Discovering a Parsi classic in a brand new year… Amy Bilimoria’s chawra ma khadiya

It’s a brand new year and a good time to write about a grand new experience.

Chances are that if you frequent Parsi joints such as Britannia, Jimmy Boy, Excelsior, Military Cafe or Ideal Corner or have been to a Parsi wedding you would have come across Irani restaurant classics such as dhansak, pulao daal, sali boti, mutton cutlets, akoori and patrani machhi.

What you probably would not have got an inkling of is the Parsi love for organs in the food. Goat brain, liver, kidneys, trotters and the like.

K tells me that while growing up breakfast in her house would consist of kaleji (liver) pao, aleti paleti (mixed assorted organs), bheja (brain cutlets) and the like. Then there was the winter favourite of Khadiya or paya (trotters). Parsis believe that having goat trotters in winter make your bones strong through the year. This was of course a statin free world unsullied by the dreaded C word. In case you are wondering there was no cheese on the table those days K tells me.

I doubt if too many Parsi households today would see this sort of organ fest in a world where even red meat is considered to be a profanity let alone offal. The Parsi restaurants and Irani Cafe menus and laganu bhonu (wedding feast) fare too are largely organ free. This doesn’t leave you with too many options to try these Parsi classic dishes in Mumbai now.

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We recently had the good luck to try some chawra ma khadiya, the winter speciality of goat’s trotters slow cooked in black eyed peas. This dish is one of K’s favourites and turned out to be one of the most intensely flavoured dishes that I have tasted. The beans had a slight citrusy spring to them which contrasted with the unbridled meatiness of the trotters. The dish had a near maternal feeling in its nourishing ability. The sort of dish which left you enshrouded in a warm happy glow.

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Along with the chawra ma khadiya we had some excellent bheja (goat’s brain) cutlace or cutlets. A very well flavoured goat’s brain stuffing encased in a delicate egg batter coating.

The lady who had cooked these delights is Ms Amy Bilimoria, an educator, who as I understand, retired as the principal of the Cooper College. She loves cooking I am told and cooks these traditional Parsi delights for a small group of friends one of whom kindly got us over a sample of her delightful cooking. I don’t have her number and am not sharing it right now as I am not sure whether she is ready to make these for a larger audience. I hope she does someday.

As for me, this traditional Parsi delight has been my discovery of the new year so far.

Here’s to many more.

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