Ask a Parsi what Sunday means to him and he’ll most likely tell you: Dhansakh. Their Sundays are incomplete without Dhansakh for lunch, which is usually followed by a long siesta. Though this is natural – after having Dhansakh, you wouldn’t want to do anything, but take a nice long nap.
So, what is Dhansakh? Dhansakh is a thick brown masala dal, chicken or mutton cooked in it, served with brown rice. A Vegetarian Dhansakh – dal without chicken or mutton is sacrilege. The rice is brown because of caramel sugar and fried onions. Portions of masoor and tur dal and stewed pumpkin are used to make the Dhansakh dal. The preparation is served with kebabs (chicken or mutton) and a salad made of raw onions, cucumber, tomato, coriander (also called Kachumbar). Lime, preferably lots of it, should then be squeezed over the Dhansakh. Surprisingly though, this is not the dish for auspicious occasions. On such days, Parsis cook either mora dal chawal; the dal is yellow and non-spicy and thicker than the Hindu yellow dal and minus the sprinkling of tomatoes and vegetables, or a variant of Dhansakh called Pulav Dal – where the chicken or mutton is cooked in the rice instead of the dal.
But we’re talking about Dhansakh today. Topping the list of the best Dhansakh available in Mumbai is this nice and neat restaurant tucked away in Coloba, called Paradise Restaurant (Rs 120). The portion is generous and the chicken and mutton are consistently well cooked and tender. Paradise doesn’t serve Dhansakh daily; mutton Dhansakh on Wednesdays and chicken Dhansakh on Saturdays. The dal is very important and Paradise takes great care in preparing it – it’s not bland, but it’s not too spicy either - just the right mix. And it tastes good even if gets cold! The only problem here is the accompanying kachumbar is not complimentary - as it is in all other places rightly.
Britannia restaurant, a lunch-only restaurant (closed on Sundays) in the business district of Ballard Estate that specializes in Parsi food, also serves Dhansakh. Earlier, one portion here would have been enough for two people, but lately, they have reduced the portion. Yet one plate is sufficient for one person. And unlike Paradise, they serve it everyday. Be there between 12.30 and 15.00 hours, sit back and eat to your heart’s content. They cook limited portions of everything, so be sure to book your order in advance if you have a big company or if you think you’ll be late. But if you’re there, we recommend you may as well have their famous Berry Pulav. That is the Parsi Pulav Dal, but the rice is generously sprinkled with cashew nuts and red berries, specially imported from Iran, and served only at Britannia. Oh and make sure you don’t have a busy schedule later that afternoon, you won’t feel like doing any work after this sumptuous lunch. Trust me!
By The Way, at Gamdevi, near Chowpatty, is an interesting place. Run by the social welfare organization for women, Sewa Sadan, this restaurant was recently re-done to suit your taste palettes. The place is managed by four women – one of whom is a Parsi, so you can rest be assured your Dhansakh doesn’t lose its Parsi touch. The place is simple, yet elegant and the service is very warm, yet professional. Try their Vej Dhansakh if you’re an herbivorous. They also make home delivery if you’re staying somewhere nearby.
Jimmy Boy is an old-timer at Dhansakh. But then, they also serve other Parsi dishes. Dal is slightly spicy, yet it retains its tangy taste. And Kebabs are included here. Ripon Club, Fountain, has been known for its famous Dhansakh for years. Available only on Wednesdays and open only for its members. Take-aways are open for all though.
So feast on this priceless dish and let me know which one you liked the best.
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