‘Ma-Ghos’ And ‘Per-Eeda’

No ‘real’ Parsi meal feels complete without the accompaniment of meat and eggs. ‘Eeda’ or eggs surely deserve to be knighted in our Parsi cuisine as our Gastronomical Nirvana! Perhaps beating even chocolates when it comes to being the comfort food for us Parsis! And meat is our birthright – and boy, do we have it! Meat is what brings the cooked vegetables atop the dining table to life! No wonder most of our meals will have something-per-eeda and something-ma-ghos! PT Reporter Dara Khodaiji shares rib-tickling insights into our ‘per-eeda’ and ‘ma-ghos’ affinity!

Ma - Ghos
Ma – Ghos

Eggs are God’s gift to Parsis. This beautiful gold in white glob enwrapped in a cocoon of calcium carbonate, gives us good nourishment, and pleasure at the same time by titillating our gastronomic senses. It is one of the most versatile culinary wonders which helps churn out some of the quickest and most pleasurable dishes. It can be soft-boiled, hard-boiled, runny, baked, fried, scrambled, poached or used as a binding agent. I am sure a Michelin chef can do a lot more with it, but suffice it to say, that a Parsi can do no less. The writer Manohar Mulgaonkar once remarked, and I can’t help oft repeating it, that while the Muslims make the best Pulao and the French make the best Sauces, Parsis make the best eggs!

A Parsi is not bothered about the genesis of egg. He is totally oblivious of the debate raging elsewhere whether egg came first or a hen. To him rotli, achar and saria comes first! The Parsi culinary vocabulary is generously sprinkled with ‘___-per-eeda.’ I share below a part of a poem, I wrote years ago. Shakespeare would have screamed, “Gadzooks! Cast yon versifier into the dungeon” or something equally terrifying but I think I have brought out the essence of the Parsis’‘___-per-eeda’ and ‘___-ma-gosh” affection, (or affliction?)…

“Masoor ma boocka

Titori ne boomla sukhkha,
Papeta ma ghosh, kid roast,
And all sort of veggies
With _____ma-ghosh of course;
But Parsis’ real favorite is ________ per-eeda,
Be it potatoes, tomatoes, bhaaji or bheeda;
Kheema, chicken shreds, or brinjal,
Eeda goes rather well with ’em all.
Chicken mai-vahlan, a dish we make
With more eggs, almonds, raisins, then a Christmas cake.
Per-eeda is a winner,
Be it for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner.”

Parsi recipe books are replete with egg dishes. Be it Dinbai Pestonji Dubash’s or Bhicoo Manekshaw’s culinary classics. Let me digress here a bit and speak of Parsis’ other love, the love for ‘___-ma-ghos’! Parsis have a great fondness for vegetables as long as the dishes are suffixed with the inevitable ‘___-ma-ghos.’

One loves vegetables and they are a must for a well-balanced diet, but they can be a drab too, so Parsis learnt, or rather introduced the art of cooking vegetables with meat and lo, we have the “-Ma-ghos,” the rustic bhaji-dana-ma-ghos, bhida-ma-ghos, tarela-kera-ma-ghos, french beans-ma-gosh, papri-ma-ghos (or kababs), guvar-ma-ghos (or fish roe, gharab, or prawns), badam-ma-gosh, Dahi-ma-gosh, cauliflower-ma ghos, a true Parsi delicacy, delicately cooked with milk and cream.

Potatoes are the most versatile accompaniment with meat dishes. A true comfort food indeed. Papeta-ma-ghos, a very popular dish, can be made in several ways, Khara papeta-ma-ghos, soupy and bland, like the mughlaiaab-ghos, or with spiced mutton marinated in toddy. Make thick spicy gravy with fried taters and we have a bafat. Savour mutton chunks with potato sticks, the crispy, crunchy Salli; the result, the luscious Sali-ma-ghos or Salli Boti.
Kand(Sweet potato)-ma-ghosis rarely made nowadays. When made nice and spicy, the sweet potato forms a counter-point, to the gravy’s richspicy textures. There is a root, a variety of sweet potato, a kand, which is slimy when cut and purple in colour; it is also fried and added to Papri-ma-gosh or just added to roasted mutton, a fine accompaniment. This is the kamorio kand. Just wedges of this kand, fried, sprinkled with rock-salt or chat-masala,and a squeeze of lime makes it a great Happy Hour snack. Almost all the above-mentioned dishes can be made with chicken too. Many health conscious Parsis today avoid red meat for fear of cholesterol, but by and large, mutton makes all the difference.

As a foodie in the wonderland of culinary delights I can honestly say that eggs form the most versatile part of the culinary chain; it is, at least to a Parsi. Ask any Baji Bhukho, Khurshed Khadhro, Gussie Gourmand of any Parsi colony, what he has had for either breakfast, or lunch , or dinner and more often than not the answer will have the words ‘—per-eeda’.

Breakfast is limited to fried or scrambled eggs, maybe with a rasher of bacon, or akuri, i.e. bhurji to our non-Parsi friends, but akuri is more luscious with generous sprinkling of chopped coriander atop. The rich Bharuchi Akuri deserves a capital ‘A’ for akuri, and is fit dish for the wedding dinner. Then there is Leela-lasun-ni-akuri, Kholidar (pigeon peas)-ni-akuri and hard-boiled-eggs-akuri too.

Chicken maivahlan is a rich baked dish with layers of shredded chicken, almonds, pistachios, cashews, raisins, and thick cream layer with fried onions, chillies and coriander leaves with rows of hard boiled eggs embedded in the layers and baked. A lesser known delicacy but yummy.

One loves vegetables and they are a must for a well-balanced diet, but they can be a drab too, so Parsis learnt, or rather introduced the art of cooking vegetables with meat and lo, we have the “-Ma-ghos,” the rustic bhaji-dana-ma-ghos, bhida-ma-ghos, tarela-kera-ma-ghos, french beans-ma-gosh, papri-ma-ghos (or kababs), guvar-ma-ghos

Parsi-no-poro, an omlette made with the accompaniment of chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander leaves, chillies, raw mangoes and sometimes the leftover shredded chicken is yet another breakfast favourite. Sans tomatoes and raw mangoes, it is a favourite picnic dish. There is also a Bheja-no-poro which can be a dinner by itself. There was a time when duck’s eggs were freely available and the ‘poro’ as well as akuri were made with these big, beautiful eggs. But still these are not the –per-eedas.

‘___-per-eeda’ is a Parsi phenomenon and can be understood in its fullest sense only by a Parsi, even though it is appreciated by all our ‘eggitarian’ friends. Lo and behold, the tomato-per eeda (eggs upon savoury tomtoes) leads the long line of per-eedas. Following closely, almost neck to neck are Bhaji (fenugreek leaves)-per eeda, papeta-per-eeda, and just a short-head behind is the kanda-papeta-per-eeda. This is not a Michelin-class ranking but I don’t think there would be much difference. Bhida-per-eeda, Turia-per-eeda, tarkari–per-eeda (Once served at wedding dinners, rarely nowadays), kothmir- kanda-per-eeda, vengna-ni-poori-per-eeda, fried kera-per-eeda, (eggs on a type of bananas, rarely available today, they are fried till they caramelize; rather delicious), drum-stick pulp, sekta-ni-sing-per eeda, ever heard of it? And a lot more. Of course a lot more. I forgot the delicious sweet and sour Kheema-per eeda, shredded-chicken-pe

r-eeda, even Bheja-per-eeda and koota (tiny shrimps)-per-eeda! Eggs can be served, either sunny side up atop the base of the veggies and other ingredients, or beaten and spread over the base making a frothy omelet like cover. Eggs, sitting sunny side up on any base is an aesthetic sight, a feast for the palate and a treat to the olfactory system. Eeda-chutney-na-patties is Parsi reply to the scotch-eggs of the Brits. Akuri-na-patties is yet another of our mouth-watering creations.

Egg is a versatile food item. It can be used also as a binder for kababs, a covering for cutlets and a thickening for sauces. It is the egg that gives the Sas the whitish look which we relish with the khichri.

Parsi favourite tea-time snacks, chapas, bhakhras, karkarias, kumas and French toasts, all have eggs. So also Malido. Boy, o boy, I can go on and on. If you find this piece long and boring, blame it on my editor who is a foodie herself, and wants more and more of these food articles. If you like it, it is yours sincerely at your service!

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