Given my interest in the comparative impact of the great religions in shaping our history and civilization, I tend to be shocked and disturbed by the number of innocent lives that have been lost in the name of religion, that makes a travesty of its stated objectives of fostering goodness, civility and brotherhood in humankind. At the very same time, I am in awe of and inspired by the intrepid saga of those religious minorities who have battled and transcended persecution, adversity, plunder, and even genocide, to not only survive, but thrive and succeed like few others have. The success of the Jewish people in the Middle East and the USA and the Zoroastrians (also called Parsis) in India, are particularly poignant and awe-inspiring in this context.
While the formidable achievements of the Jewish people around the world, (including the largest number of Nobel prizes won by them), is legendary, the saga of the Zoroastrians, au contraire, is hardly known. The Zoroastrians were inhabitants of ancient Persia (present day Iran), and were/are incredibly gentle, peace loving and hard working folks who escaped from genocide in ancient Persia, to the shores of India, to recreate their lives and emerge as the most successful ethnic minority group in India – a model very similar to that followed by the Jews and recently Indian Hindus in North America.
Just as Indian Hindus have emerged as the most prosperous and qualified ethnic minority group in the USA today, so have the Zoroastrians (called “Parsis” in India, by virtue of their Persian antecedents) established themselves as the most prosperous minority group by sheer perseverance, entrepreneurship, higher education, philanthropy and their ability to live in peace with, and assimilate into the mosaic of cultures and religions that make up India.
Why can’t this framework of assimilation, peaceful coexistence, education driven growth and the phenomenal success thereof, serve as a model for those around the world who are perverse enough to resort to violence, murder and genocide in the name of their religion, that actually leave them and their successive generations cursed with intellectual, pecuniary and cultural poverty, while sowing a vicious cycle of hatred, intransigence and destruction that needlessly, claim hundreds of innocent lives across the world?!
The Parsis in India, in adapting themselves in what was a very different culture, evolved their ancient Persian culinary recipes, using the bewildering array of flavors, spices and condiments from India, to create a unique genre of Parsi cuisine, that are distinct and oh, so sumptuous. Probably the best known Parsi dish is the Dhansak, a potent concoction of lentils and usually lamb, chicken or goat meat cooked with rice, in traditional Parsi spices, to culminate into a delicate yet wholesome hot, sweet and sour delicacy that would leave you yearning for more. A little known anecdote about the Dhansak is that it was originally a dish of mourning and lent, put together using leftovers (since lighting the fire for cooking in a house of mourning was forbidden), and has since then, happily evolved into the icon of fine Parsi cuisine that is de-rigueur today, at Parsi birthdays, weddings and banquets.
While I have had the joy of savoring this incredible dish many a time in my childhood in Bombay (home to the largest Parsi population in the world), I have sorely missed the Dhansak since I have left the shores of India in 1996. Happily for me, the Taj Mahal Indian chain of restaurants in Frankfurt and Heidelberg, include on their innovative menu, a fairly authentic rendition of the Dhansak, which makes a visit to this establishment a mandatory ritual for me each and every time I am in the Frankfurt area, for work or for pleasure. In fact, I persevere to stay at the Heidelberg Marriott, if possible, for the pleasure of leisurely walking across to the Taj Mahal in the evening, after a hard day’s work, for a sumptuous Indian dinner, often with my colleagues from all over the world who join the legions of loyal customers of this establishment after their very first and memorable experience in culinary indulgence!
What brings me back for more:
The Taj Mahal offers a very tastefully done up ambiance reminiscent of India’s Mughal heritage (when India was ruled by the Mughals from Afghanistan who have since left behind their indelible stamp on Indian culture, art and cuisine) that is well complemented by an expansive menu that offers a combination of North-Indian classics like tandoori, korma etc. but also innovations like the Dhansak, Mango chicken curry, the Halibut Tandoori (among the finest I have had) and the Baingan Ghost (chicken or lamb cooked with egg plant) that I cannot get enough of.My Favorites:
- The Mulligatawny Soup, (literally meaning “Pepper Water”) rendered using the Taj Mahal’s own recipe, is delicately done and just what is needed to send my taste buds into overdrive, in anticipation of the delights to follow!
- The Macchi Tandoori (Fish Tandoori) usually rendered with halibut or mahi-mahi marinated for over 24 hours, is very well done and delivers the finesse of the fresh fish, with the aroma of the tandoori, with a dash of lime, to indulge your palate, and is kindness for your heart as well!:-)
- The assorted Tandoori platter comprising a compo of Chicken, Lamb, Shrimp, Halibut Tandoori as well as Sheesh Kebab (beef or lamb) and invites peals of delight from my colleagues who just can’t get enough of these
- The Keema Naan, a signature dish, is Indian flat bread, stuffed with minced goat or lamb, appropriately spiced, and is probably among the tastiest stuffed naans I have had anywhere in the world
- Chicken Mango Curry, again a house specialty, is delivered with finely cooked cubes of boneless chicken delicately rendered in a creamy sauce with slices of fresh Alphonso mangoes (arguably, the finest aromatic mangoes anywhere in the world, that are unique to Western India) flown in from the Indian sub-continent
- Karahi Gosht comprises lamb or goat cooked in a highly spiced gravy and is the perfect complement for the Kheema Naan
- Machi or Gosht Dhansak- the iconic dish from Parsi cuisine, that follows the traditional recipe with a twist, done in spiced lentil curry, is delicious (goes extremely well with their Basmati pilaf that is served with each entrée) and evokes sheer nostalgia for me personally– celestial seasonings acquire new meaning!
- Baingan Gosht (goat or lamb with eggplant) comprising mashed eggplant cooked with lamb or goat meat in a spicy, secret recipe, with onions, garlic and tomatoes, is a novelty that will surprise your taste buds!
- Chicken, Lamb or Beef Vindaloo – another iconic dish from Goa in India, with Portuguese influences, in a spicy red curry, that brings a number of my local German colleagues back for more
- Baingan Bharta – the North Indian egg plant classic from the Punjab, rendered with a solid dose of cumin, that spells sheer joy for the taste buds
- Palak Paneer – another North-Indian classic from the Punjab, delivered with spinach and fresh cottage cheese that is conjured up by the cook daily, and is a delight for vegans
- The Mango Kulfi, is a house specialty, and served up bathed in ground cloves and cinnamon, and is the perfect dessert to consummate this incredible food fiesta at the Taj Mahal
I personally rate the Taj Mahal as one of the finest Indian restaurants in Germany and urge you to savor their earthly delights the next time you are in Frankfurt or Heidelberg, for business or pleasure. I assure you that like me, you will keep going back for more!
This adventure in Frankfurt or Heidelberg begins at:
Taj Mahal Tandoori Restaurant, Schweizer Str. 28, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.Tel # + 49 (69) 62 0240.Click here for the Google Map and Directions.The Taj Mahal Tandoori Restaurant, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany.Tel # +49 (6221) 166461.Click here for the Google Map and Directions.
Comments: Anonymous said... (in Gujarati)Andy dikro, Taro blog saras chhe...ekdum maaza aawi gaayo! Phiroze Canteenwala ("Endawala Bawa"):-) March 23, 2007 10:38 AM
Hi Andy, I was very impressed going thru yr blog on food, my, my, my,.... what extensive research, hat's off ...... It was a sheer drooly delight!
Going thru yr blog, I imagined you and right enough.. you look like a good foodie. Chalo.. cheers to that, do let me know if you need any Parsee receipes and yes, do visit us when you are in Mumbai, would love to host you a typical home cooked Dhansak.
Best of wishes, Farida E. from Mumbai, India Monday, March 26, 2007 1:00 AM