It’s that time of the year when life seems like a mango Mardi Gras. Every restaurant, café, kitchen and home, at least in western India, is celebrating the mango. The alphonso mango is dazzling and is in full season right now. Amaras is now a must on most tables, and sliced mango with ice cream, Mango Panna Cotta, Mango Cheesecake, Mango Peda, Thai Mango Sticky Rice, and mango in every form of dessert has flushed our menus, restaurants, patisseries and kitchens. Although I have recently dedicated a whole article on cooking with mangoes, I bumped into a lady who bowled me over with her mutton cooked in mango.
Mahrukh Moghrelia lives in Mumbai, though she hails from a small town in Gujarat called Navsari. By now, you should have realised she is Parsi, but she’s unlike most Parsis who you may have met. To us, Parsis are those slightly anglicised, city-dwellers who not only live in this sprawling urban metropolis but even more sprawling well-appointed colonies in Mumbai. But Mahrukh is a native of Navsari. She may have now lived in Bombay for decades but she still passionately holds on to her village-style Parsi cooking, which is raw and robust.
While their history places them on the coast of Gujarat, the Parsis made their name and numbers here in Mumbai. But the smaller towns and cities of Gujarat, like Ankleshwar, Bharuch, Udwada, Dumas, Billimora are homes to many Parsis who have been yet untouched by the modernity of Mumbai. As has their cooking remained, simple, steeped in tradition and season defined.
Most of us have eaten the Dhansak and Salli Boti and Patra ni Machchi, but as you delve deeper into rural cooking you find fascinating dishes like “Gosh no batavo”, a rustic, village-style preparation of marinated meat slow-cooked in palm toddy until it simmers down to a deliciously sticky, sweet and sour gravy. Or a Parsi-style Chicken Vindaloo prepared with ‘sarko”– a barrel-matured sugar-cane vinegar matured at Navsari’s legendary EF Kolah & Sons. Rare preparations like “Trotters cooked with black-eyed beans” or “Bhaji dana ma gosht”– a spicy dish where mutton, greens and peas are cooked on wood fire. Kurush Dalal, my go to encyclopaedia for anything culinary, and a heritage Parsi cook to boot, once fed me “Masoor ma Jeeb”–Ox Tongue cooked with spices and whole Red Lentils.
By now you should have realised that the Parsi cuisine is pre-occupied with meat, fish and eggs. But for a daily dose of roughage, the Parsis often cook vegetables but add meat to everything and anything. That’s how we get ‘guvar-ma-ghos’ (French beans), ‘bhida-ma-ghos’ (ladyfinger), French beans-ma-gosh, ‘cauliflower-ma ghos’, ‘papri-ma-ghos’ (broad-beans), even ‘kakdi ma ghos’. ‘Kakdi’ is cucumber or large marrow. And not to miss, ‘tarela-kera-ma-ghos’ (meat with fried bananas). And so, if the season is defined by the mango, so is their cooking.
Mahrukh Moghrelia, whose home I visited cooked me an astonishing dish called ‘Kanda, Kairi Ma Ghos’ translated as mutton cooked in onion and mangoes. The recipe seems simple enough. Sauté finely chopped onions till they are brown and translucent, add to that ginger-garlic paste and the mutton, till such time as the meat gets seared and the colour changes form pink to white. Add a bunch of spices, including ‘dhana-jeera’, Kashmiri chili powder as well as spicy red chilli powder, pinch of turmeric, Paris sambhar masala, and a bit of Dhansak masala and more onions, but new white onions big chunks just cut in half.
Then you peel a few fully ripe whole alphonso mangoes, do not slice them, and in they go. Cook everything with a little water till the meat is completely done. And you have this delicious golden coloured dish. Tender pieces of mutton with a distinct flavour of softened onions, dhana-jeera and spices, spiky sharp because of the red chillies and sweet thanks to the ripe alphonso. If you want to really celebrate the king of fruits, what better way to do it than this.
Kunal Vijayakar is a food writer based in Mumbai. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.