One of the niche cuisines from Western India, which has grabbed a bit of limelight in recent times among the food lovers is the Bohri cuisine. A community of Muslim traders, Bohras had originally come from Yemen to Surat and then spread over to Gujarat, Maharashtra as well as Pakistan and East Africa. Bohri food is quite different from other Indian Islamic cuisines as it is not very oily or spice-laden and the recipes are quite simple. A hallmark of the cuisine is the style of eating where up to eight people share the food from a huge thaal. Being a trader community, the food of the Bohras have influences from all over the world, as well as Gujarat where they had settled.
A typical Bohri meal starts with a pinch of salt, which is supposed to act as a stimulant to the taste buds.
Bohras love their desserts and in fact usually a sweet is the first item at a meal. Meetha and Khaara (savoury) items are alternately served at the beginning of any meal. The cuisine has many versions of halwa – ranging from pineapple, khaara to the more popular carrot. Homemade ice creams are very popular too. Patti Samosa, Keema Samosa, Cutlet and Patties are some of the special starters from the cuisine. Mutton is eaten extensively, and in fact, there are few dishes where are adapted from the vegetarian Gujarati cuisine and mutton is added to it. Among the popular main courses, there are Dabba Gosht (a mutton dish cooked in an aluminium container), Khichda and Lagan Ni Seekh (a keema and egg dish prepared on a tawa) and even the humble Kaadi Chawal. The biryanis that they make also deserve a mention, where like Hyderabadi kitchens, they have a kachhi version where meat is completely cooked along with the rice. Bohri cuisine also makes extensive use of mutton offals in their preparations.
Chef Ismail Khan of ITC Maratha Mumbai is currently in Hyderabad curating the "Bohri Food Festival” at Deccan Pavilion. Chef Ismail stressed on the fact that community eating is very important to the Bohras. A complete spread of Bohri delicacies is available as part of the dinner buffet at Deccan Pavilion for a limited period. Here are my picks from the items at the festival.
Khichda: Khichda is a complete meal by itself with wheat, mutton chunks, and lentils being the main ingredients. The Khichda here is boneless while Chef stresses that in Bohri homes the dish is prepared with mutton having bones. The dish is more of comfort food with minimal spices and Chef informed us that unlike Hyderabadi haleem, Khichda uses about 3 different lentils in it.
Bohri Biryani: The biryani is one of the few “kachhi” recipes that I have found. Marinated meat is put on dum along with slightly pre-cooked rice in this dish. The masala is also sauteed before adding to the meat.
Murgi Fry: This can be called Bohri Fried Chicken. Chicken is deep-fried after marinating in rich spices.
Baida Roti: The dish is common to many Islamic cuisines of India. This paratha is stuffed with a mixture of egg, mutton mince, along with coriander, mint, chaat masala and onions, and eaten with tomato or mint chutney.
Gosht Halwan: This mutton preparation is usually prepared with a full mutton leg, but here lamb shanks have been used instead. The gravy mainly has cream and tomato in it.
Apart from these, some of the other items which are served are Paneer Kandi, Veg Roll, Lauki Chana Dal, Pomfret Masala and Gajar Halwa. Chef also mentioned that Dabba Gosht and Lagan Ni Seekh are on the menu, which changes every day.
The Bohri Food Festival is on until 30th June only for dinner at Deccan Pavilion, the all-day dining restaurant at ITC Kakatiya Hyderabad.
A passionate food and travel enthusiast, Sabyasachi is quite popular in the food and beverages circles of Hyderabad, the city he has made his home for the last twenty-five years. As a much-travelled sales person, Sabyasachi has been exposed to many international cuisines as well as regional food from remote corners of India. He blogs about his food and travel experiences at Foodaholix, and is a frequent contributor of food-related articles to the print media.