Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders, by Niloufer Mavalvala

Parsi Cooking is about fresh and simple ingredients with an emphasis on healthy spices. This book features 51 nutritious recipes.

A passionate introduction to the food of the Parsis.

The Parsis migrated from Persia to India somewhere between the 8th and 10th centuries, bringing with them a wealth of foods. Today, Parsi cooking, although similar in many ways to mainstream Indian cuisine, is still redolent of its middle-eastern origins.

Niloufer Mavalvala is one of the most popular Parsi cooks. Based in Canada, she writes regularly about her cuisine both in publications and on her website.

The World of Parsi Cooking pulls together much of her repertoire, including many recipes handed down from her mother. It is an excellent introduction to both Parsi cooking, and Parsi history. Divided into sections such as “Vegetables and Pulses” “Chicken and Meat” and “To Sweeten the Palate” I was pleased that she also includes a section on “Grandma’s Pantry”. This latter contains recipes for chutneys, pickles and spreads, many of which I am keen to fill my larder with.

Each recipe is well laid-out, with an interesting introduction, a clear list of easily available ingredients, simple instructions, and a full-page colour photograph.

Machi No Rus (Fish in Gravy)

The first dish I tackled was Machi No Rus . The unexciting label belies the deliciousness. Originally, I was planning to make this with a beautiful piece of salmon I had in the fridge. Sadly, once I had made the gravy and was ready to add said fish, I found that it was off! After I’d finished throwing things, I regrouped, and substituted some thinly sliced steak. Although not seafood, the steak worked superbly. The gravamen of this dish is the sauce, which (as I’ve amply proven!) can be used on a variety of foods. I would still like to make it again with fish…preferably fresh this time! It had a flavour that was slightly different to any similar Indian sauces that I’ve made. It was aromatic and subtle, yet assertive.

Papayta Jhinga (Spicy Prawns with Potatoes)

I’ve always loved a good prawn. Despite its somewhat down-market image, I still regard it as one of the great seafoods, when done properly. Many Goanese dishes use shellfish such as prawns, and I have made some lovely curries from this region. Naturally I was keen to try the Parsi-style spicy prawns with potatoes. The basis of this dish is the superb marinade, in which both prawns and potatoes are macerated for anything from an hour to overnight. Personally, I would not marinate the prawns for more than an hour, simply to maintain their freshness. The potatoes though, could well be left overnight.

This was another delicious dish, with a definite spiciness, but not too overwhelming for the seafood. I added green beans to round it out, and served it with basmati rice, raita and chutney.

This is a lovely work, and it is easy to see why it won an award this year at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. My only quibble is that it contains neither contents, nor index. The latter is essential to a cookbook, so that dishes can be found that use a particular ingredient. However, as there are only around 50 recipes in all, it shouldn’t be too hard to find what you’re looking for.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

Distributed by: Amazon US
Released: October 2019
RRP: US $29.99

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