Vasanu is a Parsi winter favourite. Photo: Perzen Patel
My heart was thudding in my chest. My fingers sweating around the ball of Vasanu mom had just given me. She expected me to have the entire thing before I left for school.
As soon as she turned the corner towards the kitchen, I escaped to the bathroom and promptly flushed the Vasanu down the loo. My cheeks flamed with shame at what I had just done, but I simply couldn’t stomach one more day of having it.
Even though I prided myself on my honest relationship with mum, I never admitted this to her until she was back in India for my wedding. It was Vasanu season and there she was again coercing me to have some - it was my wedding and I had to keep up my strength, whatever that meant! The image of a mini-me sneakily flushing Vasanu flashed in my mind and there I was, a grown 25-year-old woman confessing a 10-year-old crime. Laughing, mom urged me to give it another go.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I plonked it in my mouth. But, something magical happened as I swallowed this Parsi version of Chyawanprash. I kept expecting to hate it, but the ghee and dry fruits mixed with the heat of the ginger powder and other crushed herbs slowly melted in my mouth, and I found myself smacking my lips in glee. It seemed I had finally grown a liking to the Vasanu.
For the uninitiated, Vasanu is a complex winter preparation made of no less than a kilo of ghee, an assortment of dry fruits mixed in with the familiar dry ginger, lotus stem, dill and some rather strange things like magaz (muskmelon seeds), peepremul or ganthoda and Singhoda aata or water chestnut flour amongst others. Parsis look forward to Vasanu season with anticipation and given its endangered status, orders for kilos of Vasanu are given to those who make it weeks in advance.
While some Parsi shops like Gangar in Dadar and Motilal Masalawala stock the Vasanu, your best bet to have this winter fudge of goodness is from a home kitchen. Why? Because these are the ones that are high on what I call the ‘Grandma Quotient’, and you can taste the painstaking love that’s gone into making this dish - making just 5 kilos takes the better part of a day as the slower the herbs and flours are fried, the better it tastes!
Even though I popped my Parsi food cherry when I got married, it wasn’t until mom came back to visit two years later that I decided to tackle the Vasanu.
Just reading the long list of ingredients is enough to give any cook the shivers! Compared to my Mamaiji’s time, making the Vasanu is now much easier because if you’re a regular at your spice shop, they will pre-weigh and powder the ingredients for you. Not quite as romantic an image as that of a grandma pounding away the herbs by hand but much more practical, I assure you.
Much like the Dhansak, each home still has their own favourite version of Vasanu with some packing in more dry fruits and others making a heartier rendition by adding more ginger.
Given its deep dark brown colour and gritty texture, the Vasanu is a dish that can be hard to fall in love with at first sight. But trust me, all you have to do is close your eyes and pop in a scoop in your mouth. I’ve consumed about 6 kgs of Vasanu by myself in the three years since I fell in love with it, and if that’s not a testament to its deliciousness, I don’t know what is.
You can order Vasanu from the Bawi Bride Kitchen (9819285720), Mahafrin Gotla (9833618528) or Behram Ghadially (9819422868).