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India Travel Safety & Advice plus the Best of Incredible India

Tag: Parsi

Outside the Irani Cafe in Pune. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Irani Cafe, Pune Review

I love Iranian food. When I worked in IT, my 2 Iranian colleagues and I would order from an Iranian families home delivery service once a week.

During my last week at the office, I told the guys, “We’re ordering Iranian every day this week!” That was a tasty week.

The Iranian Cafe in Pune isn’t strictly Iranian though. It’s more a Parsi Cafe (the Parsis came to India from Iran). I’m a sucker for Parsi food too because it’s very similar to Iranian but with a slight Indian twist.

The area I was staying in Pune was close to the NH7 Weekender Music Festival I was attending. Within walking distance there were very few clean places to eat though. But there were not one but two Irani Cafes. So I ended up having breakfast at both.

Chicken Kheema Gotala at the Irani Cafe Pune. Photo © Karl Rock.

Chicken Kheema Gotala at the Irani Cafe Pune. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Food

Here’s the low down on what to try:

  • Bun Maska: a huge bun with a sweet cream filling.
  • Chicken Kheema Gotala: spicy chicken and egg mince served with bread. Gotala means “fake” because they add an egg to the chicken mix instead of using 100% chicken.
  • Tea: just a good old sweet Indian Chai without the spice.
  • Chicken Berry Palau: I didn’t get to try this, but see my review on Britannia & Co. for the best Chicken Berry Palau in India.
  • Joojeh or Kubedeh Kebab: BBQ’d chicken or Mutton pieces in Persian spices and served with saffron rice. An Iranian staple.

Service is fast, the restaurants are clean with a Parsi Cafe vibe, and the food and cheap and tasty. What’s not to like?

Irani Cafe Pune Menu 1. Photo © Karl Rock.

Irani Cafe Pune Menu 1. Photo © Karl Rock.

Irani Cafe Pune Menu 2. Photo © Karl Rock.

Irani Cafe Pune Menu 2. Photo © Karl Rock.

Entrance to Britannia & Co. Restaurant, Mumbai. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Best Restaurant in India: Britannia & Co. Mumbai

I first stepped foot in Britannia & Co. in Mumbai’s historical and beautiful Fort area with two Parsi friends the very first time I visited India. Back then, I had no idea what Parsi food was, but I was about to find out.

Read on to find out what makes this my favourite restaurant in all of India.

Outside Britannia & Co. Restaurant. Photo © Karl Rock.

Outside rustic Britannia & Co. Restaurant. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Parsis & Their Cafes

The Parsi people came to India from Iran over 300 years ago. They initially settled in the little-visited, but incredibly charming, Portuguese Union Territory of Daman & Diu at the bottom of Gujarat. Hence why Parsis around India and the world still speak Gujarati.

Many continued onto Mumbai, settled there, and some started Parsi cafes. Mumbai was once buzzing with 500 Parsi cafes, but the majority have now closed due to increasing rent.

These days, Parsi food is hard to come by but has been rejuvenated recently by the very good, but not as good as Brittania & Co., SodaBottleopenerWala chain in India. If you can’t get to Mumbai, go there for a similar experience.

Parsi Trivia: The most famous Parsi outside of India is… Freddy Mercury from Queen. He studied in Mumbai, before moving to England.

Britannia’s Owner

The rustic old-school Parsi cafe style of Britannia & Co. Photo © Karl Rock.

The rustic old-school Parsi cafe style of Britannia & Co. Photo © Karl Rock.

When you dine at Britannia, the charismatic owner Boman Kohinoor will likely introduce himself to your table. When I first met him he was 91 years old, now, on my latest trip, he’s 96 and telling me he’s going to beat the current record holder to 150 years.

His secret? Not retiring! You’ll find him there during their opening hours (only Mon-Sat 12-4pm) telling stories to customers about his food, life, and long relationship with the Royal Family of England – photo evidence included. Chatting with him is a treat.

The Food

Chicken Berry Palau. Photo © Karl Rock.

Chicken Berry Palau. Photo © Karl Rock.

Parsi food is closer to Iranian food than Indian. Parsi cooking doesn’t require 10 different spices, they use more straightforward flavours but pair them with original accompaniments. Like Palau and berries, chicken curry and fried potatoes, or rose syrup, vermicelli, and sweet basil seeds.

These are three Parsi delicacies you cannot leave Britannia without devouring:

  1. Chicken or Mutton Berry Palau: Fragrant saffron rice with a large helping of thick and sweet chicken curry in the middle, topped with dried sweet berries, fried onion, and cashews. If you’re thinking “why berries?” You just have to trust me and try it, the combination is something special.
  2. Sali Chicken: A light meaty flavoured chicken curry topped with a ton of fried potato sticks.
  3. Bombay Duck: It has nothing to do with duck! It’s a small local lizardfish that is crumbed then deep fried. They’re cooked bone-in, but the bones are soft and edible.

You’re going to need to take 2 friends to finish all that food.

Price wise it’s expensive for India, but for the quality, taste, and quantity you will not be disappointed. The service and the unique food will have to return every time you visit Mumbai, I guarantee it!

If you’re craving to make Sali Chicken at home, the good news is Boman Kohinoor has shared the recipe.

Britannia & Co. Menu. Photo © Karl Rock.

Britannia & Co. Menu. Photo © Karl Rock.

Sali Chicken Britannia and Co Recipe. Photo © Karl Rock.

Britannia & Co’s Parsi Sali Chicken Recipe (Tried & Tested!)

If you didn’t know, I crowned Britannia & Co. the best restaurant in India. After you eat there, if you’re like me, you’ll be craving to make Sali Chicken at home too.

Thanks to CNN’s interview with Britannia’s owner Boman Kohinoor, we have the real Sali Chicken recipe straight from the man himself. Unfortunately, Mr Kohinoor has not given the actual recipe! I made it, and it tastes close, but it’s missing something. It’s not Britannia & Co. Sali Chicken, but it’s tasty and very healthy anyway!

Ingredients

  • 2 finely chopped green chillies
  • 2 large finely chopped onions
  • A tiny piece of ginger
  • Half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • Half a teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 7 or so curry leaves
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • Salt
  • 1 kilo of boneless chicken thighs, 10 pieces or so, cut into thirds
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 3 cups of thin and crispy fried potato sticks (known as Lachha)
Halidrams Aloo Lachha.

This is the closest to plain potato sticks that I could find – Haldiram’s Aloo Lachha. You may have to some searching for plain lachha which is what we want for this recipe.

Instructions

  1. Make a thick paste out of the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cinnamon and turmeric and set aside.
  2. Drop curry leaves and cumin seeds in a pan with hot oil and stir slightly. After a few seconds, when the seeds start to splutter, add the chopped onions and chillies, let it cook and occasionally stir for about five minutes. Add the spices and stir for a minute or so.
  3. Now bring in the chicken and stir in the pan till it’s well coated with the spices. Pour two cups of water, add salt and bring to boil. Cover with a lid, reduce heat and let the chicken cook for half an hour.
  4. Uncover the dish and let it simmer in low flame for another thirty minutes until the chicken is soft and tender.
  5. In a deep plate, place the chicken and arrange a nice, thick layer of potato sticks around the edges or on top. Serve piping hot with juicy lime wedges and onion.
Sali Chicken Britannia and Co Recipe. Photo © Karl Rock.

Homemade Sali Chicken but something’s not quite right. It should be browner in colour. It still tatsted great anyway. Photo © Karl Rock.

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