Navroze Mubarak! Celebrated twice a year, the first Navroze falls in March and the other in August. A day to celebrate Fire, Friendship, and Food – the Parsi New Year is here. Dotted with delicacies like Dhan Dhar Patio, Saas ni Macchi, and Lagan nu Custard, the day may sound like a regular thursday night, but there’s more to Navroze than meets the palate, (and ‘em eyes). We caught up with DSSC homegirl Kainaz Contractor of Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu to dive into the traditions that fire-up the Parsi New Year, and trace a typical celebratory day in a Parsi household (with the customary chawk, of course).
- Clean, scrub, clean – the house must shine.
- Now that Mr. Home is clean as a whistle, it’s time to make it sparkle with chawk decorations, i.e., rangoli. We hear fish patterns are super lucky!
- Let’s get those torans and fragrant garlands swinging on the doors.
- After the the house is all glammed up with flowers and diyas, it’s time for the the pooja – mind you, we’re still in the AM.
- After all that hard work, a traditional breakfast is in order (but more on that soon).
- After paying respects to your tummy via the scrumptious meal, it’s time to head to the temple, Agiari, to pay your respects and meet family and friends.
- Lunch too is a grand affair, and always at home, but never graced with Dhansak.
- The evenings get even more interesting with slap stick comedy – yes, watching a Parsi play is a tradition you must follow!
- Many Parsi colonies organize a feast for dinner. In Bombay though, you’ll see a lot of Parsis heading to Ling’s Pavilion. This old school Chinese restaurant is packed on Parsi New Year!
“It’s very simple, it’s all about eating and meeting your family & friends. It’s a very social festival and no matter which part of the country you’re from you still follow the traditions and celebrate together,” as Kainaz says.
Speaking of eating, let’s take a look at the Parsi delicacies Navroze has in store for us. Food is a big part of Parsi culture, with recipes passed down generations and every family having their own recipes but the traditions are so ancient, the origins are lost. The mornings after the prayers are always followed by something sweet – Mithoo Dahi or Ravo (which is a little like kheer, flavoured with cardamom and nutmeg), typically specialities reserved for auspicious occasions, tend to make an appearance. Brekkie also calls for bananas and hard boiled eggs, “Because obviously we can’t do without eggs,” quips Contractor.
Dhan Dar, a white rice & yellow dal combo is usually served for lunch with Fish Patio, this tomato and coconut curry is a flavour explosion waiting to happen. Kainaz educates us on the significance of fish, “It’s considered to be a symbol of fertility and long life. That’s why you always have fish.”
A traditional Parsi dinner would always be served on a banana leaf. Patra ni Machchi, Saas ni Machchi, Salli Boti, Jardaloo Murghi Ma Salli, Mutton Pulao are some of the highlights, and what can’t be ignored is the sweet ending. “Lagan nu Custard or the Parsi dairy Kulfi is a must!” shares Kainaz.
At Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu, Parsi New Year is celebrated with full aplomb. Twice a year they whip a traditional Navroze meal with the usual suspects and off the menu specials like keema samosa (#DroolAlert).
It truly is a celebration of food! That’s why we couldn’t let Contractor off the hook without sharing one of our favourite recipes. Presenting Kainaz Contractor’s Jardaloo Murghi Ma Salli. “This decadent chicken gravy is served with fried potato straws or salli. The jardaloos (dried apricots) give the dish a Persian touch and are a nice sweet addition to the mildly-spiced dish.”
Jardaloo Murghi Ma Salli
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Caters To: 8 gobblers
Challenge Level: Intermediate
From the Pantry:
- 1/2 cup oil
- 4 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1.5 kg chicken, cut into pieces
- 300 ml fresh tomato purée
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon haldi powder
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
- 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 and 1/2 cups water/chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons sugarcane vinegar (KC recommends trying Kolah’s available at speciality Parsi stores)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 16 jardaloo (dried apricots), soaked for 2 hours in warm water and then lightly browned in ghee
- 150g sali (potato straws), to serve
- In a broad pan big enough to hold the chicken pieces, heat oil and fry the onions till light brown.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add the chicken and fry further for 5-7 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato purée, salt, haldi, chilli powder and garam masala.
- Add two cups water/chicken stock and cook on medium flame for 20 minutes.
- Once the chicken is cooked, check the consistency of the gravy. It should be neither too watery nor too dry.
- Add vinegar, sugar, and jardaloos. Cook for 3 more minutes. Garnish with salli and serve with chapatis.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of DSSC & its affiliates.