Parsis are known for their commitment to the task at hand – whether it comes to running a business or digging into the details of perfecting a meal, more so when it comes to wedding cuisine. As we sampled the traditional Parsi wedding cuisine known as Lagan Nu Bhonu with Mumbai’s Perzen Patel, the city’s beacon holder of Parsi cuisine, we got a taste of their relentless dedication to eat and feed better.
Food, undoubtedly, plays a big role in Parsi wedding cuisine; so much so, that when an invite is received, the guests are as curious about the caterers and Lagan Nu Bhonu, as they are about the prospective bride or groom. In fact, when the marriage is finalised, families exchange the lagan-nu-achaar (a sweet-tasting wedding pickle) with the elders as a final stamp of approval.
Although the Parsi community is small, the same cannot be said about their guest list for the wedding day. Perzen jokes about her 'small' wedding with 500 guests making us question why we weren’t invited.
Lagan Nu Bhonu is a sit-down affair with three-course meals being served on banana leaves. Parsi caterers are equipped to handle about 250-300 guests per seating and just when the lucky firsts are halfway through their meal, the remaining queue up behind their seats to savour the delicious Lagan Nu Bhonu! Yes, expectations are always high because the food served is considered special as they usually don’t cook ‘lagan’ items at home. As always, the family sits down to eat the Lagan Nu Bhonu after all the guests have had their fill of the Parsi food.
The meal almost always starts with an egg dish because Bawas and Bawis can’t do without akuri. The Bharuchi akuri here is eggs scrambled in with a generous amount of ghee, flavoured with onion and garlic, while toasted cashewnuts and salli add crunch and mewa lends a rich creamy texture. Take a break to munch on something crispy like the saria (sabudana papad) that can be dipped in a dollop of lagan-nu-achaar.
Now, the Lagan Nu Bhonu begins with different types of meat served in this order – chicken, mutton and fish. When it comes to their Lagan Nu Bhonu, chicken farcha is a must - a plump chicken leg marinated in Parsi garam masala, coated with rava and deep fried for a crispy crust. This chicken dish can be had as a starter or with a thin roti. One vegetarian item will definitely make an appearance on the plantain leaf in the Lagan Nu Bhonu. We have here a dish that’s cooked with the masalas of the famous patra-ni-macchi, Ravaiya – mini eggplant stuffed with a mint, coriander and coconut chutney and lightly fried for this Lagan Nu Bhonu.
The Parsi wedding cuisine is incomplete without a finger-licking mutton dish. A rich mutton dish follows next with the tender kid ghosht. Simmered in milk with coconut and cashew, this used to be a popular lagan nu bhonu item during weddings earlier. Tear a big piece of roti for a large morsel of the delicately flavoured Saas Ni Maachi. Basically, a fish in white sauce, a hint of vinegar is the biggest surprising factor. It is believed that ‘sauce’ was colloquialised to ‘saas’ and that’s how the dish gets its name.
After tucking in three varieties of meat preparations in the Lagan Nu Bhonu, one would need a palette cleanser. The indigenous Parsi cheese - Topli Nu Paneer is reserved for this purpose. Available in two types – salty and bland – a Lagan Nu Bhonu calls for the former. Almost like an Italian burrata, it is soft enough to melt in the mouth and they say that the recipe is a closely guarded secret with only a few aunties, who have mastered the art of making it.
The Lagan Nu Bhonu would be incomplete without some rice and more meat appears on the table with the Pulav Daal. The rice dish has small chunks of mutton kebab and is garnished with a Parsi favourite, boiled egg pieces. The daal in this Lagan Nu Bhonu is a close cousin of dhansaak because it uses the same masalas; the only difference being it is cooked without mutton, while the latter is simmered with the meat. A fun fact – dhansaak is never a part of the Parsi wedding cuisine because it is considered inauspicious.
A dessert that was once considered to be exclusive to the Lagan Nu Bhonu is now available in most Parsi restaurants thanks to its popularity. Cream, milk, sugar, egg and dry fruits are combined for the Lagan-nu-custard – one of the finest highlights of this meal.
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