The Parsis arrived in India from Persia (now called Iran) more than a thousand years ago, fleeing from their Muslim invaders. They are very passionate about their mainly non-vegetarian food, and their cuisine is a perfect marriage of Persian and Gujarati influences – Gujarat was where they initially settled on arrival to India. One of the main elements of Parsi cuisine is rice, which is usually served with curry or lentils. Parsis even believed that it is not necessary for good food to be elaborate; they prefer a more balanced and simplistic approach to cooking. Moreover, after settling in India they further got the opportunity to make various dishes using it because it is a land where rice grows in plenty. It is also believed that Persia has been introduced to this grain by Indian subcontinent.
One of their most famous dishes is Mora dar Chaval: plain rice with dal. This is a dish usually served at special occasions such as birthdays and engagements. This dish is beautifully simple, but one that Parsis never seem to tire of.
Another dish that is synonymous with Parsi cuisine is Dhansak, a stew-like curry made with vegetables, lentils and meat (normally lamb or mutton). This is almost always served with brown rice – a caramelised and lightly-spiced pilaf. This rice is a traditional Parsi speciality, served in almost every Parsi household, made using caramelised onions and sugar which together release a deep brown colour to the rice. There is another popular dish of the Parsis and it is known as Sadhnas, which is a steamed rice pancake.
Other popular Parsi rice dishes include: Baghali Polo, which combines the flavours of broad bean and dill; Cherry Rice, made using delicious sour cherries, saffron and basmati rice; Khichri Massor Ni, a rice and lentil dish with mustard seeds and turmeric; Maachi Pulao, an easy to prepare dish made with spices and prawns; and Parsi Pilau, flavoured with cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and cloves, mixed with raisins and nuts.
Parsi cuisine, like other regions, also has a tendency for sweet dishes. A Parsi Rice Pudding is one of their most famous desserts, often made with saffron and rose water, and decorated with almonds, cinnamon and pistachios.
Many high-end Indian restaurants in London have been influenced by the cuisines of the different regions of India. Chutney Mary, in Chelsea, is one of the most renowned Indian restaurants in the capital, serving a range of innovative dishes, with traditional influences and cooking methods. Their dishes change with the seasons, as their regional chefs always wanting to conjure up new and exciting recipes for their diners. If you are tempting to try out any of these rice dishes in Parsi cuisine, the rice options served at Chutney Mary can be your destination. The preparations have always exceeded expectations and are a far cry from the often-bland rice served at most curry houses in the UK.