Citizens, today I share with you a delectable recipe from the small but highly-influential Parsis of India! The Parsis are one of two Zoroastrian communities (the other being Iranis) primarily located in South Asia. The word پارسیان, pronounced “Parsian”, i.e. “Parsi” in the Persian language literally means Persian.
Persian is the official language of modern Iran, which was formerly known as Persia, and the Persian language’s endonym is Farsi, an arabization of the word Parsi. According to the Qissa-i Sanjan, Parsis migrated from Greater Iran to Gujarat and Sindh in India between the 8th and 10th century CE to avoid the persecution of Zoroastrians following the Muslim conquest of Persia.
The Qissa-i Sanjan is a tale of the journey of the Parsis to India from Iran. It says they fled for reasons of religious freedom and they were allowed to settle in India thanks to the goodwill of a local Hindu prince. However, the Parsi community had to abide by three rules: they had to speak the local language, follow local marriage customs, and not carry any weapons. After showing the many similarities between their faith and local beliefs, the early community was granted a plot of land on which to build a fire temple.
Zoroaster taught that good and evil were opposite forces and that it was a person’s duty to make a choice between the two. The two paths are of asha or righteousness and of druj, the lie. Good is represented by Ahura Mazda and evil by Angra Mainyu. The Zoroastrian holy book, called the Avesta, was written in the Avestan language, which is closely related to Vedic Sanskrit.
The long presence of the Parsis in the Gujarat and Sindh areas of India distinguishes them from the smaller Zoroastrian Indian community of Iranis, who are much more recent arrivals, mostly descended from Zoroastrians fleeing the repression of the Qajar dynasty and the general social and political tumult of late 19th- and early 20th-century Iran.
Parsis live chiefly in Mumbai and in a few towns and villages mostly to the north of Mumbai, but also a few minorities near by in Karachi (Pakistan) and Bangalore (Karnataka, India). There is a sizable Parsi population in Pune as well in Hyderabad. A few Parsi families also reside in Kolkata and Chennai.
Although they are not, strictly speaking, a caste, since they are not Hindus, they form a well-defined community. The exact date of the Parsi migration is unknown. According to tradition, the Parsis initially settled at Hormuz on the Persian Gulf, but finding themselves still persecuted they set sail for India, arriving in the 8th century. The migration may in fact have taken place as late as the 10th century, or in both. They settled first at Diu in Kathiawar but soon moved to south Gujarāt, where they remained for about 800 years as a small agricultural community.
The basic feature of a Parsi lunch is rice, eaten with lentils or a curry. Curry is made with coconut and ras without, with curry usually being thicker than ras. Dinner would be a meat dish, often accompanied by potatoes or other vegetable curry. Kachumbar (a sharp onion-cucumber salad) accompanies most meals.
Popular Parsi dishes include:
Chicken Farcha (Fried chicken appetizer)
Dhansak (Lamb, mutton, goat, chicken or vegetables in a mixed lentil or toor daal gravy served with brown rice)
Patra ni Machhi (Fish – Pomfret or Surmai stuffed heavily with green coconut chutney and wrapped in a banana leaf – steam cooked.)
Sali Murghi (Spicy chicken with fine fried matchstick potatoes)
Saas ni Machhi (Yellow rice with pomfret fish fillets in white sauce)
Jardaloo Sali Boti (Boneless mutton in an onion and tomato sauce with apricots and fried matchstick potatoes)
Khichri (rice with toor daal or moong daal)
Tamota ni Ras Chaval (mutton cutlets with white rice and tomato sauce)
Kolmi no Patio (Shrimp in spicy tomato curry)
It is this last dish we shall concern ourselves with today, Citizens!
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