Theobroma Co-founder Kainaz Messman says she always makes 'badam pak' (Parsi Almond Fudge) for Navroz.
Navroz or Parsi New Year is marked by day-long festivities, including a visit to the Fire Temple and, of course, lavish meals with family and close friends. For the occasion (August 16), we spoke to three Parsi chefs who went down memory lane and shared their experiences of the celebrations.
Kainaz Messman, Founder and Creative Director, Theobroma
On Parsi New Year and on our birthdays, mom would always make us wear new clothes. Now as adults she gets upset with us for not wearing ‘everything new’.
I remember sev (sweet vermicelli, garnished with fried dry fruit) and sweet dahi were always made to mark the new year. We enjoyed this early in the morning, while our house was being adorned with torans (flower garlands) and chawk (Parsi rangoli). This simple ritual marked the beginning of our day of indulgence at home. Sev and dahi was followed by akuri and pav for breakfast. We often ate rice, mori dal and fish for lunch.
We almost always had guests at our table, invited or just dropped in, and mum always made loads of food to feed everyone. Many of our parents' friends would send us bouquets of flowers. Family and Parsi friends would send us sweets (the fish shaped mava boi being a family favourite). For dinner, we always went out for a family meal; we usually booked a table at China Garden or Golden Dragon for this occasion.
For Parsi New Year, I make badam pak (Parsi Almond Fudge), an indulgent and nourishing treat. My daughter and parents love it, and so I make it in large quantities. I am also making patra ni machchi this year (fresh fish with a sweet and sour Parsi coconut chutney steamed in banana leaves).
My plans this year are not very different from any other year. We are going out to a restaurant for lunch. We will eat all day, and we will eat too much!
Kainaz Contractor, Founder, Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu
Parsi New Year is one of those days which one celebrates with family and extended family. Usually in our house, we would start the day with going to the Parsi Fire Temple and offering our prayers to God. After that, it’s a day-long session of just feasting! For breakfast, we would have akuri and pav. Lunch is mostly a home-cooked affair. In the evenings, we usually go a restaurant or sometimes in Parsi colonies there are Parsi caterers who put up a huge feast.
For lunch at home, one of my favourite dish to make and have is the dhandar patio - yellow arhar dal with a light tempering of ghee, fried onions, garlic and turmeric. It is served with white rice, and on the side, you have the patio which is fried fish or any other form of protein in a sweet and sour tomato-based curry. It is followed by ravo which is sweet semolina kheer with cardamom, dry fruits and rosewater essence. My grandmom used to make kheema samosa for evening teatime snacks, and I was in charge of cutting the samosa patti and folding. I used to enjoy that, but mostly I enjoyed eating!
If not dhandhar patio, I would ask my mother to make mutton pulao. Making a layered pulao is such a laborious process, and everyone from my father to my brother would join in. At the restaurant, we make mutton pulao twice a year.
Chef Anahita Dhondy
Parsi New Year is usually spent at home, and we go to the Parsi Agiari in the evening. We celebrate with the community with food, drinks and music. We have not been able to do that for the last two years because of the pandemic, but we have been celebrating at home with just the immediate family.
There is always a rice dish, meat and dal on the table. Lunch is always very simple and cooked at home. We make dhandar patio with arhar dal, white rice served with a tangy chutney made of tomatoes and onions. You can add prawns or fish to it or keep it vegetarian and add baingan (eggplant) or kaddu (pumpkin) to it. The ravo is topped with nuts.
The evening dinners are a little more elaborate. There is pulao and dal. It is really yummy and something all Parsis love. There is a masala dal made with different dals and a rice pulao which is either vegetarian or has meat or chicken, and it is served with a salad. There can also be patra ni machchi and some sort of cutlets.
I usually try and keep the food traditional. There have been times we have experimented, but not too much. I try to keep the flavours as authentic as possible but there could be some change in technique. For instance, we make chicken farcha burgers when we want to keep it casual at home just for the family. It is quite indulgent.