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In search of the 'Parsi puff'

Tuesday, August 14, 2018
By Farhad J. Dadyburjor

It was only when I was asked to write this column that I asked myself: What does it mean to be a Parsi? And the immediate thought was something that I’ve heard since a child, which is the bedrock of the religion — Good words, good thoughts, good deeds. But there is one other thing that’s equally important and synonymous with this although not literally said… Good food. Yes, we might be a minority but we certainly hold the majority when it comes to having a good time.

Enough has been written and raved about the patra at weddings and Navjotes — the sali boti, saas-ni-machi, pulao (our Parsi-isation of the biryani) with people often visiting these functions largely for the food. After all, where else do you hear jamva chalo ji so loudly declared like a clarion call?! And while the food is heavy and oozes oil, in these times where everyone is conscious about gluten-free, vegan and sugar-free — this is one place where no one seems to care. All of that is abandoned to gorge what’s on the banana leaves. In fact, even suggesting a vegan dhansak would be considered sacrilege (besides getting a zillion dirty looks!).       

But the one thing I find fast disappearing is the Parsi puff (or patiss). I call it that because the Parsi puff has its own uniqueness — large and chunky in size, with a slightly thick outer crust and a real juicy filling of chicken either shredded or in a paste baked to perfection. Chewy, gooey, satisfying — as they say, full paisa vasool. For a long time I used to get a steady supply from my aunt and uncle of The Wayside Inn, that much-missed institution of good, wholesome food. Then there’s RTI, the old watchdog of Parsi cuisine, that also gets it right. Parsi Amelioration Committee knows how to make it just the way it should be (like their frilly cutless and farchas), with Theobroma and Café 792 coming in close. I’m sure there are other places out there…I’m hoping there are. Because from all the bakeries I’ve visited, either they no longer have it or if they do, it’s a bite-sized slimmed-down-model version that is just not satisfying. That’s not a puff, that’s simply ‘uff’.

So here’s my plea to all the bakers out there — let’s bring back the Parsi puff on the menu in all its large, ‘full-filling’ glory. This is one area that size does matter! 
(Farhad J. Dadyburjor has
been an entertainment and lifestyle journalist for over 18 years, having extensively covered the worlds of fashion, Bollywood, society, and culture. He has been the Launch Editor of FHM India as well as part of the start-up team of DNA After Hrs and is currently Editor of The Leela magazine. How I Got Lucky was his first book. He lives in Mumbai.)

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