Agnibho Gangopadhyay
It was as if you have been invited to a Parsi wedding, with two patriarchs ensuring you have a good time and indulge in gastronomic delight. Zubin S Songadwala, the Parsi general manager of ITC, Sonar Kolkata wanted to introduce Kolkata to the amazing world of Parsi cuisine. For that he flew in ace chef Parvez Patel, a friend and a restaurateur, to Kolkata, who gladly teamed up with Songadwala. Together they have conjured up a homely, laid-back ambience in this festival called ‘Parsi Culinary Treasures’, sharing anecdotes, details and histories related to the cuisine. Kolkata would get a chance to soak in Parsi delectables till September 19 at the Eden Pavilion restaurant in the hotel.
Parsi cuisine is an example of the palimpsest that is India. The whole fragrant spices and nuts of Iran mingled with chilly, malt vinegar and jaggery of India, the accent on meats hugged the vegetables of Gujarati cuisine as the diasporic Zoroastrian Parsi community got assimilated to the Indian sub-continent. The resultant flavour can be best summed up by the word, ‘khattu-mithu’, the tangy, sweet-sour vein in the cuisine, informed Parvez. It is feel-good food at its best. This is amply captured by the menu that Kolkata would sample.
Salli Murghi, Patra Ni Machi (Pomfret in green chutney steamed in banana leaf), fish curry, the iconic Mutton Dhansak (a Sunday must), Atheli Murghi, Dhun Dar Patia (a palette of white steamed rice, yellow dal, spicy-sour-sweet prawn gravy — to be had on auspicious days of ceremony and rituals), Mutton Picnic (cooked with baby potatoes and baby onions) would enthrall one and all when it comes to non-vegetarian proclivity. These go with excellent rice concoctions like Gosh No Pulav Masala, Khichdi (Yellow Rice) or simply the long-grain steamed rice.
Parsis are very fond of snacks, so  sumptuous starters and egg-based snacks are the aces of Parsi cuisine. Egg, infact, is a Parsi favourite. The steamed chicken coriander kabab (the Parsis call it kavab), the deep fried Mutton Kavab, the Marghi Na Farcha (chicken fried in egg batter) and the Chutney Na Pattice (Mint-Coconut chutney, wrapped in potato batter and deep fried) are the clean winners. Akuri (Scrambled eggs with finely chopped onion, tomato and coriander) is the basic egg dish that can be had with rotlis (whole wheat breads/chapattis), wafer or bread. Your search for a quick, tasty, filling breakfast may end here.
Vegetarians need not worry about their main course. From Tarkari Nu Stew to Kharo Papeto, the Masala dal to Titori, excellent dishes of potato, beans, various other vegetables and pulses can give their non-vegetarian counter-parts a run for their money.
Among the desserts, the Lagan Nu Custard (made with milk, eggs, nutmeg powder, vanilla essence and topped with chironjee seeds) and the sev (roasted vermicelli and chironjee fried in ghee, sweetened and topped with dry fruits) take the cake.
The hosts dedicated the feast to the small and dwindling community of Parsis and there are 600 of them in Kolkata. This fantastic and gratifying festival, warmed by personal touches, is a small start when it comes to paying respect to a minority in this city of multi-cultural heritage.