record of a Parsi, Dorabji Nanabhai, settling in Bombay dates from 1640.

After 1661, when Bombay passed to the British, there was a concerted effort to bring artisans and traders to settle in the new town. Aungier wrote a letter to the Factor in Surat on November 21, 1662. to invite as many weavers as possible, whereinto you will promise them such priviledges, immunities, and exemptions from publique duties as they shall reasonably desire from you...

A large part of the Parsi migrants to Bombay in these years was constituted of weavers and other artisans. In 1673, the British handed over a piece of land in Malabar Hill to the Parsi community for the establishment of their first Dakhma, Tower of Silence.

In 1735 Lowjee Nusserwanji, a master shipbuilder, was granted land in Bombay by the East India Company. He took the name of his trade, Wadia, and moved into the developing town. Incidentally, the Wadias built the ship Minden, on board which Francis Scott Key composed the US national anthem "Star Spangled Banner".

In 1780, 9.2% of the population of Bombay were Parsis. A first wave of migration followed a famine in Gujarat in 1790. By 1812 the number of Parsis in Bombay had quadrupled. In 1837, a second large wave of migrations to Bombay followed a huge fire in Surat. Today, more than 70% of all Parsis live in Bombay.

Parsi cuisine is shaped by history. The cuisine of the followers of the Zoroastrian faith, one of the oldest religions in the world, is culled from two ancient cultures the Persian and the Indian. The unusual historical background gives Parsi food a unique flavour. Dishes reveal traces of the past in the fondness for nuts, dry fruit and sweet flavours while the Indian influence is the addition of onions, garlic and ginger which make the food savoury but not spicy.

Indian Parsis separated themselves into 3 sects:

§ SHEHEN SHAHIS 93% of Parsis

§ KADMIS 6% of Parsis

§ FASLIS 1% of Parsis

Every Parsi bowing to Holy Fire promises himself:

§ To think - GOOD THOUGHTS.

§ To do - GOOD DEEDS.

§ To Speak - GOOD WORDS.

AVESTA” is the Parsis HOLY BOOK.

Originally contained 21 books but today it contains only:

(a) “YASANA (Book of sacrifice – 17 Gathas are part of it)

(b) “YASHTS (Hymn like praises).

(c) “VENDIDAD (Law & Code of Purification).

(d) “VISPERAD (Collection of prayers & Liturgical texts)


Geographic location affecting food:

The parsi community originated from Persia now known as Iran. The Parsi when settled in India carried along with them some of their Persian tradition. They also adopted part of the local cuisine but maintained their distinctive culture. Parsi food is a mix of vegetarian Gujarati cuisine and non-vegetarian Iranian cuisine. Since parsi first settled in Sajjan , in Gujarat which is the coastal area. Their cuisine is influence by fish. Coconut is the ingredient most of the parsi food. In their cuisine herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, apricot and raisins. The main Persian cuisines are rice with meat, lamb or fish. and some onion, vegetables, nuts and herbs. To achieve balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavoring such as saffron. Cinnamon, parsley and dried lime are mixed delicately and used in special dishes. Since they settled in India they started using Garlic, Ginger, Red chilles and tamarind in their cuisine.

*Locally available ingredients and the staple diet of the people:

The locally available ingredients are:-

§ Coconuts

§ Chillies

§ Coriander

§ Garlic

§ Ginger

§ Cumin seeds

§ Tamarind

§ Turmeric

§ Cardamom

§ Almonds

§ Black pepper

§ Fish

§ Eggs

§ Mutton

§ Lamb

§ Chicken

§ Date

§ Rice

§ Shrimp

§ Apricots

§ Lentils

§ Onions

Staple diet of the people is :-

The basic feature of a Parsi lunch is rice, eaten with lentils or a curry. Curry is made with coconut and ras , with curry usually being thicker than ras. Dinner would be a meat dish, often accompanied by potatoes or other vegetable curry. Kachumber (onion salad) accompanies most meals. lso popular among Parsis, but less so elsewhere, are the typical Parsi eeda (egg) dishes, which include Akuri (scrambled eggs with spices) and the Pora (Parsi omelette).

*Festivals of the community and the food associated with it:

The main festivals of the parsi community are:-

v Jamshedi Navroz (Parsi new year.)

v Zarthost No Deeso (death anniversary of the prophet Zarathushtra)

v Khordad Sal (Khordad Sal is the birth anniversary of Zoroaster)

v Pateti (day of repentance and penitence)

v Navjote (ceremony through which an individual is inducted into the Zoroastrian religion)

The food prepared at these festivals are:-

o Malido(Parsi sweet dish with flour, semolina, cashewnuts and almond etc)

  • Ravo(Semolina Sweet Pudding)

o Sev(Vermicelli sweet)

o Mitthu Dahi (Sweet Yogurt)

o Dhan Dar Patio(white rice, plain yellow dal, and this richly flavored seafood ragout preparation)

o Patra ni machi(Fish in Banana-Leaf Parcels)

o Parsi Pilau( vegetable Pulao)

o Biryani(set of rice-based foods made with spices, rice and meat, fish, eggs or vegetables)

o Dhansaak(Meat & Vegetables with lentils)

o Chicken Farcha(fried chicken)

o Papeta per Eenda(egg preparation with potatoes)

o Sali Murghi(spicy chicken with fine potato crisps)

o Sas nu chicken(chicken in sweet-sour sauce)

o Jardalu ma gosht(chicken with Apricots)

o Falooda(popular beverage made by mixing rose syrup with vermicelli and tapioca seeds along with either milk or water)

o Lagan nu custard(Parsi custard)

o Daar ni Pori(sweet pastry)

o Mava Painda(almond fudge)

o Dudh Pak(rice milk pudding)

*Famous dishes of the community

Ø Akuri ( A parsi style scrambled egg savory with spices)

Ø Parsi Pora (Savory Omlette preparation parsi style)

Ø Papeta Per Eenda ( egg preparation with onions and potatoes)

Ø Bhaji Per Eenda ( egg preparation with Spinach)

Ø Bhinda Per Eenda (egg preparation with okhras)

Ø Turia Jinga Per Eenda (egg preparation with prawns and ridged gourd)

Ø Khima Per Eenda (egg preparation with minced meat)

Ø Jinga no Poro (savory omlette preparation with prawns)

Ø Patrani Macchi (Fish in Banana-Leaf Parcels)

Ø Tareli Macchi (parsi fried fish)

Ø Macchi Nu Vindaloo ( fish in vindalo sauce)

Ø Jinga Bhinda No Patio( Prawns and okras in spicy sweet and sour sauce)

Ø Macchi Ni Curry(fish curry in parsi style)

Ø Macchi Ni Molee (A green fish curry in parsi style)

Ø Bhaji Danama Jinga (Vegetable preparation with spice spinach, peas and prawns)

Ø Gharab Bhinda No Patio (Fish roe and okhra patia preparation)

Ø Gharab Koru No Patio( Red pimpkin and salted roe patia preparation)

Ø Gharab No Achar( Fish Roe pickle)

Ø Macchi Na Cutlet(Fish or prawns cutlet)

Ø Macchi No Sas(Fish sas preparation)

Ø Masoor Ma Gos (Lentils with meat preparation)

Ø Papeta Ma Gos(meat and potato preparation)

Ø Papri Ma Gos (field beans and meat preparation)

Ø Tambota Ma Gos (Meat with tomato preparation)

Ø Khimo(Parsi minced meat preparation)

Ø Mutton Molee ( Green curry of mutton)

Ø Seekh Botee Curry ( mutton stick curry)

Ø Seekh Boti (Skewered Meat)

Ø Dhansak (lamb, mutton, goat or chicken and/or vegetables in lentil and/or toor daal gravy)

Ø Mutton Bafat(Mutton Stew)

Ø Bheja Na Cutlet(Brain Cutlet)

Ø Masala Khari Ne Chora(a parsi soul food prepared from trotters and beans)

Ø Parsi Roast(Roast Lamb)

Ø Kari Murgi(salty chicken)

Ø Chicken farcha (fried chicken)

Ø Mavanu Chicken (rich cream chicken)

Ø Sasnu Chicken(Chicken in sweet and sour egg sauce)

Ø Dhan Dar Ne Patio ( plain rice with dal and prawns patia)

Ø Sali murghi (spicy chicken with fine potato crisps)

Ø Jardaloo sali boti (boneless mutton in an onion and tomato gravy with apricots and potato strips)

Ø Tamota ni russ chaval (mutton cutlets with white rice and tomato gravy)

Ø Kachumber( onion salad)

Ø Kitcheree Ne sas(Yellow rice and sauce preparation)

Ø Balasari Biryani(Parsi biryani cooked with lamb meat and spices)

Ø Biryani(set of rice-based foods made with spices, rice and meat, fish, eggs or vegetables)

Ø Papri Ne Jinga Na Kebabs(Fresh field beans and prawn kebabs)

Ø Lagan nu Custer(Parsi custard)

Ø Batasa (flour and butter tea biscuits)

Ø Kulfi (condensed milk ice cream)

Ø Ravo (Semolina Sweet Pudding)

Ø Dudh Pak(Rice pudding)

Ø Dahitran(yogurt rounds in syrup)

Ø Bhakras(Parsi Donuts)

Ø Date Ghari(date stuffed cakes)

Ø Kumas( parsi cake)

Ø Dar ni pori (sweetened lentils stuffed in a light pastry)

Ø Falooda(popular beverage made by mixing rose syrup with vermicelli and tapioca seeds along with either milk or water)

Ø Khaman na lavda (dumplings stuffed with sweetened coconut).

A Traditional menu with recipes

The Wedding Dinner

Lagan nu Bhonu



Patrani Macchi (fish in banana-leaf parcels)

taamota Par Eenda (egg preparation with tomato sauce)

Khari Murghi Ma Sali (chicken in gravy with potatoes)

Mutton Bafat (mutton stew)

Laganshala (Parsi Vegetable stew)

Gosh no pulao (Mutton pulao)

Masala dal

Lagan Nu Custard (Parsi Custard)


Sweets and Nuts

Plus Curds Chappaties and Sweet fruit pickle

And potato chips, traditionally served on a Banana Leaf.