Be Not Afraid, Go forth and COOK !!

Do you live to eat or eat to live ?? In any case you gotta eat. And to eat you (or someone) gotta cook. Most people learn to cook at some point in their lives. This may be out of interest and inquisitiveness as a child, braggadocio as a teenager, desperation as a student in a far away land, or as in my case, homesickness at missing all my favourite Parsi dishes.

Cooking for me is a very therapeutic exercise. Okie, dont get me wrong. I dont want to sound loony. But when i cook, I am really focussed and lose awareness of everything else. That helps me destress after a gruelling day at work.

I learnt to cook as a boy scout, cooking at training camps. At that time we were “thrown in the deep end” as the saying goes. We had to cook on firewood and for our whole patrol of 5-6 boys.

That was about all the cooking i did in India. Things changed when i moved to NYC to pursue my masters degree. I started cooking because i missed Indian food. I am a foodie in the truest sense of the word, and there is no cuisine that one does not get in NYC. In that sense, besides many others, NYC is truly global. Hence Ethiopian, Polish, Thai, Vietnamese, South African, Brazilian, Peruvian, Austrian, Australian, English, Hungarian, korean, Ukranian, dimsum, hardcore Chinese and many other cuisines became weekly or monthly regulars. My rule is to try everything at least once. I still havent come across anything i havent tried once, but i await the day !!

What i really missed was Parsi food. There was a Parsi restaurant for a very brief period in 1998, here in the West Village in NYC, but it shut down. Dhansak, Patra Ni Macchi, Farcha, Bheja, Kaleji, Curry Chawal, Lagan nu custard, Malido, Bhakhra and i can go on and on and on.

By chance, my mom sent me a great book called “Jamva Chaloji” by Katy Dalal, and that unlocked the whole process of Parsi cooking. Thus nothing was too difficult now. There have been days when i have got up from a dream where i was eating lagan nu custard or patra ni macchi, and i know i have to make it and have it as soon as i can.

Parsi food makes me less homesick, hence i try to cook it as often as i can. Dont get me wrong, but i cook other indian food too.

Cooking is a meticulous exercise. You need the right ingredients. No shortcuts. Indian cooking per se is more time consuming than say making spaghetti bolognaise.

My love of food and different cuisines of the world and my interest in amateur cooking, hopefully some day will result in me wanting to open a restaurant…not as a chef, but as an entrepreuner. As and when i do, you will read about it first in these pages.

It is thus with a lot of interest that i read this article in this weeks SUNDAY MID-DAY edition about how the famous chefs started and made blunders before they excelled in their art.

I looked here, there, everywhere, expecting the dish to cook itself while I fooled around. We were all expected to reap what we’d sown — eat what we’d created — but my dish wasn’t edible.



  1. Yes…i understand what you mean…been thru the same when i was in Sydney.

    Earlier i never cooked much in Sydney..since i usually use to have dinner at my friend Prem’s house. His mum cooks amazing South Indian food. And lunches use to be usually at the Uni Cafe.

    But once i finished uni and moved in with Aussie flatmates…thats were it all began.

    We use to have BBQ get-togethers at our house ( nice cosy 3 bedroom with garden villa)practically every second week…and i use to be incharge of cooking TANDOORI CHICKEN AND PANEER TIKKA. Being a Punju…somehow cooking tandoori chicken came very easily to me. Best was the HALLOWEEN PARTY….

    My flatmate Dave…loves cooking so he would keep experimenting dishes from cook books…which was fun…i mostly use to assist him and our other flatmate Elliot had the duty of cleaning up the dishes.

    Ahhh!!!I miss those days…..

    PS: You shud try marinating PRAWNS in TUM YUM paste and then put them on the barbie till they are brown….it taste really good.

  2. You taught me how to make brown rice, Mr Wadia! Rupal never got around to revealing the ingredients of her sauces, though.

    If you know em, pass them on.

    Lastly, you may be interested in Jamie Oliver’s stuff. Just google him. Some of his recipes are pretty interesting.

  3. My favorite cooking show these days on Food TV is Emeril Live. Actually has been for many years. I also like Martin Yan, in YAN CAN COOK. That man is outa the world.

  4. Suhail

    Yes for sure I do get Bheja and Kaleji at Pakistani butcher shops. Thats how i keep my food hormones in check. Its surprising how little, the awareness here is of innards as a gastronomic delight. Americans are by nature not very adventurous when it comes to food.

    Parampara masalas are OK. Ive tried all of them and sooner than later they all taste the same.

    My biggest problem with Indian cooking, is the aroma and the smoke and smell. Our kitchen does not have a door, and hence the better-half sometimes goes bonkers over the house smelling of dhansak dal, or masala bheja or chicken tikka. :):)

    But then no gain without pain eh !!

  5. Stop it arZan. You are now making me go all sentimotional. At the sametime I won’t allow this conspiracy of yours to succeed, whereby you want me to spend long hours on perfecting that andaa-burjhee 🙂

    btw, in NYC I’m pretty sure you shd get bheja/kaleji(atleast in pakistani stores, nahin?). As for me, I use the ISI mark-wallah stdd gravy method for all dishes. Everytime I promise myself that “next-time” I will prepare a ‘propah’ dish. And everytime I cheat, by falling back on Parampara readymade mix for all dishes 😉 However it’s a boon if you don’t have much time. One more problem with Indian food (atleast the one which is done total qaayde se), is the cleaning part. Man, those spices..uuggh…

    I once tried an Afghani(or Irani?) dish. IIRC it was called Khobedu. Excellent dish. Somewhat like Biryani – but a bit different. I’ll leave before my mouth starts watering heavily….and come back later for more 🙂

    tata for now

  6. There is no such thing as American Food. They take everything with Coke 🙁 and for Indian taste-buds….its all SO bland.

    Parampara masalas are the last resort..for work harried singles like us. I know after sometime goan fish curry and mughlai chicken all feels same…but woh kya bolte hain, “doobte ko tinke ka saahara” :p

    The last pt you mention is also a big problem. I don’t understand why the aptmts here in Umreeka are all closed,carpetted, ACed. It kinda feels the smell sometimes seeps in the carpets. I am a cleanaholic amongst my peers. Half the time I spend in maintaing the kitchen/utensils clean and shooing away that smoke/smell out of carpets/aptmt 🙁

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