Did you know you eat lesser when you sit on the floor cross-legged to eat versus sitting at a dining table? Did you know that roasted garlic and chillies help you digest mutton and other heavy meals? Did you know that no morsel of food goes waste at a Bohri wedding and that the thaal is considered sacred, treated with reverence? Did you know that Ramzan fasts at a Bohri home are broken with a pinch of salt and Gol paani? Did you know that every Bohri home has their own signature dish?
I came to know all of this and more in my first elaborate experience of Bohri Iftaar by Farida of The Big Spread and organised by Authenticook.
Community eating at a Bohri home is a concept. The thaal or thaala as they refer to, comes in various sizes to serve a minimum of three eaters to a maximum of eight. Organised by Authenticook, we diners got a taste of how eating at a Bohri home would be – where the food is served in a thaal, to be eaten while being seated on the floor and eaten like the family eats – literally together. Fun fact: The thaal has its own birthday – celebrated during the new year.
Farida Kutianawala and her daughter Fatima hosts for the evening welcomed us with Gol Paani. This is essentially chilled jaggery water with a dash of lime and soaked chia seeds (sabja) – this is first thing Bohris drink after breaking their fast with salt. And this year’s Ramzan is longer since it has come about is summer – longer days, hotter days. A sip of the water can refresh you in seconds.
Most meals end with a sweet dish. Bohri meals start with a sweet dish, followed by the savoury, interspersed with sweet and then savoury again, ending with a sweet dish.
The first course started with sweet malpuas and jalebis accompanied by fresh cream with a generous sprinkling of dry fruits. The malpuas were just right – not too sweet and definitely not dripping with oil – this is where home cooking takes it away and takes this dining experience to a whole new level. Did you know it is traditional to make the youngest member among the diners to serve salt before a meal to the rest?
Malpuas and jalebis gave way to a plate of starters – bheja (goat brain) cutlets, chicken baida (egg) roti and mutton bhuma egg rolls. The bheja cutlets were my favourite – they literally melted in my mouth and tasted best among the three starters when eaten with the mint chutney (with a hint of sweetness). Didn’t ask for more for fear of not being able to eat the dishes that were to follow.
When we were just about finishing this off, we got the only remotely vegetarian dish on the menu i.e salad which was essentially boondi and crispy patra raita with a topping of what faintly looked like pumpkin. I have only a fleeting memory of tasting this – as you can see i don’t care much for vegetables..
Sweet followed savoury – mango phirni which wasn’t in the menu that was shared with us but was welcome anyway. Served in earthen matkas this cut down the spice in the starters and prepared us for the next item on the menu which was Raan (leg of lamb)!
And what a lovely lovely dish that was. It made me want to go to their kitchen to ask how they make this wonderfully delicious leg of lamb. Truly the star of the meal, it got polished off in less than five minutes. The leg of lamb is marinated overnight in smoked spice paste, grilled in an oven, roasted on an open flame, further spiced and then slow cooked on steam in another special thaal.
By this time most of us diners were sprawled on the floor, spreading themselves out to expand their tummies because this didn’t end just yet.
Bir Soda came soon after together with Nalli Nihari and khamiri roti. Bir soda is essentially masala soda which is manufactured by Sosyo – which makes the original Sosyo drink. Bir soda is marketed exclusively in Bohri Mohalla and the sole purpose of the drink is to take down the Nalli Nihari neatly into your already bursting tummy. Khamiri roti and pao usually is served with paya in Bohri mohalla as a standalone meal but was included in the meal to give the diners a taste of iftaar while actually having to walk the streets of Mohammed Ali road in the sweltering heat.
Most thaals end with a Daal Chawal Palidu (commonly known as DCP in Bohri parlance) on normal days which is essentially rice cooked with daal and accompanied with palidu made of gram flour. I ate this sometime back at my Bohri friends’ home who i stayed with last night. In this thaal however, we got some nice lightly spiced jeera rice which helped us polish the delicious Nalli Nihari. The nihari was outstanding, and despite bursting at the seams, all the diners asked for a second helping!
No Bohri meal is complete without Meetha paan. But most of the diners took it for the road. All of them needed a small walk to be able to even accommodate the paan in their stomachs. Those who had shoes with laces could barely bend over to tie them. I needed a brisk walk to be able to clear my head – too much good food is like an intoxicant – you can’t think straight soon after.
Value for Money: 4/5
Authenticook offers unique culinary experiences at the homes of its home-chefs. Experience India’s cultural diversity one meal at a time! The next meal in their schedule is a Kashmiri meal in Goregaon and a Parsi Bhonu in Bandra. Which one are you going to?