'Khavanu, pivanu, majja ni life’ is a popular Parsi expression that loosely translates to eat, drink and be merry. With influences drawn from Persia, India and the British, Parsi cuisine is a confluence of flavours. There are revered pomfret dishes indicating a connect to coastal India, dry fruits signifying culinary links to Persia and tea rituals borrowed from the British. Today is Parsi New Year, and here are three recipes that reflect each of these aspects of this food-and-fun loving community.
A dry-fruit laden dessert, made with milk and semolina, marks a celebratory affair. In the cookbook The Parsi Kitchen: A Memoir of Food & Family, author and chef Anahita Dhondy writes, “A little bowl of goodness, it’s a dish prepared on auspicious occasions.” It’s an essential item on Parsi New Year and is known as sagan-no-ravo. Sagan translates to auspicious in Parsi. Basically, it’s sooji halwa with a difference and is flavoured with vanilla with a generous addition of pistachios, almonds, raisins and chironji.
Here’s a recipe for Sagan No Ravo by Parsi home chef Diana Mistry.
The Parsi community discovered pomfret when they left their homes in Persia, sailed for days and landed on the shores of Gujarat in the eighth century. Now, pomfret forms an integral part of their cuisine, and over time it acquired an auspicious status. It is noteworthy that dhansak—a dish synonymous with the community’s cuisine—is conspicuously missing from the new year menu. It’s not considered to be a festive dish for it’s prepared during the ten-day mourning period that precedes the new year. But, the mild-flavoured versatile pomfret tells a different story and it goes into their curries and steamed dishes, the most famous being patra-ni-machi or fish steamed in banana leaf.
Here’s a recipe for patra-ni-machi.
Something to sip on
Tea-time is sacrosanct for Parsis. If it’s the new year, then it will be accompanied by more snacks and cake. Flavoured with mint and lemongrass, Parsi chai or choi, is an essential ingredient for a majja ni life.
Here’s a recipe for Parsi choi.