Eat the Parsi way!

Eat the Parsi way!

Parsis, and vegetarians... impossible!," laughed a Parsi friend of my mother when asked about the Parsi food at her dinner. My father, an ex-IFS officer, told her then how that was so similar to Kashmiris, who love their non-vegetarian too and need it daily.

After coming to Calcutta, one thing that kept me genuinely upbeat is that people love their non-vegetarian, pretty much like the Parsis. Taking reference from our Parsi friends from Kolkata and Bombay, I narrowed down to the most authentic Parsi food place in the city of joy - 'The Parsi Dharamsala'.

In the year 1909, the Dharamsala for Parsi travelers was founded at 9 Bow Street, Calcutta-12, in the memory of late Manackjee Rustomjee by his friends and admirers in Bombay, Calcutta and China. The Dharamshala has been providing Parsi travelers visiting Calcutta a comfortable place to stay along with offering them Parsi meals at very reasonable rates for more than 100 years now.

Dara Hansotia, the present manager is a jovial man in his sixties and with his vivacious wife Mehar, they whip up a whirlwind on the table.


Chicken Dhansak (Rs.200), Salli Chicken (Rs.200), Mutton Cutlet (Rs. 100), Mehar Special Cutlet (Rs.50), Lagan Nu Custard (Rs. 50)


The place does not pack and deliver food. You can have it in their dining hall or bring your own casseroles/tiffin to take the food home. "Our margins are low, so we have not tied up with any delivery partners," Meher frankly tells us. Due to this, I visited the place to get a holistic experience.


The Parsi Mutton Cutlet by the Hansotias was a medium sized thick soft patty with juicy minced mutton deep fried in a coating of egg. The sweetness of onions in it perfectly complemented the heat of green chillies and freshness of the coriander added to the Cutlet.

The Mehar Special Cutlet, named after Mrs Manager, looked like the mutton cutlet, but contained cheese, eggs and shredded chicken and was lightly spiced with black pepper and mustard powder. It's certainly a perfect snack for brunches or picnics.

For the main course, I first had the Salli Chicken. A cashew based rich chicken curry garnished with fried potato straws, known as Salli, was served with bread. The thick mildly spiced and flavorful curry had the undertones of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves and the potato straws added a striking crunch to it. Chicken Salli is prepared by Parsis on all special occasions and festivals and is quite a unique dish.

Chicken Dhansak, the second dish in the main course, was a complete meal in itself. The word Dhansak is derived from Dhan meaning grains and sak meaning vegetables. In this dish, the chicken (or mutton) pieces are slowly cooked in pulses with five vegetables i.e. brinjal, pumpkin, bottle gourd, coriander and fenugreek leaves for hours, into a thick soupy gravy. The Hansotias add a special Dhansak spice mix which is shipped all the way from Bombay for this preparation.

Dhansak is served with brown coloured rice and Kachumbar salad with lemon wedges. The aromatic rice had caramelized sugar which gave it a golden brown colour. Kachumbar salad contained diced small pieces of onion, tomato

and cucumber. The Dhansak is usually prepared on Sundays owing to the long duration it takes to prepare it.

The Parsi way to eat this preparation is to first serve the rice on a plate, then douse it completely with the thick gravy and finally top it with the Kachumbar salad with a drizzle of lemon juice.

I ended the meal with the iconic dessert of Lagan Nu Custard. It derives its name from the fact

that it was served in marriages, 'lagan'. It's like a custard cake made from eggs, milk and sugar involving both cooking over fire as well as baking, finally garnished with nuts. Bliss!


Surprisingly, the entire range of starters and main course was delicious and very affordable. But the dessert surpassed everything. The Lagan Nu Custard was a dish that made me nostalgic and homesick despite being a non-Parsi.


If you want a meal that is exotic, soulful and comforting; head to the 'Parsi Dharamsala'. The only caveat is that you need to order a day in advance, so don't wait and enjoy the Parsi way: "Have chilled beer, Dhansak, Salli and have a nap, to be followed by Irani Chai".

(The columnist is a food connoisseur who loves experimenting with culinary delights and a career bureaucrat in the IRS Income Tax)

Next Story
Share it