Wednesday, June 13, 2007


A friend is heading towards Poona in another ten days, for a month on the Old Sod. The old sod being not Blighty but India. And herself being not some insipid little trout from the boggy north, but a Parsi.

So I expect her to have gained weight when she returns. Parsis are seriously into food, and before trekking to Poona where her parents live, she'll be in Bombay for a few days. Where there are several places to seriously upload food. Real food. Parsi food.

Jimmy Boy off Horniman Circle, Ideal Corner in the fort, and Paradise in Colaba, near the causeway. All good places for standard Parsi fare. Plus Yazdani Bakery in the fort for excellent baked goods.

All of this is hearsay, of course, because I have never been to Bombay. I just know about it from reading Busybee's loving descriptions of eating out.

Who, you ask, was Busybee?

Busybee was the food-writing persona of the late Parsi journalist Behram Contractor (see here:, whose meanderings across dinnertime Bombay remain a joy to read and reread, and by which one may remember the man long after his passing.

[For a food-write feast about Dhansak, go here:]

However, being the food-slut that I am, I do have first-hand experience with some of the things he writes about, including chicken farcha, sali boti, patrel biriani, sweet-sour carrot pickle, wafer per eeda, and Dhansak.

So, seeing as you have probably yourself always wanted to load up on Dhansak, and, like me, you are not a member of the Rippon Club, you must make your own. With mutton, of course. Plus pumpkin, brinjal, and methi bhaji. And Dhansak Masala.

[Parsi spice mixture used primarily for dhansak]

9 Dry chilies (Guajillo or New Mexico chiles secos).
Two and a half TBS coriander seed.
One and a half TBS cumin seed.
One TBS whole peppercorns.
Half a TBS fennel seed.
Half a TBS black mustard seed.
Half a TBS fenugreek seed.
Three Tej Patta (cassia leaves - bay leaf may be substituted, but it isn't really the same).
Three green cardamom pods, seeds only.
One black cardamom pod, seeds only.
One three-inch stick of cinnamon.
One star-anise pod.
Nine whole cloves.
One Tsp. mace.

Roast all spices except the mace. Cool and grind. Add mace and regrind, sift. If it is to be stored use a brown or blue glass jar. Optionally add half a teaspoon of turmeric to inhibit mold if you intend to make more than you will use soon.

To use, mash with about eight or nine cloves of garlic and a thumb of ginger. It will be sufficient for enough dhansak to feed about eight people.

You would use two thirds of a cup of toovar dal (telwalla), one third of a cup each of masoor and moong dal. Slightly more than a pound of red pumpkin, one or two Chinese eggplants, three or four tomatoes, two or three onions, and a small bunch of methi leaves plus a handful of cilantro. You will need about a pound and a half of lamb-stew meat chunks on the bone, up to two pounds.

The procedure is standard, and you probably do not need me to describe it - cook the dals smooshy in one pan, gild the onion, aromatics, spices, lamb in another pan. Then mix everything for further cooking. A small dash of vinegar and a little tamarind may be added for a pleasing tang. Do NOT add pineapple, unless you are Angrezi and more than a little mad.

Serve with kachumber and Parsi brown rice. Plus some lime segments for squeezing. And croquettes or pattice.

Then spend the rest of the afternoon sleeping.


Anonymous said...

Now I really can't wait to get home. But, rather than Dhansak, the standing order for my first meal is always Dhan Dar and Kolmi no Patio. Then I hit the street vendors for the Bhajjias, and Batata Vadas nestled in bread rolls with a whacking great blob of green coriander chutney.
Backofthehill, you may go ahead and do your thing now. I wait with bated breath for the volumes of recipes you are sure to find and publish.

Tzipporah said...

OMG that sounds good. But as bad cohen and lamb disagree with each other, I think we'll do chicken. (pulls sad face - I *love* lamb).

The back of the hill said...

Tzipporah, many people do make it with chicken instead of lamb. Not strictly kosher (al pi chol Parsiim), but nevertheless very good.

Parsis would also by preference use Parsi dairy ghee from Ghodrej, but I have never seen that in the US. In any case, I tend to use olive oil - better for you, and no conflict of interest when cooking meat dishes.

The proportions of the finished dish are more lentil matter than vegetable matter (pumpkin and eggplant), and more veg matter than meat. But not much more.

Oh, and to make the onion brown faster and more evenly, Parsis tend to sprinkle a little sugar onto the chopped onions. Which is also the trick to Parsi brown rice - it is gilded with a touch of caramelized sugar, which adds so little sweetness that it isn't noticable, but greatly improves the aroma, making it unmistakably Parsi.

Tzipporah said...

ah, sneaky. I'll have to try that with the onions.

The back of the hill said...

For Kolmi no Patio, which 'anonymous' mentions in her comment above, look here:

It is a shrimp dish.... so not kosher.
But the cooking technique will also work for fish chunks - in which case you could probably call it 'Machh(l)i no Patio' (fish patia).
Note that the 'l' in machhli is ellided in Gujerati and other languages, and that fish patia is also standard Parsi dish.

PIG! said...

Reading your blog always makes me ravenous!

D. Hansakia said...

All of Busy Bee's online food columns here.

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