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If the mere mention of crisp salli, tender aromatic akuri and creamy lagan nu custard makes you drool, then the delights of Parsi food are definitely not new to you. In Pune, only a handful of restaurants – besides home chefs who cook on order and deliver authentic meals to your doorstep – cater to the love of this cuisine.
On top of the list is Dorabjee & Sons – an unassuming little joint tucked away in Camp that was literally established more than a century ago. Here, a family meal is not just value-for-money (a meal for two can be for as less as Rs 500), but also steeped in historic flavour. The mutton brain fried in eggs makes you rethink any doubts you may have had about this bit of offal, with its distinctively creamy brain pieces fried in a perfectly balanced, spicy masala. This goes well with plate upon plate of crispy farcha (egg covering) ensconcing tender, juicy chicken. The generous dhansak with brown rice here is also the stuff of legend, and it is one of those few places in town where you can wash down your meal with a bottle of fizzy, fruity Frams soda.
A stone’s throw away, King’s Resto Bar in East Street is another eatery with that old-school feel to it, serving up authentic Parsi fare, such as a swoon-worthy chicken farcha with a profusion of French fries, a gorgeous mutton cutlet in a special creamy tomato gravy, or the King’s special mutton pulao garnished with salli, chicken kababs and boiled egg. Also epic is the thick dhansak and divinely mild patra ni machi in all its steamed, coconutty glory, or Persian delicacies such as zesty zereshk (barberry) polo. Do not miss the rich, perfumed lagan nu custard either.
Also in the Camp area, Jamjoji has a fairly extensive menu of interesting offerings, with bharuchi akuri (special Parsi egg bhurji), eeda chutney na pattice (egg and green chutney-stuffed fried patties), simple and wholesome dan dar ne patio (rice, dal and prawns) and bhida ma gosh (bringing together okra and mutton in a spicy gravy).
While Zamu’s Place on Dhole Patil Road is mainly a sizzler joint for many, it also celebrates Parsi cuisine on festive occasions throughout the year, besides a fixed menu of specialties and regular special Sunday bhonu. The salli boti here is piquant, spicy and topped with lavish helpings of the crisp potato matchsticks to go perfectly with succulent mutton and a stack of soft white bread slices. Dhansaks here come served with an aromatic, buttery rice and three tiny, magical meat (or veggie) cutlet balls that exponentially enhance the flavour – there is a lovely veg dhansak for those of a less carnivorous bent.
Viman Nagar’s Where Else Café serves its bhonu only on weekends, in a short but sweet extended menu that will bring you spicy aleti paleti or masala-fied chicken liver and potatoes, melting kheema pattice, cheesy and garlic-laden papeta (fried eggs) per cheese, and a tangy tamota per eeda that pairs tomatoes with sunny side-up eggs and pao, besides the more commonly known (and delish) dhansak and salli margi.
What better way, we say, to celebrate the quaintly rich culture of this community than to feast on some of its best culinary contributions?
Shweta has been writing about food for a few years now and has dabbled in TV, print and online journalism for over almost a decade. She has written on and edited for topics ranging from the environment, culture and lifestyle to politics, business and, of course, food. She has written for publications under the Times Group, Fox Life India and NDTV. When she's not devouring a good book or spending vast swathes of time on the Interweb, she loves to set off on all manner of culinary explorations.