In Bollywood, Parsi characters might often be employed for comic relief, but this community takes its food seriously.
It's all straight up, as we found out recently at the ongoing Parsi Food Festival at Marco Polo Hotel in Dubai. Dig into the egg chutney patties (potato balls filled with half a boiled egg and smeared with green chutney — Dh35) and the spicy patra ni machi (pomfret coated in green coriander and chilli paste and steamed in banana leaves — Dh55) served up at The Bombay restaurant, and you will see why.
The latter — with its rich undertone of green chillies, garlic and lemon — will kick your taste-buds into full gear. What's interesting about this dish is its unique earthy flavour thanks to the banana-leaf steaming method. A diet-watcher's delight, the fish was succulent and steamed to perfection. One of my companions — with zero tolerance for spice — handled the bite by washing it down with a tangy mango pulp juice.
Meanwhile, the patties were an unhealthy antidote to the steamed dish. They were crisp and the green paste covering the hard-boiled egg gave it a good bite.
But our third choice of starters — prawn kebab (Dh65) — did not meet our expectations. Bearing a close resemblance to the patties, the prawns mixed with potatoes left you with that "been-there-ate-that" feeling.
For the mains — we chose a mix of rice and curry combinations. Naturally, Parsi staples chicken dhansak with rice and kebabs (Dh55) and Parsi fish curry with rice (Dh60) topped our list of must-haves.
A wholesome meal in itself, the dhansak — the traditional dal and meat preparation served with brown rice — was aromatic and reminded you of biryani. Though the rice was a bit chewy, the chicken curry with ground lentils gave it an interesting twist. The fish curry — billed as a spicy coconut-based dish — did not live up to its claim. The fish was under-cooked and the gravy — which was bland — did not help.
But making amends was the unexpected hit of the evening, bhaji ma bheju (Dh46). This tongue-twister delicacy — lamb brains stir-fried with spinach and fenugreek — was as much fun ordering as it was scooping up the last spoonful. Though the culinary conservative in us balked at the idea of having lamb brains, this tangy preparation was by far one of the best combinations with Indian breads.
However, the kaju ni murgh (Dh46, chicken in cashew nut gravy) did not evoke such unanimous approval with its overly rich, heavy texture.
Our acquaintance with Parsi fare did not end here. The lagan-nu-custard (an all-time favourite served at Parsi weddings, Dh20) was not overly sweet or pretentious.
The custard with pistachio nuts sprinkled all over it was a great way to round off our meal.
Where: Marco Polo Hotel, DeiraCall: 04-2720000
Must-haves: Patra ni machi and bhaji ma bheju.
Ambience: Relaxed, with a live band playing in the background.
Decor: Classic, with Indian motifs.
Bill: Dh402 for three.
Don't miss it
The Parsi food festival is on at The Bombay restaurant at Marco Polo Hotel in Deira until Saturday.