In my early days of cooking Parsi food, I remember one disastrous outcome to a dish that tasted nothing like my mom’s original and delicious version, although I’d followed her recipe every step of the way (or so I thought.)
In answer to my frustrated plea of ‘what did I do wrong with this gravy, mom?’, I got my mother’s straightforward and kind reply, ‘the only thing missing in this gravy is patience!’
Nowhere is that life lesson in Parsi cooking more relevant than in today’s recipe, inspired by my recent journey back to India, of a popular well-loved Parsi specialty Jardaloo Salli Boti; a recipe I’ve honed and perfected over years, one where every layer of aromatics and spices need to cook before adding the next one. (I’m sure those who’ve taste this dish before, are already running to fetch the ingredients.)
A boneless meat cubes (boti) preparation, traditionally using mutton or lamb, and chicken thighs in more recent times; the unique Jardaloo Salli Boti is a true Parsi Cuisine classic with strong Persian touches like dried apricot (jardaloo,) red vinegar and sugar along with a blend of mouthwatering Indian spices and aromatics.
Prior to serving, this tangy-n-spicy Parsi meat preparation is topped with store-bought crisp ‘Salli’, known in different parts of the world as shoestring potatoes or matchstick potatoes or potato straws.
And while the apricot-flavored Jardaloo Salli Boti is best served along with warm Indian breads like roti-chapati or naan, it’s just as amazing spooned over steaming basmati rice.
- 1 lb boneless meat of choice like chicken thighs/mutton/lamb cut in 1 inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (4-5 garlic cloves & ½ inch ginger, grated)
- ½ teaspoon each, salt & cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onion
- ½ teaspoon ground red chili or Cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 ½ teaspoon sugar or 1 teaspoon jaggery
- 3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2 cups chicken broth or water
- 5 dried apricots (see note below)
- ½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
- 2 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Salli or shoestring potatoes or crushed potato chips, as a topping
- In a bowl, bring the cubes of boneless meat together with grated ginger and garlic (ginger garlic paste) and salt/pepper. Let the meat marinade refrigerated for at least 2 hours or even overnight, especially if using mutton or lamb.
- Heat canola oil in a large pan and add the chopped onions. Fry to a light brown on a medium flame.
- Mix the marinated meat into the onions, sauté together till meat is coated with the aromatics (in mom's words: ‘let your nose guide you’.)
- Next, sprinkle the dry spices and jaggery or sugar and sauté for 5-7 minutes. If you feel the spices sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a few tablespoons of broth/water to help it cook.
- Add the diced tomatoes, apricot, salt and 2 cups of chicken broth (you can adjust the broth to the desired consistency of the gravy.) Bring this mixture to a boil and cook covered for 10-12 minutes till the broth is absorbed, and the meat and tomatoes are cooked through.
- Taste for salt and add cider vinegar, chopped cilantro to the preparation, simmer for another 3-4 minutes for the flavors to blend together.
- Serve Jardaloo Salli Boti hot, topped with Salli or shoestring potatoes (a handful of crushed potatoes chips will work as a substitute) alongside warm Indian bread like roti-chapati, naan or steaming basmati rice.
- Dried apricots can be used un-pitted since the apricot will soften and blend into the gravy, pits can be removed prior to serving or while eating.
- The dried golden apricots available in Western countries are generally sold pitted and work just as well for this preparation, offering a slightly tangier albeit equally delicious taste.