Unveiling Pakistan's Parsi Culinary Traditions

Parsi heritage dishes from Karachi

Pakistan Karachi Street Scene Port Of Karachi Jinnah-Mohammed-Ali (1947) by Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

The Parsi Community of Pakistan

Dwelling primarily in Karachi, the Parsis of Pakistan carry the legacy of their Persian ancestors who embarked on a journey to Medieval India. Although their community is small in numbers, their impact on Pakistan's trajectory post-partition has been profound.

The Virbaijee Katrak Maternity Wing, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Celebrated for their architectural contributions, Pakistan's Parsis have played a pivotal role in the nation's constructional advancement. Eminent landmarks like Lady Dufferin Hospital and Virbaijee Katrak Maternity Ward stand as testaments to their legacy in Karachi.

Neelofer sitting, reading a cookbook, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

A Taste of Parsi Heritage

Parsi tradition, culture and heritage are also preserved through the community's rich cuisine. Parsi food is a blend reflective of Iranian ancestry and local Gujarati cuisine. Nuts, vermicelli (sevaiyan), daal, and mixed vegetable dishes are regular components of a Parsi diet.

Dried coconut (2020)SOCH Outreach Foundation

A prevalent ingredient, coconut features prominently in numerous Parsi recipes. Eggs and fish also hold a cherished place in Parsi cuisine, often complemented by a medley of ingredients including potatoes, tomatoes, almonds, cream, and butter.

Close up portrait of Gulnar, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Gulnar Cowasjee- A Parsi Culinary Expert

Gulnar Cowasjee lives in Cyrus Colony, Karachi. She has been running a food and catering business since 2019 and strives to preserve Parsi culture by maintaining the cuisine. The most popular dish on her menu is the Patrani Machi (fish wrapped in a green chutney).

Image of plated Patrani Machi (Parsi Style Steamed Fish), in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Patrani Machi - an iconic Parsi dish

Served on special occasions, fish fillet sections are coated in a rich chutney, made with coconut, green chillis, and cilantro. These are then carefully wrapped in sections of banana leaf. The bundle is then carefully tied with string and steamed, fried or baked in an oven.








Watch our film on Parsi food culture in Pakistan, featuring the making of 'Patrani machi'.

Preserving Parsi Palates Parsi Style Steamed Fish Patra Ni Machi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Top view plating shot of Patrani Fish, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Gulnar Cowasjee's Patrani Machi Recipe

In this version of Patrani Machi, chef Gulnar creates a delicious chutney combining green herbs, chillis, and coconut along with a slice of green mango. The banana leaf used ensures that no flavors are lost in the cooking process, and the fish remains perfectly succulent inside.

Chutney for fish, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Marinade Ingredients For the Fish:

To prepare the chutney, the following ingredients are combined together in a blender:

Coriander
Kashmiri green chilli
Green garlic
Keri (raw mango)
Tamarind
Cumin
Vinegar
Sugar (optional)

Mixing and adding spices , in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Adding lemon juice, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Blending for marinade, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Step 1: Blend the ingredients and grind halfway.
Step 2: Add freshly ground coconut while gradually blitzing.
Step 3: Then grind again until the colour changes.
Step 4: Grind some garlic and add vinegar for the dryness.
Step 5: Add the ground garlic to the chutney.

Spreading oil onto banana leaf, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Spreading spice mix onto banana leaf, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Making dents into the fish, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Fish:

Step 1: Clean and wash the fish with vinegar.
Step 2: Baste a banana leaf with melted butter.
Step 3: Add a layer of lemon juice just enough to give flavour.
Step 4: Spread a layer of chutney for the fish to be rolled in.
Step 5: Place the on top of the chutney.

Patrani Fish mixed with spice mixture, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Wrapping the fish, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Cooking the Patrani fish in pan, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Step 6: Slice the fish and make sure the chutney is nicely marinated into the fish.
Step 7: Use leftover chutney on the leaf to cover the fish on top and ensure that it fills the crevice of the fish.
Step 8: Fold the fish in the banana leaf and secure it with a toothpick.
Step 9: Fry in shallow oil.

The fish is ready to be served.

See how Gulnar prepares her family tomato chutney recipe, alongside a homemade prawn curry.

Preserving Parsi Palates: Tomato Chutney (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Close up of tomato and onion chutney, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Tomato Chutney

Ingredients:

2 chopped onions
3 chopped tomatoes
½ tsp chilli powder
Pinch of turmeric
¼ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp garlic ginger paste
Salt
¼ cup oil 

Plating shot of tomato and onion chutney, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Step 1: Heat oil in a pan and add onions (do not brown)

Step 2: Add remaining ingredients and cook on slow heat


Step 3: Once the tomato sauce has a smooth consistency, garnish with coriander or parsley and serve.

Plating shot of prawn curry, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Prawn Curry

Gulnar's beautifully red Parsi-style prawn curry is a firm family favorite in her household. A fairly straightforward cooking technique creates a delicate gravy with a tangy twist from the tomatoes and green mango she incorporates. She reminds us to not overcook the prawns!

Preserving Parsi Palates: Prawn Curry (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Ingredients for tomato and onion chutney, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Preparing the chutney first step, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Preparing the tomato and onion chutney, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Step 1: Dry the spices first.
Step 2: Heat some oil in a pan.
Step 3: Add green and red chilies.
Step 4: Add ground garlic and kachi keri (raw mango) slices.

Spice ingredients for tomato and onion chutney, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Top view shot of prawn curry being cooked, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Adding sauce to prawn curry, in Parsi Community of Karachi, 2023, From the collection of: SOCH Outreach Foundation
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Step 5: Tomatoes and freshly ground tamarind sauce are added.
Step 6: Spices such as red chili powder, black pepper, salt and cumin powder are added with cilantro.
Step 7: Marinate the prawns a day ahead.Step 8: Season with turmeric, chilli powder, salt, black pepper, cumin and cilantro.

The prawn curry is ready.

Top view plating shot of spread, in Parsi Community of Karachi (2023)SOCH Outreach Foundation

Enjoy a delicious Parsi spread.

Credits: Story

SOC Films Team

Creative Director: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Producer: Sameer Khan, Huma Shah
Associate Producer: Sara Sharif
Research Associate: Sara Sharif
Project Manager: Quratulain Khalid
DOP: Murtaza Ali
Second Unit DP: Khurram Victor
Photography: Faizan Ali, Quratulain Khalid
Photography Editor: Faizan Ali, Quratulain Khalid
First Camera: Murtaza Ali
Second Camera: Khurram Victor
Exhibit Writers: Samar Ather, Sameer Khan
Exhibits: Sameer Nazim
Video Editor: Jason Liao, Azeem Charania
Colour Grade: Jason Liao, Azeem Charania
Assistant Editor: Shaikh Mohammad Saim, Kinza Usman
Sound Design: Sameer Khan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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