Of the many different cultures which have contributed to Indian cuisine over the years, the Parsi people have brought some of the choicest flavours and creative cooking techniques to the Indian table.
Originally hailing from Persia (now modern day Iran), the Parsis crossed the border to live amongst the fertile lands of Gujarat and Maharashtra in order to escape the war-torn regions of the Middle East. Maintaining a strong relationship with their roots, the Parsi people brought tempting recipes with them, dishes that meshed with the Indian ingredients on offer to create delicious fusion dishes and leave their mark on this popular global cuisine.
In Parsi culture, meat or fish is generally served as part of the evening meal. Seafood pays an integral role in the traditional Parsi diet, probably due to the fact that the original Parsi communities set up home in the western coastal regions of India. As a result, the fruits of the sea crop up in a number of signature dishes and sides.
One of the favourite fish dishes of the Parsi community is Bombay Duck, an oddly named fish which can be found throughout the streets of Mumbai and Tarapore. It is often preserved as a pickle or simply dried by the Parsi cooks to be munched on as a snack. The Parsis are fond of their dried fish, so you can expect to find plenty of native fish including anchovy, cod and even shellfish such as shrimp, dried out for consumption on a daily basis.
For a main meal, more impressive recipes are likely to take centre-stage in Parsi cuisine. Patra ni macchi is one of the traditional dishes of the Parsi people and a staple option at celebratory occasions such as weddings. A firm, white fish is chosen – usually pomfret – and is slathered in a spiced marinade composed of coconut, garlic, cilantro, mint, sugar, white vinegar, green chillies and cumin. A squeeze of lemon juice finishes off the preparation and then the fish is wrapped in a large, flat banana leaf and baked in its own juices, absorbing the flavour of the marinade to form an aromatic and flavoursome dish. Patra ni macchi is traditionally served with a pulao made from brown rice and garnished with cumin seeds and torn cilantro.
The Parsi community make wide use of the natural seafood larder afforded to them by the Indian coastline, creating mouth-watering recipes that are guaranteed to impress even the seafood fan who has seen it all.
However, it is not feasible to ravel all the way to India in order to sample this sort of inventive fare. Instead, why not book yourself a table at one of London’s best Indian fine dining restaurants? At these fine establishments, only the choicest ingredients are brought to the table, inspired by the authentic flavours of India.
From roasted lamb to Tandoori chicken, from succulent seafood curries to vegetarian delights, the ever-evolving menus of these restaurants aim to cater for a number of tastes, melding traditional recipes with a contemporary twist to form irresistible options which will keep you coming back for more.