Why cutles & curry make for the perfect Parsi couplet. #foodocracykitchens

Cutles and curry from Mahrukh's Kitchen

 #FoodocracyKitchens is a a series where I bring food stories and memories of people belonging to different communities and parts of India who reside in Mumbai (to start with). In this instalment, you will get to hear the story of a Parsi home chef and of some childhood memories of my wife who is Parsi and who is the reason why this Bengali writes so often about Parsi food.

Mutton cutles from Mahrukh's

 'There are many people who sell cutles (Parsi speak for cutlets) and kevabs (Parsi speak for kebabs) among Parsis in Mumbai. Sometimes out of stores such as Belgaum Ghee Depot near Grant Road where we used to pick up kevabs for home after we (K & I) got married. Some are standalone operators. There was a man who used to stand  outside Gangar store at Five Gardens with a tin box full of kevabs...chicken, mutton, prawn. My dad or my grand uncle would check with my mother and pick them up for us to have on days when she would make masoor at home. Kevabs are laborious to make and these options were very useful for working women and the elderly.'

Kainaz loves Parsi kevabs and cutles. I have never attempted making them as I suck at deep frying. K tells me she hopes to master them herself one day. Till then, I keep a look out for anyone who has them on offer and order them for her. In Mumbai, that is possible these days thanks to the home chefs. 

Today I called in for mutton cutles from Mahrukh Mogrelia of Mahrukh's Kitchen along with chicken curry rice. The food came before we had had breakfast so I heated 2 cutlets on a pan along with bread and had a traditional Parsi cutles slice bread breakfast. K loved the cutles. They were juicy and  packed with meat rather than alu which made it full value. Mahrukh tells me that she uses boneless mutton which is pounded with fresh masalas. She uses a minimal amount of potato to bind it. The semolina coated cutles are dipped in egg and then fried. That gives the 'lacy' effect and hence the name cutles. Her kevabs have no binding, says Mahrukh.

We took one more cutles from our breakfast stash to complete our Sunday breakfast.

Mutton cutles for breakfas

Morning set the tone for the day, for if the day could get any better, the chicken curry rice from Mahrukh's Kitchen ensured that it did! I had called in for the Parsi chicken curry as this is never cooked in our house and is a dish that K (my wife) has grown up on. 

"Curry," I remember her telling me, when we would meet on Sunday evenings while we were dating, and when I would ask her what she had had for lunch at home. Her mom (and now my mom in law) would prepare the curry masala mix (roasted desiccated coconut, crushed peanuts, red chilli, house spices) once a month says K and would use a part of this to make the Sunday curry every week. The proportion of the spices vary from house to house according to K. You do not get this curry in most Irani restaurants or in the average Parsi caterer festive fare and I took the opportunity to order one for us when I saw it on the menu. One portion was more than enough for us and we have kept some of the gravy and rice (K does not eat rice) to make egg curry with tomorrow.

Chicken curry rice Sundays (the rice here is half the portion sent and we put back half the portion of 
curry in the fridge to have as egg curry tomorrow)

The curry was intense and more spicy than the chicken curries that I have had in the house of K or in her friend Rita's house. The taste of fresh coconut was prominent. The chicken pieces (leg) were large and yet tender and not too chunky. The taste took us both back to the full bodied Parsi wedding festivities fare that we got a taste of at Surat courtesy Dara Gandhi, a Navsari based caterer.

The connection became clear when I chatted with Mahrukh later about her food. She told me that she is from Navsari (in western Gujarat) herself. Bombay was where she would come to for her annual vacation as a kid and she moved into Mumbai in 1991 after her marriage. She grew up in a large joint family in Navsari and picked up recipes and learnt her cooking from a bevy of aunts. 

Even the fired curry leaves added so much character to the curry

The chicken curry recipe is an heirloom one from her mum's side, said Mahrukh. When I asked her about the secret behind the chicken being juicy despite its size, Mahrukh told me that she goes to the market to choose her chicken and fish and that marination makes all the difference. A lot of the other produce that she uses such as the kollam rice, toor and masoor dals and even tamarind comes from Navsari. Some, like the rice, is from their ancestral farms which she rubs with castor oil to keep fresh. The rice that she used today is from the harvest of 2019. I noticed that she had added whole cumin and cloves to it just as my mom in law does to rice.

Mahrukh told me that she has been preparing seasonal Parsi dishes such as vasanu (the Parsi winter chavanprash), soonth pak, badam pak, rabri in winters, mango pickle and jam in summer, roe pickle in September August and the lagan nu achar during the pink carrots season. I tried the lagan nu achar today as she had sent some and it was one of the best I have had. K was excited to see saaria, the white papad that Parsis have with the pickle in weddings (hence lagan nu). She had her's at the start of lunch and I had mine at the end as we Bengalis do with papor tomato chutney which comes at the end of a wedding feast. A fact that tickled her no end.

Mahrukh told me that she started her home dining business in 2015 though found it a bit difficult to balance it along with the beauty parlour that she ran. She does cooking classes for international tourists too.

I noted her Instagram feed post the lockdown when she would put up her home delivery catering specials and finally ordered today and I was so glad I did. The food was lovely and the mitthu (Parsi term of endearment I think)/ bairi (wife) loved it and that was money well spent in my book. 

Mahrukh had most kindly sent a serving of ravo (semolina pudding) with our order.

Navsari to Mumbai. From @mahrukhskitchen on Insta

PS: One of our elderly neighbours has been unfortunately infected with Covid and has been hospitalised. We pray for his speedy recovery and urge all to maintain all precautions and to wear masks when stepping out. Stay safe folks. Eat well.

Mahrukh's Instagram account and whatsapp no for orders in Mumbai: 9892513577

My Surat trip story with Dara Gandhi's food mentioned