May 6, 2014 By Shauqeen Mizaj

Have a Dabba @ Home

cuisineI recently happened to watch Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi, a 2012 Bollywood movie with the cast of Boman Irani and popular accomplished choreographer –turned-director Farah Khan. The romantic comedy revolves around two middle-aged Parsis, Farhad and Shirin and their baffled courtship which they try to work out into a happy marriage. The film which scored well at the box office addresses the current predicament of the Parsis: that the minority is fast shrinking in number.

One of the major reasons for their fast diminishing number is the fact that they don’t intermarry nor allow or accept conversion for the fear of losing their lineage. The word “Parsi” in the Persian language literally means Persian. But they are legally and ethnically distinct from the Iranis even though both the groups descend from the same region. Parsis fled Iran (what was then Persia) when Islam flourished, moving to the Indian state of Gujarat and finally ending up in Mumbai.

I remember my ex colleague, a Parsi lady, then in her late thirties, precise, audacious and zealous who used to bring varieties of very delectable and aromatic homely food in her pink “dabba” and we youngsters used to grab the dabba, toss ours into her hands and finish it off leaving her with a frown yet contented look on her face. The food was a perfect blend of spices and flavour which was always devoured upon. To say, Parsi cuisine is an amalgamation of Persian and Indian flavours. Re-sharing three of those special recipes which she shared with me upon request.


A popular dish among the Parsis, the gravy/curry has its origin in India and consists elements of Persian and Gujarati cuisine. It consists of lentils, vegetables, spices and meat, mostly lamb and takes a while to get cooked.


  • sunflower oil – 3 tbsp
  • diced lamb shoulder or leg- 1 kg/2lb
  • onions, chopped – 2
  • ginger- 25g
  • garlic cloves- 4
  • red chillies, chopped- 2
  • green cardamom pods- 10
  • cumin powder – 1½ tbsp
  • ground coriander- 1½ tbsp
  • powdered turmeric- ½ tbsp
  • tomatoes, chopped- 1 x 400g
  • beef stock – 200ml
  • red lentils- 75g
  • honey – 3 tbsp
  • salt and pepper


  1.  Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan. Add the lamb and fry until browned.
  2.  Fry the onion till done and add the finely chopped or blended ginger, garlic and chilli.
  3.  Add cardamom powder, spices and the remaining ingredients into the pan.
  4.  Finally add the lamb. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1½-2 hours, or until tender.
  5.  Serve with boiled rice.

Lagan Nu Custard

The dessert is one of the iconic dishes of the Parsis and is frequently prepared at homes. It’s said that no wedding is complete without a Lagan Nu Custard with the dish flavoured and garnished heavily with cashew nuts, pistachios and almonds for the ceremony.