JAMVA CHALO JI
Words: SHEENA DABHOLKAR
Photographs: SAMEER MANGTANI
GREAT FROM Mumbai, Daman, Vapi
GREAT FOR Lovers of food and seekers of quiet
It’s a delicious piece of folklore. When the Zoroastrians fled Persia and came to Indian shores, they approached King Jadhav Rana seeking asylum. Unconvinced at first, Rana called out for a vessel of milk filled to the brim to symbolise his already abundant kingdom. A Parsi priest then dissolved some sugar into the milk without causing it to overflow, signifying that they would blend in and merely add some sweetness.
While this story can hardly be authenticated, here’s what can. Udvada is the perfect place to sample both popular Parsi dishes and homely favourites, and the meals are still mostly cooked on a chulavati, a wood-fuelled hearth.
A coastal town 200-odd kilometres north of Mumbai, Udvada’s main draw is its Iran Shah Atash Behram, which bears the sacred fire that has been burning for over a thousand years. Of course, it’s also a worthy food pilgrimage. The eating spree begins right on the highway with an eggy breakfast at Ahura. The poro, a masala omelette with a gentle ginger and garlic kick, is tasty as is the akuri, a Parsi-style bhurji , but don’t miss the sali par eedu, fried eggs over a bed of potato straws.
This should tide you over until lunch, which you should definitely do at Globe Hotel. It does a mean mutton pulao dar, fragrant rice with tender meat served with creamy dhansak dal. The menu changes daily but no lunch is complete without fried boi (white mullet) and a bottle of Sunta raspberry, a local beverage that’s practically impossible to find anywhere else. Hail a rickshaw after lunch because, each afternoon, the town’s autowallahs double up as ice cream vendors, hawking hand-churned mango and sitaphal ice cream from the vehicle’s backseat.
There isn’t much else to do in Udvada – and its charm is exactly that. When you’re not feasting, nap, wander its quaint streets, admire the architecture and find a rocky perch over the beach to take in the theatrical sunset.
Then get right back to eating. Knock on the door at Dastoor Baug Dharamsala (but notify owner Perviz Rabadi in advance that you’ll be coming to dinner). As far as eating in Udvada goes, her offerings of burgers and pizzas are practically avant-garde. But skip those for her great value meals. Her steamed basa in a coriander chutney resembles the popular patra ni macchi (minus the banana leaf) and is divine. Do ask for her lagan nu custard.
Sleepy Udvada goes to bed early and wakes up late, and the lazy mornings are made that much sweeter with doodh na puff, a glass of milk froth with nutmeg. Have your hotel arrange a tray of several and a local resident will deliver it to your door in the morning.
Opt for an à la carte breakfast at Ashishvangh Hotel, likely the prettiest restaurant in town, strewn with gorgeous antiques that you can buy. Each morning it makes kheema or khurchan, a mix of goat organs, and either sev, sweet vermicelli topped with cashews and raisins, or ravo, semolina pudding.
Your last pit stop must be Parsi da Dhaba, especially if you’ve packed an adventurous palate and clothes with an elastic waistband. The kheema ghotala, curried mince with egg, and kaleji papeto, chicken liver with potatoes, are a fitting end to the Parsi feast.