RTIs around town
Ratan Tata Institute (RTI) outlets have popped up everywhere. There is one in Holland House in Colaba. You can spot another one on Hughes Road. But the most surprising one is to be found amidst the leafy confines of Parsi General Hospital. The polite ladies behind the counter will hand you a comprehensive printed menu—each day’s Parsi bhonu is different. The RTI at Parsi General Hospital serves as a cafeteria as well, with people whiling away sluggish afternoons with pulao dal and dhansak. Large, open windows throw shafts of sunlight on to the tables and pastas and kathi rolls happily share shelf space with Parsi bhonu and sugary snacks like shortbread biscuits, almond macrooms, cheese straws, nankhatai, bhakras (a crumbly, sweet, fried bread eaten with tea), rum-soaked cake balls and khari biscuits. Mrs. Hodiwalla, a Gwalior Tank resident, says, “We have been buying cakes, pastries and savouries from RTI for several years now. The quality of the products has been consistently good; it is pretty much like homemade food.”
Snacks at Dhobi Talao
Much has changed over the years at Parsi Dairy Farm on Princess Street in Kalbadevi though the doodhwalas still bustle around, behind the counter in their bright blue and khaki uniforms. Parsi Dairy Farm’s flavoured kulfis, soft paneer, moist sutarfeni and the ghee-drenched sweet treat, aghani no larvo, are still beloved by Parsis. Today you’ll find a range of food for the calorie-conscious, like their low-fat dahi. Its products now line the shelves at Godrej Nature’s Basket. Their labour union has been disbanded. Saddest of all, the corpulent canine that used to nap on the steps of the store, fattened from years of Parsi Dairy Farm food, is no more.
Less than five minutes away is the well-known Paris Bakery. The convivial staff of the store always offer shoppers a taste of the snacks. Everyone returns with bags full of khari biscuits, nankhatais, cheesy batasas and macaroons. Just a few steps away is Paris’ reticent neighbour, RN Kerawalla & Co.
Established in 1887, Kerawalla is a one-stop shop for Parsis, famous for their beautifully-designed sapaats (traditional Parsi footware) and topis, agarbattis, silverware, etc. The antique furniture including its rustic wooden bench, does not seem to have changed since the time the shop opened. Today, it also stocks food items like patrel, dar ni pori, khaman na laddoo, masalas and packets of Kolah’s pickles, together with cakes and pastries from its (pure veg) patisserie.
Grant Road and beyond
On Grant Road lies a tiny stall facing a busy road—PAC which stands for Parsi Amelioration Committee. At PAC, the crusty chicken patties look like mini-pies and melt in your mouth. On misty winter mornings, Parsis wake up to a scoop of PAC’s vasanu, eeda pak and badam pak (savoury, spicy fudge) eaten with their breakfast akuri. Summer or winter though, you are sure to find a mound of sweet and savoury Parsi snacks, heaped on shelves. Try the sugary, coconut ghari, Shrewsbury and ginger biscuits to dunk into your steaming tea; flaky, buttery batasa and dense kumas cake.
Not too far away is By The Way, a quaint multi-cuisine restaurant next to Gamdevi Police Station. This is where you go for a substantial meal—creamy, smokey akuri, the succulent patra ni macchi, dhansak and pulao dal. By The Way is run by the Seva Sadan charity for underprivileged women and widows. Kashmira Daje, Khareghat Colony resident and honorary treasurer at Seva Sadan says, “Mostly women from Seva Sadan do the cooking. We also have our girls working as waitresses, but only if they are interested.”
Belgaum Ghee Depot stands at the Nana Chowk junction. Best known for its packets of ghee from Gujarat, Belgaum Ghee also caters to Parsi clientele, selling dal ni poli, bhakras and biscuits from Navsari.
Across the street from Novelty Cinema lies Motilal Masalawala, purveyor of Parsi cooking ingredients for more than a century. The shop is stacked to the ceiling with Parsi curry and dhansak masalas, spices, rawa and sev (vermicelli) Kolah’s pickles (a byword in Parsi cuisine), squashes and jams, tal papdi and Surti levra (hard, white sugary sweet), Pune biscuits and other farsaan.
Finally, the last stop in this area. Huddling close to Tardeo’s Gamadia Colony is a wee shop called Snowflakes. The shop is thronged by a continuous stream of colony dwellers, who drop in for their daily dose of Parsi goodies.
If you wend your way to Dadar’s Perviz Hall, you will come upon the Dadar Parsee Youths’ Assembly Snacks Centre. Youth and the elderly alike flock here for their evening snack of dar ni poris (similar to Maharashtrian puran poli), malido (a fudgy sweet quite like the Bohri malido), plump egg chutney and lacy mutton cutlets. Kainaz Khajotia lives in Cuffe Parade, but often travels all the way to Dadar. “I simply cannot resist the egg chutney cutlets here,” she says, smacking her lips.