My community and its food
The Dawoodi Bohra community is a sub-sect of Shia Muslims having their ancestral and religious roots in Yemen. Fleeing from Yemen in the 11th century, the Bohra community came to India, mainly settling in Gujarat. Thus many of this community traditions have similarities to the other Gujarthi communities like the Gujarathis and the Parsis. Primarily a business community, Bohra’s are religious but not fanatic or orthrodox and are led by His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb, who is the high priest of the Bohras.
Pray and Eat is the motto of bohra community. Any occasion involves attending sermons given at the masjids, praying and then eating together. Bohra community is close to knit community and take pride in their religious order, special attire and food, the aspects that set us apart from other Muslim communities.
Like all communities, food and feasting plays a very important part in bonding. Food is a way to celebrate and bring people together. They also strongly believe in offering food to the poor and less fortunate and organize meals for them at the mosques after Namaaz (prayers).
Thier food and their ways of eating come from Arabia. They still follow the age old system on eating in a THAL, a very large plate that is kept on a raised metal or wooden round called the Kundali. The family or eight people gather around it and eat from one large plate as they believe in the spirit of sharing and in eating together which increases family and community bonds. Sitting together during a meal, is when they get an opportunity to talk with their family and friends either at home or during occasions. The meal goes on for a long time and one has to wait for every person to finish eating in the Thal and can not get up when done.
From childhood, they are taught the ways of eating in the Thal. Infact many families do not have a dinning table at all. Covering the head while eating is important, to show respect to the food. They start their meal by having a pinch of salt, a ritual which is supposed to stimulate the digestive juices and cleanse the body. They thank God for the meal and begin by saying “Bismillah”. They are also taught to eat slowly and only from the side closest in the Thal.
Like any cuisine, the meal has definite courses. They begin by eating something sweet like a halwa or mithai or dessert item.
Then the appetizer is served, which is usually made of meat and finally the main course of rice and gravy.
Depending on the occasion, the food can be simple consisting of 3 dishes or elaborate which could be two sweet dishes, two appetizers followed by a main course with salads, cold drinks and followed by fresh fruit, paan and dried fruits.
The Bohri cuisine consists of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian specialties and the dishes have a lot of similarity to the Gujarathi and Mughlai cusines of India as well as from the Arabic and Middle Eastern cuisines. Non-vegetarian specialties are more popular as they are part of festive meals however everyday food at home consists of vegetarian dishes very much like the Gujarathi meals.
The traditional Bohra food is very difficult to find in restaurants. The best place to eat a bohra meal would be at a Bohra’s home or at a bohra wedding or festive celebration.
Here are some of the Bohra cuisine’s traditional and signature dishes.
Daal Chawaal Palida is a dish that is purely a Bohra specialty and is made in every Bohra home almost once a week and on many occasions. It is a vegetarian dish consisting of Dal chawal- pulao made of rice and boiled tur daal garnished with fried onions and accompanied by Palida - a curry made of chick pea flour and vegetables like drumsticks, bottle gourd and tomatoes.
Malida, Sheer khurma, Thuli, Talalwo, Kalamro, Lacchka are some sweet dishes that are premier Bohra dishes.
Khichada, Hadisa, Kheema Pulao, Bohra Kari chawal, Chikoli, Masoori Pulao Sarki, Paya Khichadi are some dishes that make up the main course in a Bohra Thal.
Appetizers like Dabba Ghosht, Foil chicken, Lagan ka Seekh, kababs , Raan are some well known Bohra specialties too.
So try to have bohra food
Live to eat!
Image Courtesy: pakistanifoodrecipies.com