While the Iranian calendar marks the Persian New Year on the spring equinox (usually towards the end of March), the Parsis in Mumbai traditionally celebrate Navroz in the middle of August. This is because the Parsis in India follow the Shahenshahi calendar that does not take into account leap years. This year, Navroze (also known as Jamshed-i-Nouroz after the Persian King Jamshed who introduced the Parsi calendar) will be celebrated on August 17th.
“Navroz is an auspicious occasion for the Parsi community around the world,” explains chef Danesh Vakshoor, Chef de Cuisine at SodaBottleOpenerWala (SBOW), Mumbai. “Every Parsi family celebrates by visiting the fire temple and worshipping our god Ahura Mazda. Navroze means a beginning of a new day or the celebration of the New Year. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years”. To celebrate the occasion, SBOW has come up with a Navroze bhonu (meal) with a twist — a Navroze Dronu with unlimited sangria or cocktails.
We order red wine sangrias while we wait for the bhonu to begin. It’s a set meal, which arrives in a large brass thali lined with a banana leaf. They say you eat with your eyes first and the sight of the generously filled plate is enough to get our mouth watering. The sides include saria (rice papad), Russian salad, and gajar mewa nu achaar, sweet and sour relish made with carrot and dry fruit. The snack item is a chicken pattice, that is mildly spicy and utterly moreish. The vegetarian alternative is a vegetable cheese pattice.
Chef Vakshoor reels off a typical Navroze meal at his home, “We usually serve jardaloo margi, masala dal with mutton or chicken pulao, sagan nu machi which can be cooked depending on everyone’s choice — it could be tareli machi (fried fish with spices), saas ni machi (specialty Parsi dish of fish in sweet-and-sour white sauce) or patra ni machi (steamed fish with sweet-and-sour coconut chutney)”. Several of these dishes make an appearance on our platter — the jardaloo ma marghi is a sweet-and-sour chicken curry with apricots, while the masala ni dal is a simple mixed lentil preparation that is spiced with dhansak masala.
The star on the platter is the tareli machi, fried whole mackerel with spiced, crispy skin. It’s an unusual choice of fish on a set meal but I was glad that SBOW went beyond the staple patra ni machi. Vegetarians will have to contend with patra ni paneer, though; perhaps they could have been a bit more adventurous here but the tarela bheeda (fried okra) should make up for it. There’s roti and pulao, of course – mutton masala pulao on the non-veg platter and vegetable masala pulao for the vegetarians.
“For dessert, we usually have lagan nu custard or meethu sev (sweetened vermicelli) or kulfi, falooda etc.”, says Vakshoor. But SBOW surprises us by putting a lesser-known dessert on the menu – malido, a thick pudding of sorts made with semolina and wheat flour. The second dessert is a cutting chai glass of falooda, the perfect end to a rather gluttonous meal.
Navroz Dronu is available at SodaBottleOpenerWala outlets at High Street Phoenix, BKC, Powai, and Thane. ₹700 plus taxes for Veg/Non-veg Bhonu, ₹1,200 plus taxes for Bhonu with unlimited cocktails or sangria; ongoing until August 24 for lunch and dinner