If you don't have Parsi friends you've probably never heard of Udvada.
Located about 200 kms north of Mumbai, this sleepy little town on Gujarat border is renowned for its Zoroastrian Atash Behram, which is the most sacred of Zoroastrian fire temples in India and has a fire that has been burning continuously for more than 1250 years!
Proud Parsi that I am, I like visiting Udvada for quite another reason - the food! This has to be the only town where you can feast like a king on all kinds of Parsi food without having to wait for that elusive Parsi wedding invite.
Early breakfast at Ahura's
While several trains departing from Mumbai can take you to Udvada, I recommend a road trip as an early breakfast at Ahura is a worthy highway pit stop. Located just after Charoti on the NH8, Ahura is the best way to start your Parsi food extravaganza.
While they also serve the traditional South Indian fare, what you really want to order is their salli per eedu. Parsis' the world over have a fascination with breaking an egg over just about anything and the salli per eedu made with fine potato sticks, egg and spiced tomato is an ideal way to start the day. In true 'bawa' style, accompany the eggs with a hot cup of Parsi style 'fudina ni choi'.
A second breakfast in Udvada
Udvada is still about two hours away from Ahura so if you don't binge, you will have space for the traditional Udvada Parsi breakfast of aleti paleti, khurchan and kheema pav. While kheema pav is self-explanatory and a popular dish in many Irani cafes (though it always tastes better in Udvada!), you may not have tried the offal fiesta that is aleti paleti (a toss-up of chicken organs) or khurchan (a mix of goat organs). Both these dishes cooked-up with the unique Parsi-style garam masala and served with freshly baked bread are a must-try for those who love a meaty start to their day.
Fish and some more meat for lunch
There aren't many places to stay in Udvada and if you're smart you will have booked into either Globe, Ashishvangh, J.J. Sanitorium or Sodawaterwala. All of these serve-up delicious Parsi food so there is no need for you to go hunting for food. However, if you're staying elsewhere, make sure you head to one of these places for a mid-day meal worth lusting after.
While the menus change daily, if luck is in your favour you will get to try all three delicacies - the fried fish, some kind of kebab and pulao dar. Generally, the fried fish on offer will be the mullet, commonly called 'Boi' which comes marinated in turmeric and red chilli powder. Follow this up with a side of either chicken Russian pattice, kheema kebabs or bheja na cutlets and a tall chilled glass of sunta raspberry or ice cream soda while you soak up some Vitamin D.
Don't stop eating until you've had some mutton pulao dar. The dal served with the pulao is the same 'dhansak' dal Parsis are known for and this meat-laden dish is sure to send you off into a happy snooze - especially if you were smart enough to smuggle-in some beer.
Hand churned mango ice-cream
While a siesta is important, stay awake long enough for the distinct 'tring-tring' of the ice cream guy that is sure to stop over at your hotel post lunch. I strongly believe that there is a different kind of pleasure in digging into a small cup of seasonal hand-churned ice cream made with fresh fruits and milk from the local cow. There aren't that many flavour options and certainly no 'toppings' but the hand-churned goodness of the mango or sitaphal ice cream more than makes up for this.
Mava cakes and dudh na puff
Most travellers only stop into Udvada for the day or for a single night. If you're driving out early evening, make sure you stop by the Irani bakery on your way back from the beach to get your fill of mawa cakes, batasa, and khari.
The mawa cakes they dish out here are the best I've had, and I always bring back a giant box home to nurse my Udvada hangover. The jeera-studded 'batasa' are a must-buy if you like dunking biscuits into your tea or you can invest in the khari, which is made with the lightest of flaky pastry and oodles of salted butter.
If you're staying overnight, do try the dudh na puff early next morning. These puff is the Parsi version of the Starbucks 'Fluffy' served to kids worldwide and is basically a glass of chilled milk froth topped with nutmeg and cardamom. While they can be made easily in your city fridge, the local vendors make the puff by chilling the froth in an earthen pot overnight - a process I am convinced adds a unique taste to the Udvada dudh na puff.
Finally, if you're like me and don't like to leave town without some food souvenirs make sure you pick up some mangoes, hand-rolled papads and pickle (preferably Kolah's) to eat at home.
So, the next time you are missing Parsi food, don't wait for a wedding invite. Simply head to Udvada or order in from the Bawi Bride Kitchen of course!