A huge group of friends, a visiting mom, some noisy children and a lot of hungry tummies – when all descend on a small restaurant tucked away in a small side alley in Satwa-Jumeirah for a Friday lunch, what’s the result? Chaos, a delicious chaos! Jargons aside, this is one lunch buffet to remember. Kebab Bistro fed us till our eyes couldn’t drool or our mouths couldn’t chew anymore. All for Dhs 50/person! The only complaint being that the tiny restaurant couldn’t provide us with a few hammocks outside in the garden for our afternoon siestas. Just like it should happen on a weekend afternoon after having gorged on a good home cooked authentic Parsi meal. Please bear in mind – even though its a buffet, don’t expect buffet containers filled with food that has been cooked hours back. Here, every dish is cooked *fresh* and only after an order has been placed. That means that you will have to wait until food has been cooked and arrives at you plate hot and steaming. As the aroma of the food cooked inside the kitchen wafts through the open semi-window, the next best thing to do is – sip into fresh sugar cane juices, with a hint of lemon in it.
Kebab Bistro is small – 12 covers inside the restaurant and probably 12 more outside in the garden – and we hijacked the entire space, irrespective of the 40º C temperature outside. The food takes a long time to arrive (but presumably that’s the same at home, right?). But it’s well worth the wait. There was only one staff assigned for serving on that day but he made sure that we were well looked after – serving us everything hot, and immediately whatever came out of the kitchen. All these amidst the multiple times the kids must have asked him for a fork or a coke or some napkin. And I asking him whether Kebab Bistro had a Twitter handle! The buffet spread had all the Parsi classics – for the Starters we had Marghi na Farcha – the Parsi styled fried chicken that can give KFC a run for their money and which also reminded me of our Bengali Chicken Kabiraji, a Raj influenced epic snack (except that the latter is prepared with chicken fillet and the Chicken farcha used chicken drumsticks); for the Main course, we had the legendary Parsi dish – the Mutton Dhansak – mutton and vegetables cooked in a thick daal and a typical Sunday favourite in a Parsi household because of the elaborate cooking process, Sali Boti – small diced tender chicken pieces cooked in a spicy gravy with potato straws or sali, Patra ni Machhi – fish marinated and steamed while being wrapped up in banana leaf; and the famous Lagan nu Custard for dessert. Accompanying all these, we had Kachumbar (a tangy onion-cucumber salad), garma garam Rotlis (hot thick fluffy wheat flour Rotis) just off the tawa, some hot vegetable Biryani and the Salli (below). Salli or the Parsi wafers are crispy potato julienne and are essential to a Parsi meal. Thinly shredded potatoes are washed several times in water to get rid of the starch and then they are dipped in cold salted water for some time. Once drained, they are dried and deep fried until crisp. Looks and tastes exactly like the Bengali jhur jhure aloo bhaja and also prepared in a similar manner. Somebody later said they were also called matchstick potatoes. Truly so, as they set fire to our already soaring appetite!
Parsi and Parsi Cuisine: Distinctly different from the Iranians, the Parsis are members of one of the two Zoroastrian communities found in South Asia. A dwindling community in India currently, the Parsis came from Persia and settled first in Gujarat. Bombay still reflects the bygone era of Parsi history, heritage and social influence.
According to Wikipedia… Parsi, also spelled Parsee, member of a group of followers in India of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. The Parsis, whose name means “Persians”, are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims. They live chiefly in Bombay and in a few towns and villages mostly to the north of Bombay, but also a few minorities near by in Karachi (Pakistan) and Bangalore (Karnataka, India). There is a sizable Parsee population in Pune as well in Hyderabad. A few Parsee families also reside in Kolkata and Chennai. Although they are not, strictly speaking, a caste, since they are not Hindus, they form a well-defined community. The exact date of the Parsi migration is unknown. According to tradition, the Parsis initially settled at Hormuz on the Persian Gulf, but finding themselves still persecuted they set sail for India, arriving in the 8th century.
The Parsi cuisine in India has therefore evolved from its place of origin – Persia. It has the influence of both Persian and Gujarati food – vegetarian Gujarati cuisine and non-vegetarian Iranian cuisine, and a heavy dose of coastal Indian influence of coconut curries. Rice and Daal or a coconut curry are the main features of a Parsi diet. A Lagan nu Bhonu or a Parsi wedding feast is incomplete without the inclusion of rice, fish and coconut. Our Parsi friends believe that vegetables are meant for difficult times, but amongst vegetables, potatoes are a must. So are fish, meat, potatoes and eggs – but in the reverse order!
The Parsi Patra ni Machi seemed like a spicier version of the Bengali Maacher Paturi or the steamed mustard fish wrapped in banana leaf, much like the one that I had cooked earlier in an event. While the Patra ni Machi had a very strong taste of coriander and chilli, it was the mustard in the Bengali Maacher Paturi. An epic Parsi dish, the fish is marinated in a spicy chutney made of coriander, mint, chillies and coconut and then wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. As we unwrapped the banana leaves, smoke bellowed out of the freshly steamed fish that had been gently packed into the banana leaf parcels. We were told that on request, the same preparation could be made with white pomfret, instead of the cream dory fillet that we just tasted.
Apart from the popular Parsi dishes that were on the buffet that day, our foodie friend who had initiated us to Kebab Bistro earlier at his housewarming, suggested that we order the Taamota par Edu from the menu (not served in the weekend Buffet). Poached eggs layered on a thick tomato gravy, the Taamota par Edu is a dish to practically die for (sorry, live for!) – my current must-taste-once-in-a-lifetime dish! Eggs or Eenda seems to have a preferential treatment in Parsi cooking and as I found out, there seems to be more egg preparations in Parsi cuisine than any other cuisine in the world (well, the list of Parsi dishes in this article suggests so). A thick red gravy with poached eggs staring back at us, I would describe the Taamota par Edu as the Parsi Huevos Rancheros, but a tomato salsa version of it. Or, could this be the Parsi Shakshuka? However I might choose to describe the dish, the fact remains that we ordered too many of them that day. Two photos of Taamota par Edu below to sing my ode to the dish.
The other ode would be for the Lagan nu Custard which is a Parsi wedding speciality. Reminiscent of a thick crust over our regular custard, the preparation of this dish is quite elaborate. Milk is boiled along with sugar until it is reduced to half. When the mixture cools down, eggs are beaten into it along with dry fruits and added nutmeg flavour. This is then baked to form a thick golden crusty surface.
The lunch at Kebab Bistro has only made my wish to visit Mumbai much stronger, and join in the Parsi Food Walk conducted by my blogger friend Finely Chopped there. And also write the long overdue post on Dishoom, a London restaurant that I visited earlier in April this year. But till then, I am happy with my new find – Kebab Bistro, tucked in an alley in Satwa-Jumeirah, behind another favourite joint of mine – the original Smiling BKK. And just to clarify the statement when I said – we hijacked the entire space of Kebab Bistro – both outside and inside… it was only the men who were sent out in the 40ºC heat of Dubai afternoon!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: The lunch buffet costed us Dhs 50/person plus a bit more as we had also ordered the Taamota Par Edu and a few sugarcane juices. Apart from the Parsi food, Kebab Bistro also makes great Kebabs, as you can read from my fellow food blogger Geordie Armani’s review. Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. You can catch my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.