Ever eaten Parsi food? Probably not, because you won't find it in L.A. or SoCal, unless you have Parsi friends who invite you to their homes.But now there is one restaurant where you can taste it: Woodlands in Artesia's Little India. Annu Dangore, the owner, is Parsi and this year started serving Parsi food - not every day but once in a while. A few days ago, to celebrate Parsi New Year (Navroze), which is today, March 21, she packed the buffet with Parsi dishes.
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To backtrack, Parsis are Zoroastrians who fled from Persia in search of religious freedom. They landed in Gujarat on the west coast of India and spread to Mumbai, where they established a small but prosperous community. Their cuisine incorporates elements of Persian, Gujarati, Maharastrian and British Raj cookery as well as dishes from Goa, which supplied well-to-do Parsis with cooks and other staff. This makes the food exceptionally rich and varied.
Parsi dishes you might taste at Woodlands include dhansak, which is meat in a complex sauce that blends lentils and vegetables. Commonly made with lamb in India, it was prepared with goat for the Navroze buffet. Also on the buffet was patra ni macchi, fish coated with green masala, wrapped in parchment (banana leaves in India) and steamed. Sali murghi, or chicken in a spicy brown sauce, was garnished with straw potatoes. Brown rice wasn't the healthful grain we know but white rice cooked with enough caramelized sugar to make it brown but not sweet.
One of the most enchanting dishes was sev (fine vermicelli), cooked with spices and a dash of sugar and meant to be eaten with housemade sweetened yogurt. Others were Parsi-style chicken cutlets, rice pulaos and the baked custard spiced with nutmeg and cardamom that is a must at Parsi weddings.
Woodlands was closed for a couple of years due to a kitchen fire but re-opened last July and began to promote Parsi cuisine this January. Call first to find out when Parsi dishes are available, or else eat a full Parsi meal at home, catered by the restaurant. Parsi chefs aren't easy to find, so Dangore takes charge of the food herself, working with her staff to get the flavors right.