The Better Half…Notes from the Finely Chopped Parsi Food Walk–Yazdani Bakery, Cafe Military, Jimmy Boy
So we did a Finely Chopped Parsi Food Walk last Saturday and it was good fun.
It was a fairly spontaneous walk come to think of it. I hadn’t planned it. Ended up doing it thanks to a quirk of fate.
I had planned to do a Parsi Walk right at the beginning when I started doing the Finely Chopped Walks. Given that my first friends in Mumbai were Parsi and that I am married into the community, I wanted to share whatever I have learnt about them with fellow non-Parsis.
Then I did a multi-cultured Fort walk that time instead of a Fort Parsi walk and since then stuck to variations of the same. The Parsi walk finally happened after plans were made on twitter and then changed and then made again and at the end the walk turned out to be a lot more fun than it initially seemed like it would be. I guess there’s something to be said for going with the flow.
I changed plans mid-way after announcing the walk as I swopped my favourite, and fixture in the Finely Chopped Fort Walks, Ideal Corner, with Jimmy Boy. The latter serves a full blown laganu bhonu (wedding feast) and seemed like the perfect way to cap a Parsi walk. Fort has a concentration of Parsi Cafes and choosing the places to go to would always be a tricky one. The word ‘concentration’ of course has to be seen in a Parsi context and the number of Parsi cafes here won’t make it to double digits.
I hadn’t been to Jimmy Boy in a while. I had been only once to Military Cafe which I included solely this time solely on the dint of its caramel custard that I once had. Which meant that I had to go a bit earlier on the day of the walk and familiarise myself with the route of the walk.
Come to think of it easy-going, fun-loving, happy go lucky, chaotic are all stereotypes used to describe the Parsi community and that’s exactly what this walk, which was put together in less than a week’s time, turned out to be.
As always we had a great group of folks walking with us. What was interesting was that there was 6 lawyers in the walk, apt perhaps as this is a favourite profession of the Parsis too. A dentist, an ophthalmologist and a fellow market researcher made up the numbers. And to top it all we had one birthday girl with us too.
The walk started at The Bombay Store as all Fort walks do and then we went to Parsi temple across the road where we chatted a while about Parsis and the practise of not allowing others into their temples and their desire to not disturb the religious balance of power in their host country that started off this practise.
Philosophising and social discourses done it was time to eat and we headed to Yazdani Bakery. Here we tried the bun maska and mava cakes and then freshly baked khari biscuits and crusty brun bread to be dipped in the chai. We said hi to Tirandaz and his dad, Mr Rashid, who by now are used to seeing us at Yazdani. We were one seat short and the chacha who makes the tea got a rickety stool and put it at the head of the table for me to seat. Those who are aware of the no-nonsense, cut and dried, business-like nature of Irani cafes and bakeries would agree with me that this is the equivalent of getting a super-platinum plus member treatment and I was very very touched and honoured.
As always, the folks at Yazdani were kind enough to let us in to the cavernous bakery and folks looked with awe at the huge wood-fired oven in which the breads are made and the electric oven in which biscuits are made.
It started pouring as we got ready to leave Yazdani. I think this is the first time that it actually rained during a walk. I didn’t have an umbrella having recently lost mine. So we waited a bit and then as the downpour fizzled out, headed to Cafe Military at Kala Ghora.
I was at Cafe Military earlier in the morning of the walk. I saw the owner, Mr Behram, sleeping in the corner. Behram is quite famous among my in laws who know about Cafe Military as ‘Behram’s hotel’. My mama in law had told me the story of the hapless customer who once had the temerity to tell Mr Behram about why there wasn’t enough sugar in the tea. To know what followed read this post. When I met my parents in law after the walk they reminisced about going to Behram’s in the afternoon from work when my father in law would play Engelbert Humperdinck songs at the juke box. Roughly the same time when my parents would dance to Engelbert numbers playing on the turntable at home in the UK. I guess Engelbert was the Elvis of Indians in the 70s.
I met Mr Behram during my last visit to Cafe Military and he is quite the rosy cheeked Parsi Santa now.
At Cafe Military we had the kheema ghotala. An Irani Cafe styled minced meat dish with an egg broken and beaten into it. Full flavoured and yet delicate in its balance. We tried an akoori too. The akoori at Military is closer to bhurji, the Indian version of scrambled eggs. The consistency tight and on on the drier side unlike other akooris that I have had at places like Ideal Corner which are creamier.
Talking of ideal Corner, Parvez, who runs the place walked into Cafe Military and we said hi to each other. We normally stop at Ideal Corner during the Fort walks thought the plan was slightly different. On the way out Parvez came up to us, smiled, and recommended the kheema at Cafe Military. It’s all a happy eco-system here.
Incidentally I realised that afternoon that Cafe Military is where I saw the most number of Parsis/ Iranis in an Irani cafe that afternoon. Always a good sign.
We followed up our kheema ghotalas and akooris at Cafe Military with caramel custards and they make one of the best caramel custards in Mumbai. Light, fluffy, perfectly balanced, not eggy at all.
Cafe Military had taken us close to Kala Ghoda and now we headed back towards Horniman Circle with a stop to take in the grand beauty of the St Thomas Church. On our way we passed by Coffee House, which I understand, is run by Parsis and has a mixed menu. We also passed by Piccolo, the RTI outlet near Bombay House. Piccolo has been there way back from the time when my in laws worked at Fort according to my mom-in-law.
Jimmy Boy Family Restaurant
Our final destination was Jimmy Boy Family Restaurant near SBI. The reason why I chose this cafe, which dates back to 1922, over our usual favourite Ideal Corner, is that Jimmy Boy serves a laganu bhonu or Parsi wedding feast. As Sherzad Irani, the young third generation owner explained, they came up with this idea of serving a bhonu when they rechristened the name to Jimmy Boy in ‘99. They thought it would give an opportunity for people to try out a Parsi wedding feast even if they are not invited to one. In fact I had my first taste of a Parsi wedding feast at Jimmy Boy while K and I were dating.
I went with the most classical combination for the Bhonu in the walk.
Raspberry to start with. A drink which is an acquired taste which frankly I am yet to acquire but that doesn’t stop me from asking for one in a wedding. Sara, the sago chips followed with laganu char made with carrots and raisins. The Parsi banana leaf steamed classic, patrani machhi followed with soft rotlis (chapatis). They also have a saas ni machhi as an option. For the chicken dish we went for the sali chicken. Jimmy Boy’s offers the Parsi fried chicken, Margi farcha too. It was time for a nice mutton palao daal after this. I chose the Parsi classic, never to be found in a wedding dish, dhansak for myself. The dhansak really good and just the perfect not too heavy meal that I was looking for. For desserts we went for the good old laganu custard.
Yes, we almost had the perfect Parsi wedding feast at Jimmy Boy that afternoon barring the presence of a bride and good but then since when did a wedding meal become about the couple getting married.
And for whatever its worth, with his smiling hospitality, Sherzad make us feel that we were being looked after by the brother of the bride.
Yes, it was one warm and happy afternoon and hopefully the Parsi damask and khambatti sambar masalas in the goody bags would keep the Parsi love going for those who came for the walk that afternoon.
Here’s some feedback and pics from the walk from twitter:
And from facebook:
A brilliant way to spend a Saturday morning-afternoon with @finelychopped n a bunch of food lovers on a #finelychoppedwalk. This time it was a Parsi food walk where we learnt abt n tried a gamut of Parsi food. Theres’ so much more than dhansak n berry polao. Urge u all to try a #finelychoppedwalk. Follow @finelychopped for details