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Whenever folks want to try Parsi food they often ask for a few staple dishes (mostly because that is all they know) and the famous berry pulao. This dish has become synonymous with Parsi fare and often people expect to see it on a menu at various festive occasions. It is then that they are politely informed that this is not a Parsi dish but an Iranian one that has become a hit thanks to one particular restaurant and its infamous 90-year-old owner.
Britannia & Company Restaurant is a well known restaurant in Ballard Estate, Mumbai that has been around since 1923. While the restaurant has witnessed the city evolve over the years, somehow the restaurant itself has stood the test of time and aside from the addition of some royal portraits, nothing much has changed. Boman Kohinoor, an Irani Zoroastrian came to Mumbai and set up his restaurant serving Irani food. Mr Kohinoor is quite popular with diners and patrons as even today he schmooze's from table to table chatting with his guests, ensuring they enjoy their meal and most importantly making sure they know how much he loves the British Royal Family.
There was a video recently made that went viral over the internet in an attempt (which was eventually successful) to get Mr Kohinoor to meet the British royal couple on their recent visit to Mumbai. It seems the old man was ecstatic and is happy to narrate his meeting with anyone who asks about it.
Mr Kohinoor's son later married a local Parsi Zoroastrian and she added more Parsi dishes to the menu. Despite the cutlets (which are exceptional) or even the beloved dhansak, patrons come to this restaurant to enjoy its dilapedating ambience and for its best seller - The Berry Pulao.
The dish is simple enough, plenty of rice cooked with saffron, milk, nuts, spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and of course the meat of your choice (preferably mutton or chicken). The most important ingredient which is where it gets its name from is the ruby like dried berries or Zereshk berries that are specially imported from Iran. The genius behind this recipe is Mr Kohinoor's wife and till date the restaurant will only use the berries from Iran.
What is really fascinating is that this dish has become a sensation and now almost every Parsi restaurant that opens a shop has their own version of the pulao on their menu. It is hard to replicate and get the exact same dish because the restaurant and Mr Kohinoor guard their recipe like the crown jewels. While people now enjoy this dish on several other menus, the favourite will always remain the one at Brittania. It has become such a rage that you can now enjoy your berry pulao with chicken, mutton, vegetables and now even prawns!
Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.