My first experience with Bohri’s was in school where a dear friend was a Bohri Muslim. We shared a common mother tongue Gujarati and coincidentally both our fathers studied together and knew each other as well. Over the years after we left school we sadly lost touch but I always remember her fondly.
When Arundhati from ITC Sonar called and invited a group of Food Bloggers for a tasting I naturally jumped at the opportunity because this is not an easily available cuisine. The lure of good food and the company of friends is always the best incentive and so on the appointed day we all landed up at the ITC Sonar to partake of the Bohri Dawat.
Bohri food is a confluence of Mughlai and Middle Eastern Dishes with a significant Gujarati influence since the since one of the earliest settlements of Yemeni merchants came and settled in Surat and its surrounding areas in Gujarat. The food is prepared and served in traditional ways and served in a thal that is communally shared by the household and eaten in specific courses. The meal traditionally begins and ends with a pinch of salt which acts as a palette cleanser. Another specific custom is that the meal begins with a sweet dish and usually another sweet dish is served before the main course rather than after the savory dishes. All these unique customs would perhaps explain why I was really looking forward to my culinary experience.
Our repast began with some delicious Khus Sherbet which was perfect on a hot summer day and was enjoyed by all of us. Since we were at ITC Sonar we did not have the absolutely traditional shared Thal rather, to maintain as much authenticity as possible we were served in individual thalis with some salt placed on the side and a portion of sodanna which is a sweet rice with sugar, ghee and dry fruits to begin our meal.
Next up followed the starters and I confess this was something I was really looking forward to …. Bheja Fry (Mini Brain Cutlets) , Naan Chop and Russian Chicken Cutlet all of which were delicious but I was most delighted with the Bheja Fry which reminded me of Bheja Cutlets a Parsi delicacy which both my Dad and I love. Next up was a yummy Bohri Samosa made with the delicious pati that gives their samosa such a wonderful crunchy texture.
Thereafter we were served two sweets …. an absolutely gorgeous Pineapple Halwa that was appreciated greatly by the majority and I confess I would love some more because the taste still lingers. There was also a badam pak barfi that we gobbled down.
The main course followed with a pleasing variety ….Dabba Ghosht which was delicate and delicious in a white gravy, a gorgeous bohri chicken qorma, channa batata (potato curry) , paledu ( a vegetarian rice dish made with lentils) and a couple more . Even though I had just had a taste of each dish I was pretty full. But the Zam Zam Biryani made with offal (liver,kidney etc) and chicken served up with Raita was still to follow. This biryani has no potato but it is garnished with boiled eggs. It’s subtle and light and I really enjoyed it. I also happen to like offal and this was the first time I have had it in Biryani so it was a rather unique experience.
My thanks to ITC Sonar and especially to Chef Md.Zaber Khan who had come across from Mumbai to serve up this scrumptious feast to us and is a specialist in Bohri Cuisine. One thing I figured out was that it’s important to go very hungry to a Bohri Dawat so you can do it full justice because the variety of dishes was vast. It was fun to eat dessert twice during are meal in the very beginning and after our starters. I am certainly looking forward to exploring more of this cuisine.
DISCLAIMER: I was invited as a guest of the management but the views expressed are entirely my own.