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While Mumbai and Pune are the first two cities people think of when it comes to good Parsi food, they forget that Udvada is really the heart of this cuisine. Udvada is home to the Iranshah, a sacred fire temple which houses the fire the Zoroastrians bought with them when they escaped from Iran.
This is a small quaint town where there are old houses and bungalows that were made decades ago. It's so small that there isn't any movie theatre or shopping area. The only things I have ever shopped for in Udvada is Kolah pickles and Parsi cooking masalas from little vendors that stand outside the fire temple and retail treats from their own cars. Or fresh peppermint and garlic flavoured papad made by local women selling them on the street.
This is not a tourist spot or not the obvious choice for a holiday but to us Parsis, it is home. Most of the time in Udvada is spent either praying or eating. Parsis and Iranis take their food very seriously. Since it's so small, there are no restaurants per say in this town but there are hotels and dharamsalas which offer boarding and lodging to guests that include food. In case you're not planning to spend a night no worries, call ahead and they will still keep lunch for you.
The top picks are Globe Hotel, Aashishwang Hotel and the Sodawaterwalla Dharamsala. All these serve wonderful food, including mutton pulao daal (no dhansak here please) fish curry, sali boti, sali chicken, roast chicken and potatoes (Tarela papeta ni murghi) custard and other such Parsi treats. This is food you have access to in the bigger cities as well but there are a few things that are typically local to Udvada only.
Sancha Ice cream - This is hand churned ice cream made with which ever fruit is in season, usually mango or strawberry. Not only is it delicious, the real delight is that you don't find this just anywhere. A man with a tub inside his rickshaw goes all over town and when you spot him, he scoops it out and serves it to you - right out of his rickshaw!
Boi ni Macchi - This is Udvada's claim to fame. While all the other food is readily available in Pune or Mumbai or other parts of Gujarat. This is hard to replicate. Mostly because Boi is a local river fish that you only find in Udvada. It's fried to a crisp - the entire fish (head bones and all) and relished with your meal after squeezing a wedge of lime of it. Everyone that comes to Udvada comes to eat the fish.
Doodh na Puff - This delightful frothy milkshake of sorts is the one drink every Parsi child adores. It's frothy on the top and has liquid inside and the perfect cool drink for a hot summer's day, which are plenty in Udvada. You won't find these at any of the hotels even, it is the local women that make them and come door to door selling them. Sometimes, you need to give them prior notice. These women are a common sight here. They sell flavoured papads, fresh peppermint, lovely sarias (fried crisps) and doodh na puff. They sometimes sit outside the main fire temple or go walking from hotel to dharamsala incase guests would like to buy from them.
Sunta - Move over Frams, Rogers, Adesher's and Dukes. Not even one of these common names can be found in this sleepy town. The King of colas here is Sunta. They are adorable little retro bottles that remind you of a coke bottle from the 60's and come in a host of colours and flavours. No prize for guessing, the raspberry is the most popular.
If you are heading to Udvada if nothing else than to just eat. Start your culinary exploits at Ahura, a restaurant on the way to Gujarat that serves some delicious Parsi breakfast. The perfect Parsi-Poro (omelette) spicy akuri and a fiery kheema pao among other things.
Photo credit: Roxanne Bamboat
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