In the seventh century, Arab armies conquered Persia (now Iran). Some Zoroastrians were converted to Islam whilst others fled to India. They settled in the western part of the country where the community already had trading contacts, and they established settlements to the north of Mumbai. Their descendants founded the community which later took the name Parsi (Parsee).
They were not universally welcomed in India. Jadi Rana, the king of Gujurat, is said to have pleaded “My country is overflowing already so how would we find room for you as well?” The leader of the Parsi community asked for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and also a spoonful of sugar. He then carefully stirred the sugar into to the bowl without spilling a drop of milk. “We are like sugar. We will only sweeten your land.” explained the Parsi.
Parsis have enjoyed great success in India but we in London also have a celebrated Parsi who has come to sweeten London with his notable and delicious food, and he even offers his guests the chance to try some traditional Parsi fare. Celebrated chef Cyrus Todiwala invites one and all to The Khaadras Club Night!
This ‘Greedy Gourmand’s Club’ was established after Parsi friends begged Cyrus and his wife and partner, Pervin, for some dishes from their own community. It was to be a meeting of friends with a focus on food. It has become such a popular event that Café Spice Namasté has made these feasts available at intervals throughout the year. The event is always eagerly awaited by Parsis but equally by lovers of fine food, and as this is a true Parsi event one can be sure that the helpings will be generous. It is indeed well-named the Greedy Gourmand’s Club.
The food on these Khaadras Club evenings is authentic and presented to an audience comprised of many who know exactly what they want, and how it should be cooked and presented. I am no expert on this little-known cuisine but I can attest to the fact that the food was mouth-watering, served with many smiles and much good humour, and there was plenty of it – food and humour, that is. This wasn’t just an evening at any old restaurant. This was a Todiwala celebration and had the air of a family party. Cyrus and Pervin are famed for knowing their regulars by name, and that warmth is magnified on these special evenings when all of us were welcomed as friends.
The company was outstanding, with many a story told and laughs provided by our hosts. But the food was the centre of our convivial evening.
Saria/achaar was a basket of light crackers served with spicy chutneys, while Waffer Nay Bhaji Purr Eedu – finely chopped onion sautéed with minced garlic and cumin, blended with chopped spinach and wafers, gently simmered with whole steamed egg on top, served with crispy naan – was our first course.
Chutney May Luptaeli Machchi – filet of fish folded over with fresh green chutney, rolled in flour, dipped in egg, fried and served on Tamota Ni Gravy Nay Rotli, a rich tomato sauce – was exceptional.
The main course was Vaegna Ni Buriani – Lamb and Aubergine stew – although the name does not honestly do this dish justice – dark and flavorsome meat wrapped in slices of melting aubergine: there must be a better word than stew. There was more meat in the guise of Masala Ma Taraeli Jungli Murghi Ni Boti – dices of chicken marinated in red masala, pan fried, which was remarkable for its crunchy texture. Moreish when served with Papaeta Nay Mohhtta Murcha – cubes of potato cooked with diced mixed peppers, cumin and garlic.
Saev Nay Mitthu Dahi is a traditional Parsi dessert served at celebrations, a confection of vermicelli, fruit and nuts served with thick yoghurt which was a fitting sweet end to a meal that was indeed a celebration of Parsi culinary heritage and culture.
This veritable feast is prepared just once every couple of months for Khaadras Club Night, and has a different menu every time: these regulars want to see different dishes to tempt their well-educated palates. At a very reasonable £25 for all of that food, I’ll be returning again and again.
Book by contacting Binay Aryal at firstname.lastname@example.org
Café Spice Namasté: Khaadras Club Night
16 Prescot Street, London E1 8AZ
Open Monday – Friday
Lunch: 12.00 – 3.00 pm
Dinner: 6.15 – 10.30 pm
Saturday: 6:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Closed on Bank Holidays and Sundays
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018