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Dig-In Meals – A column highlighting Indian spices in recipes that take traditional Indian food and add a western twist!

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My parents loved throwing dinner parties mixing it up with diverse groups of people. My earliest memories are of animated discussions at the dinner table–about politics, food, theater and of course the all-important topic of money (how to make it, grow it, invest it and use it for the good of the larger community.) The atmosphere was always very lively and loud, be it voices or laughter. When I was about fourteen years old, one such guest was Shailesh uncle, a karate black belt who cut an imposing figure.

He convinced my dad to enroll me in a Goju-Ryu karate class with Sensei Pervez Mistry, and thus began my love affair with the Parsis and karate. Our dojo comprised of 70% Parsis and every evening for four hours, I practiced karate and hung out with my new Parsi friends and learnt about their culture, lifestyle and food. We all progressed through the ranks culminating in the highest honor–the black belt.

Parsi Cuisine Is Largely Non-Veg

This deep friendship continues here in the Bay Area, where five of us live. My “Parsi gang” as I call them, meet every Saturday with their tightly knit community of fellow Zoroastrians and what follows is a night of fun, food and laughter. However, the food choices are tough for a vegetarian like me. It is heavily “non-veg” with no vegetarian options in sight, except for Rai na Papeta and dal.

This dwindling community’s legacy is deeply intertwined with the rise of modern India, shaping the course of India and the world for centuries. So, this month as I wish all my Parsi friends a very happy Pateti (New Year), I also share with them some fabulous vegetarian Parsi recipes that they can make for me!

Ravaiya (Baingan Stuffed With Coconut Chutney

A riff on the Gujrati bharela ringan nu shaak, the Parsi version is quite different. It is a drier preparation with the brinjals/baingan being stuffed with a green coconut chutney. It’s pretty awesome served with Dhan Dar (recipe below) and rice or roti.

Ravaiya. (Wikimedia Commons licensed photo)

INGREDIENTS

For the Stuffing

  • 1 coconut, grated
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 10 chilies (adjust if you like it mild)
  • 2 garlic pods
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 20 mint leaves

Prep for Ravaiya/Baingan

  • 20 baby baingans
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1.5 tsp red chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp oil

PREPARATION

  1. Take all the chutney ingredients and blend to make a smooth chutney using just enough water to make a smooth paste
  2. Rinse the baingans and make two slits lengthwise in each one, keeping the stems on
  3. Mix the turmeric, red chili powder and salt and rub this masala into each of the brinjals
  4. Now take the chutney and stuff each brinjal with about a tablespoon of the chutney taking care to ensure the baingans don’t split
  5. Let these rest for about 30 minutes to ensure the masala marinates
  6. In a pan heat the oil and shallow fry the baingans to lightly sear the skin. I would recommend using a broad pan so that you don’t crowd them and can turn each one easily. Use a light touch so as not to cause the chutney stuffing to seep out
  7. Once the baingans are seared, add in the remaining chutney along with a cup of water
  8. Cover and let the Ravaiya cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until the baingans become tender
  9. If the chutney dries up add a little water. You want to end up with a thick consistency, so add a little at a time

Dhan Dar

This is an everyday daal that is also made on auspicious occasion’s like New Year’s, anniversaries and birthdays. “Dhun” a Gujarati word means “wealth” and “Dar” is a translation of “Dal.”

Dhun dar. (Wikimedia Commons licensed photo)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups toor dal (dried split pigeon peas) rinsed
  • 4 cups water + more for soaking
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons haldi (turmeric)
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

PREPARATION

  1. Soak the toor dal in water for 3 to 4 hours.
  2. Once soaked, drain out all the water. You will note that the raw dal has almost expanded by half its size.
  3. Next, pour the dal into the pressure cooker or instant pot with about 4 cups of water. Add in the turmeric and the salt.
  4. Cook on high until the cooker gives out 3 whistles and then another 10 minutes on low heat. If using instant pot, pressure cook for 11 mins and natural release. Once the dal is off the heat, you will need to wait a while before opening the cooker. The dal will have soaked up the water and it should look very thick.
  5. Give it a quick blend using a hand blender. Most people eat it like this.
  6. You can opt for a waghar (tadka). To do so, in a separate bowl, shallow fry some jeera, sliced onions and finely chopped garlic in ghee. Once the waghar is ready, pour into dal for extra creaminess. Sprinkle with sugar and cilantro leaves.

Paneer Akuri

Akuri is one of the signature eggs recipes of Parsi cuisine, here we make it with paneer.

Paneer akuri. (Wikimedia Commons licensed photo)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tomato finely chopped
  • 2 fresh green chilis finely chopped (de-seed if you like it mild)
  • 150 gm fresh paneer grated
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder or dhanjeeru
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (Kashmiri works best as it’s not too spicy, but gives a nice color)
  • 1/2 tsp haldi/urmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp sambhar masala
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/2 a small bunch of coriander
  • Salt to taste

PREPARATION

  1. In a pan add oil, garlic and green chillies, fry for a couple of minutes. Add in the onion and cook on low heat till it turns brown
  2. Add the masalas to the cooked the onions. Then add the tomatoes and cook the mixture, till they soften
  3. Add in part of the coriander and the grated paneer. Paneer can be salty so check the seasoning before adding salt as per your taste
  4. Top this butter
  5. Toss well,  garnish with fresh coriander

Mona Shah

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor,...