Celebrating Navroze at SodaBottleOpenerWala

The Non Vegetarian thali served today


Every year, on Bengali New Year’s my Ma says one thing. “Whatever you do today, you will do it for the whole year!” Taking a cue from that declaration, as kids, we carefully planned our day every April 15th. We wriggled out from studies. Lunch would be a simple Bengali meal cooked by her, followed by an afternoon siesta. At 6 pm, the family headed out in their new Poila Boishak gear. Dinner would be either Chinese or Mughlai meal in any of our favourite eateries. As far as I can remember, that was the Adhikary Poila Boishak.
And no, that is not what we did for the rest of the year. Didn’t we know that already… But still believed in it! When I tell that to my Ma these days, we share a hearty laugh over it. Also, I have continued the tradition. Every April 15th, we head out here and there and eat a wholesome meal for dinner!
What a bright and happy place this SodaBottleOpenerWala is
Celebrations come with a wave of memories and nostalgia. And traditions. Today, I felt that kind of warmth, reminiscent of one’s childhood, chatting with a trio of lovely ladies at SodaBottleOpenerWala in Khan Market. Today the Parsis celebrate Navroze—the Parsi New Year. Hosted by the very special Chef Parul Pratap, who owns the show at the awesome Music and Mountains Café at Greater Kailash One, the wholesome Parsi thali and afternoon was a quaint yet special affair. But along with the food, that the Bawas would vouch for, I shared memories and moments with people (fellow writers Swati Rai and Sonalini Chaudhry) who I know will cease to be strangers anymore. Food is a great binder. And today’s afternoon proved just that. While I told them about the hidden gastronomic gems in the lanes and streets of Kolkata, Parul informed us about some unique Jap eateries in Delhi. Nothing fancy and fine-dining. But great, great food. I might not be a Parsi but there was a connection. Celebrations connect people. And today, that is exactly what happened…
Chef Parul Pratap's brilliant plan brought the afternoon alive
The festival will be on till March 31st and there is a thali for both vegetarians (Rs 600 plus taxes) as well as non-vegetarians (Rs 700 plus taxes). Today, we meat eaters ate a mean mackerel fry that was marinated with garlic, chillies and tomato. Generally, I am not fond of sea fishes and the last time I tasted mackerel in Kerala, I had to request the husband to finish it for me. But today’s fish, despite its distinctive smell, was worth negotiating. The rotli was soft and a perfect partner to the thick masala ni daal. It almost reminded me of the cholaar dal, we Bongs love with our luchi. Food does transcend barriers of states and cultures.
Chomping and chatting
The mutton pieces in the berry pulao had the right bite to them and the chicken pattice was crisp on the outside and soft inside. There was a helping of a Russian salad that had a colonial hangover and it added the much-needed sour kick to the sweet and savoury items that was laid on a banana leaf. Again, a Bengal touch.
The Parsi quirks
The Jardaloo ma Marghi was a tad too sweet for my taste but I can gauge where that came from. A lot of Parsi cooking has Gujarati influences. Even the people of West Bengal tend to sweeten many of their vegetarian curries. However, no matter how the curry was, the chicken was soft, succulent and is emblematic of how wonderfully Chef Anahita Dhondy has translated her family recipes for foodies dining at this wonderful eatery.
For dessert, we were served the Irani pulled wheat based Malido. It was laden with ghee and dried fruits. But I like my sweet to be really sweet. So, I skipped that and concentrated on the Falooda, a fabulous combination of kulfi, raspberry crush and sweet basil seeds.
With conversation like a gurgling brook and food this hearty, I couldn’t ask for a better afternoon. This was my first Navroze celebratory lunch and I did come back to tell Ma about it. And yes, she did say, “It means you will have such splendid moments the whole year!” Amen…
Sweet Endings


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