My last meeting with Shelley for this 5-series blog was enriched with a lot of laughter and thought. A beautiful morning kickstarted with breakfast together, I questioned her as to what more I can cover about the Parsi food and culture. After a few perplexed looks, she responded: I don’t really know what else there is to cover, you have already written about all the main traditions involving food. While I still wanted to dig deeper, in the back of my mind I knew that the review will probably end up being split into two parts; so it was best just to talk.
As we began gorging on our breakfast while sipping some coffee, Shelley shared some tidbits about the company. Working from home, she is at ease about the pace of growth and since most of her customer base are Parsi’s themselves she is elated about the response. As I asked her about what made her take this step and the motivation behind it, she gave me an answer that felt…right. Kids are now old enough, so I have time for it and I wanted to take this glamorous, cryptic cuisine to people’s home so they can see it’s simplicity. My goal was straightforward: make Parsi cooking easier and approachable.
As we talked more, she shared how Bawa’s have some super quirky habits which are actually a lot of fun. Someone in the family enjoyed eating banana with dhansak, while another person used to eat jam with curd and I was fascinated by how fun that must be! Tea for Bawa’s is often infused with lemongrass (lilichai) and mint (pudinachai) which is more often than not grown at home. As we were on the topic of family traditions passed down, Shelley shared how her mother taught her to fix extra salt with lime juice and always garnish with lots of coriander (now that’s something I can get behind because despite my mother using flour balls to reduce salt, I am squeezing lemon on top of everything)!
The more we talked, the more I realised how similar things are irrespective of different cultures. Punjabi culture for one has so many similarities; my father loves eating malai with bread and we like to spice up our tea with ginger & fennel seeds. Maybe Parsi culture isn’t as cryptic as I first thought (it’s just not very well known) and Shelley’s response of “it’s normal” was finally making sense to me. So after devouring our food & wrapping up the conversation, we parted ways with her handing over my order and bid adieu for the day.
Disclaimer: The review is entirely at my discretion and not in any way influenced or biased. The products were paid for by me and delivered in the same packaging as sent to other customers.
The packaging for chutneys was in pearl pet containers and surely they work, but I would have preferred glass jars (though I assume that would make it tougher to ship) in comparison. The bhakras came in perfectly air-sealed packets.
A popular tea-time snack in a Parsi households, I was extremely excited about them after hearing Shelley’s stories of her children gobbling them up piping hot. She often called them Parsi doughnuts, so I guess the curiosity was well justified. I had no prior encounters with bhakras but absolutely loved these fried biscuits. The texture was somewhere between a tea cake & a biscuit with a crunchy exterior and chewy interior. Though they felt a little dry to be eaten on their own, I loved gorging on them with my evening tea. Enhanced by an infused saunf flavour, the balanced sweetness won me over.
Quite similar to our usual raw mango chutney, I enjoyed eating this with Parsi kebabs (which you will be hearing more about in the last part). A sweet and spicy mix, the consistency was slightly more sticky. The spices were beautifully expressed amongst the tartness & sweetness of raw mango. I could see myself ordering this again instead of the usual store brought (and preservative inclusive) jar.
Image : Parsi Kebabs with Gajar Meva Nu Achaar
Gajar Meva Nu Achaar (carrot & dry fruit pickle) –
While Shelley recommended that the achaar goes with everything, it didn’t really appeal to my tastebuds. It had a tartness I couldn’t point out and lots more ingredients which even though maintained shape, I couldn’t figure out. However, the strong flavour might just appeal to you. I for one felt that the ingredients didn’t really come together and stood unilaterally instead of cohesively.
Chutney (coriander & coconut chutney) –
Usually used for making patrani macchi, I decided to give it a try as an accompaniment. As soon as I opened the jar, a strong waft of coriander with soft notes of coconut bowled me over. However, the texture was quite pasty so it didn’t really work as an accompaniment to our meal. It did add significant flavour to the combination of cheese and crackers, so if you are a coriander fanatic, go ahead and give it a try. Overall, I love the flavour balance in this chutney though not a fan of the texture; I will probably be using it for different recipes.
So, the flavours are definitely strong and different. However, they have me intrigued. Though I can’t make a claim for authenticity since I am no expert of the cuisine, I am assured that the products are natural, preservative free and fresh which gives me quite a satisfaction and leverage for more experimentation with the dishes. The uniqueness of this cuisine might be new to my palate but for now I am enjoying it.
Review continued in Part 5 with insights into the spices and recipes.
Read Part 3 here.