Food for thought
With its versatile mix of sweet and sour and spicy flavours, the ongoing Parsi Food Festival at The Bombay proves a revelation
OUR IDEA OF a perfect weekday evening usually does not involve rushing across to crowded Deira after work to sample a new cuisine. But that is exactly what we found ourselves doing midweek lured by a sepia tinged picture announcing the annual Parsi Food Festival at The Bombay restaurant in Marco Polo Hotel.
Only to find ourselves jostling for a table at the heavily booked restaurant which begs the question how do people manage to get to work on time if they are out dining late on a weekday?
We were soon surrounded by what could easily be half the citys Parsi population as we focused on the task at hand to sample as many of the dishes in the least possible time and scoot home. With a Parsi chef flown in specially from Mumbai to dish out traditional fare, there was no way we were going to let a little crowd get in the way of our meal.
Fishing for pleasure
And so it was on to the Prawn Kebab a batter fried dumpling with a slightly sour aftertaste that had us ruminating throughout the evening about the mystery ingredient. The much-anticipated and heavily discussed Patra Ni Machi (Fish steamed in banana leaf) however failed to live up to expectations. The spiced chilli-coriander paste encasing the fish looked visually appealing, but lacked a certain punch (though to be fair, we were left reeling after the pungent green chillies made their presence felt after a couple of bites) - and the act of picking out bones from a fish is one we prefer not to repeat in public.
At the heart of Parsi cuisine lies the Dhansak and having done our diligent research before venturing for the festival we were glad to be served what we considered a traditional version of it - chicken cooked in lentils and served alongside brown rice topped with mince-meat kebabs. The dish epitomises the broad-minded spirit of the Parsis mixing as it does the richness of Iranian cuisine with the simplicity of Gujarati cooking.
The other highlight of the evening was the Sali Boti boneless mutton cooked in a tomato-based gravy and topped with potato straws another Parsi staple that had us licking our fingers in appreciation (notice how picking out fish bones in public is a big no-no, but licking your fingers is alright?) The hint of apricot gave the dish a unique twist.
The Kolmi No Pulao prawns cooked in spicy rice - tantalised us with its subtle mix of sweet, spice and tangy flavours.
We ended the night with a serving of Lagan-Nu-Custard a rich bread pudding with heavy custard and shavings of pista that is traditionally served at Parsi weddings. If the food habits of a community is indicative of the nature of its people, then the cuisine we sampled left us in no doubt of the liberal spirit of the endearing Parsi community.
PATRA NI MACHI
Pomfret Fish: 3 whole
Desiccated coconut: 1 cup
Mint leaves: 1 cup
Coriander leaves: ½ cup
Green chilli: 1 chopped finely
Garlic: 1 clove
Grated ginger: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: 1 tsp
Tamarind paste: 1 tbsp
Coconut cream: ½ cup
Banana leaves: 2
Salt: To taste
· Clean the fish and drain out the water.
· Wipe dry with a kitchen towel and keep aside.
· Cut each banana leaf into a 35 cm square.
· Using tongs submerge the leaves in a large pan of boiling water; remove immediately, rinse under cold water and dry thoroughly.
· Leaf should be soft and pliable.
For coconut paste:
· Blend mint, coriander, chillies, ginger, garlic, cumin, coconut, tamarind and cream until pureed
· Score fish three times on each side; sprinkle with salt.
· Place each fish in the centre of a banana leaf square; spread coconut mixture over one side of each fish.
· Wrap up the banana leaf and tie with a piece of string.
· Place in steamer till fish is cooked.
Prawn Kebab: Dhs 65 Patra Ni Matchi: Dhs55 Chicken Dhansak with rice and kebabs: Dhs55 Sali Boti: Dhs 46 Kolmi No Pulao: Dhs 65 Lagan Nu Custard: 20
The Bombay, Marco Polo Hotel, Phone: 04-2720000