Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sunila's Parsi Dhansag

I am half parsi from my father's side and so I have grown up eating a fair amount of parsi food. My mother learned how to cook parsi food really well and so we often eat and cook it. I am including her recipe for mutton dhansag and will keep adding my other favourites. Also attached is an article written by Freddy Birdy about eating Bombay Duck at my mother Sunila's house in Delhi.

Ma’s Dhansag
Boil : dhuli mung, masoor, and tur dals ( 1/3 Cups each, or you will have too much dal) with 2 chopped onions, 2 tomatoes, a wedge of (50 gm ) baingan, white pumpkin, yellow pumpkin, a small bunch of methi and a few leaves of palak. If available, put in a green mango. Boil just enough to puree it all roughly.

Marinate I kg of meat in 2 Tbsp. adrak-lassan (ginger-garlic). Fry 3 sliced onions till brown, add meat and stir till it leaves water, add 4 Tbsp dhansak masala, 2 Tbsp. sambhar masala, 2 grated tomatoes and the vegetable puree. Add 1 tsp red chilli powder, 1tsp zeera powder,1 tsp dhania powder , 1 tsp. garam masala powder.

If you haven’t put in the green mango add some tamarind juice at the point when the dal-vegetable puree is added to meat.
A tadka of a few methi leaves crackled in oil with some whole red chillies on the top is nice
Parsis also add a spoon of jaggery after the tamarind juice as they like their food quite sweet but you can skip that.
Of course if you are making veggie dhansag, you follow all the steps except instead of marinating meat in adrak lassan (ginger-garlic) you add 1 tbsp. of adrak-lassan to the fried onions.

Bombay Duck in Delhi.
By Freddy Birdy

Some of Delhi’s most delicious meals can be had outside its restaurants.

If you are ever invited to lunch at Sunila Patel’s, and if you happen to know in advance that she will be serving her crisp-fried, green chilly-stuffed Bombay Duck, then please do drop every pressing engagement and go.

It is an arduous climb up several “ builder-steps” to her second floor apartment, but worth every asthmatic gasp.

You will be seated at a square wooden table, bought in the mid eighties at Taaru’s, that furniture brand that existed when there were no such thing as furniture brands. Behind you will be a wall full of books, leaning against each other unselfconsciously like old friends. The walls will be scattered with delicate Mickey Patel drawings. And a split air-conditioner will lower the second floor summer temperature considerably.

But all this will fade to a blur and your whole, undivided attention will fall on the star attraction, as it is placed simply before you.

The Bombay Duck is not a bird, it does not quack, neither does it come from Bombay. Ours comes a short hop down the road from the Chitaranjan Park fish market. To call the Bombay Duck a fish would be like calling Shabana Azmi an actor. It is much more than that. It is about an inch longer than a 6 inch ruler, slender, firm, yet slightly, nicely, plump. [ Think Aishwariya Rai’s belly in Kajra Re.] It is marinated for a bit in a touch of turmeric, a finger’s pinch of red chilly powder, a tiny hint of ginger-garlic paste, stuffed with an entire small green chilly, dusted in the merest whisper of rice flour and gently placed delicately on an iron griddle glistening with smoking hot oil till it is done to an impossible deliciousness, shatteringly crisp on the outside, the flesh meltingly soft and moist on the inside.

Even though I would include Sunila in my list of favourite conversationalists in Delhi city, her Bombay Duck is best eaten in utter silence, with your fingers, head focused firmly on the plate in front of you, fingertips just slightly scalded by the searing hot flesh, hands used only in pantomime when it is time for your plate to be replenished. You pause midmouthful to rain fresh lime on it, lengthwise, from large half-discs of lemon, or gulp large sips of iced water. It is important to mention here that no other conflicting flavour be served alongside. The only thing that goes well with Bombay Duck, is more Bombay Duck.

The ingredients for this feast to end all feasts, cost a princely thirty rupees. But simply flashing a credit card will not give to access to this extraordinary taste sensation. The Bombay Duck is unlisted on menus in Delhi. It would appear na├»ve and a little foolish in front of its richer cousins: crabs, lobsters, tiger prawns, mussels. But it is a dish that occupies heartspace, not menuspace. In a sense, this is fast-food, straight from the fish market, into the frying pan and in your mouth. But it is possibly the world’s most delicious fast food. You cannot merely buy your crisp fried Bombay Duck, you have to earn it. And of course, it is never ever too late to get to know Sunila Patel.


Nandita said...

I love a good dhansak although vegetarian, but what a superb write up about your mom and her cooking...totally built up her personality with words...Haven't heard of Taaru's furniture, was it exclusively in Delhi?
I'm glad to stumble upon your blog, seems like a juicy read :) have promptly added you to my blog roll too!

Ria Patel said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! Taaru was exclusively in Delhi yes, and was launched in 1968 by Mini Boga. They made furniture on order and served the domestic market with furniture, lamps and other home accessories.

The teak wood was beautifully seasoned and the designs were styled along modern Scandinavian lines and finished in natural linseed oil polish. You can now get Taaru designs at a store called Indi in Shahpurjat, Delhi.

nandita said...

I live in Bbay, but will surely note this down for when i visit Delhi next...your description sounds like something we'll love :)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to say that there's one thing that does go well with Bombay Duck - Sol Kadi (also known as Kokum Kadi). This combination (Bombay Duck and sol kadi) is commonly served at the Konkani restaurants in Bombay. Here's a random link to a recipe for this drink.


Enjoy! :-)

Anonymous said...


Amrita said...

I love dhansak and my Parsee friend Mahruk used to make it. I want to try cooking it too but dhansak masala is not available in Alld. Can I make it at home?

Ria Patel said...

Amrita, send me your address and I'll mail you a box of dhansag masala.
The mother's recipe is adapted from the cook book called 101 Parsi Recipes. If you want to try this home made version the book says you can grind
8 dry red chillies, 1 desertspoon cumin seeds, 1 desertspoon coriander seeds, 2 1/2 inch cinnamon stick, 2 black cardamoms peeled, 4 black peppercorns in stead of dhansag powder. This quantity is for 1/2 kg meat.
Happy Cooking !

kate said...

Hi Ria,

Please if possible, send me your Mum's address. We were good friends and neighbours many years back in New Delhi. In face I had many great meals at your home.

I hope she remembers me, Ketayun Pandole and my daughter Kuzana.

Also do you have Jennifer Patrao's address?

Thanks very much,


kate said...

Oh by the way, 101 Parsi Recipes is published by my Aunt, Jeroo Mehta.

Ria Patel said...

Hi Ketayun,
My mother is delighted that you have got in touch and remembers you very fondly. She loves using her 101 Parsi Recipes that you gifted her.
Please send me your e-mail id and I can e-mail you hers and jennifer's contact details.

meta said...

I got to your blog as I was searching for mini boga.....I worked in Taaru..learnt a ton there...and last year got a call from Mini after 15 years.....I have been thinking about her and am trying to get her contact number...could you possibly have it??
would appreciate any leads...thanks!!!