The Parsi Patio Diaries
Have Surmai Lagan no Patio with steamed rice to delight your tastebuds. Photo: Tinkesh Achhipalia.
For most Indians, plain yellow dal – with or without the tadka – is the ultimate comfort food. Sure, we love our pizzas, burgers and sushi but after a long day in the kitchen what I really crave is the Parsi version of plain dal, Dhandar.
In comparison to other Indian dals, Dhandar is traditionally made with very little tadka and only has the subtle taste of garlic and jeera mixed in.
This means that while plain Dhandar is perfect for toddlers, adults need some kind of accompaniment to go with it.
The go-to accompaniment for most bawa’s is the E.F. Kolah’s Methia Achaar - a spicy mango pickle made in Navsari and sent to bawas across the globe.
And, while I swear by it, there are days when you want something a bit more fancy. For those days, we have Patio.
The Parsi Patio at its very basic is a sweet, sour and slightly spicy seafood accompaniment featuring coriander seeds, jeera, garlic, sugarcane and brown vinegar.
Why is the dish called Patio and not a curry or masala?
Well, that’s because this dish was historically made in the ‘patio tapeli’ – a unique utensil that is wide and flat at the bottom with bulging round sides.
Scour the Internet for Parsi Patio and you will find more than 20 pages of results. With a few variations in ingredients, most of the recipes however only talk of one kind of Patio – the Tatrelo Prawn Patio.
This semi-dry preparation made with tomatoes, onions and tiger prawns is the easiest to make and can be cooked in under ten minutes.
But, why go for the lazy route when there are at least four other Patia versions that taste much better with Dhandar or by themselves?
For instance there is the pickled Tarapori Patio - named such because the recipe originated in the tiny Gujarat town of Tarapore, an historical hotbed for the bawas – and features Maharashtra’s staple fish, dried Bombay Ducks.
If you’re in the mood for a celebration or have guests over, you could also try your hand at the Lagan no Patio made with Sankeshwari chillies, coconut and Pomfret, and originally served to close family on the afternoon of a wedding.
Tatrelo Prawn Patio with ladi pav makes for a comfort meal. Photo: Perzen Patel
Vegetarians wanting to try Parsi food can rejoice because for once we have a comparable vegetarian version called Koru no Patio made with red pumpkin and Kashmiri chillies in a style similar to the Tatrelo Patio.
And, for the fish roe fans, there is the Goovar Gharab no Patio made with cluster beans, fish roe, coconut and peppercorns, which tastes best by itself with khichdi or crusty bread.
Which one should you try first?
Well, if you’re the kind that doesn’t like to slave away in the kitchen for hours then the Tarapori Patio is your best bet as it’s available to gobble up at many Parsi joints like RTI and P.A.C throughout the year.
If you’re like me and love having something bubbling away on the back burner then I recommend you start with the Lagan no Patio which is my personal favourite – probably because I have an undying love for Pomfret that my Mamaiji passed down to me
There are at least a dozen great recipes for the Tatrelo Prawn Patio with my favourite being this one. I have my recipe too, which you can refer below.
500 gm prawn
1 finely chopped onion
1 tbsp crushed garlic
2 tsp dhana jeera masala
1 tsp turmeric powder
2.5 tsp red chilli powder
4- 5 chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
2 inch knob of jaggery
4 tbsp brown vinegar
Handful of coriander
Salt to taste
1. Marinate the prawns in turmeric, red chilli powder and salt
2. Heat the oil, add in the crush garlic and fry the onions until golden brown.
3. Finely chop the chillies and add them into the pan along with the dhaba-jeera powder.
4. Once the spices start giving out their aroma, tip in the chopped tomatoes and mix everything together. Cover and let this cook for 5 - 6 minutes until the tomatoes are done.
5. Add in the jaggery, vinegar and prawns and mix well
6. Cook on medium heat until the prawns are done and the gravy has become semi-dry
7. Garnish with coriander and serve hot with Dhanda
If you’d like to try your hands at the Lagan no Patio then head to the Bawi Bride blog.
Bawi by birth and foodie by life, Perzen Patel is Mumbai’s Bawi Bride. While she didn’t know how to cook even a simple Parsi Dhandar until she got married, Perzen is now on a mission to spread happiness through Dhansak. When she is not writing, Perzen runs a full-fledged Parsi catering service, organises food experiences and also offers cooking classes.