It is always a formidable task to present the less known cuisines of any country in its true, authentic form. Persian cuisine has been one such less-explored arena for us Indians.
Thankfully, SodaBottleOpenerWala has been the harbinger to revive the dying legacy of the wonderful chaotic, crowded, bustling, colorful, quirky, cluttered, eccentric and so real world of an Irani café.
After their #DoTheNew last year, and as a part of their 3-year-anniversary, SBOW has collaborated with famed singer Anaida Parvaneh, who, along with the chefs at SodaBottleOpenerWala presents a menu that has been curated to showcase traditional Persian dishes made using ingredients from Iran that will be available in Delhi at SodaBottleOpenerWala’s Khan Market and Noida outlets from March 18 to April 30, 2017.
My calling was to visit SBOW, Mall Of India, Noida to relish Anaida's thoughtful creations for dinner. Though SodaBottleOpenerWala retains its characteristic decor with simplistic quirks from the era of late 60's and early 70's, there is perhaps a chalk-and-blackboard list of dos and don'ts when at a Parsi Bhonu's place and the glass tables featuring tips and tricks to feel-at-home when at SBOW in general.
I must remark how the decor had an old-school look and feel to it even with porcelain rose-tinted crockery reminding me of my mother's vintage dinner sets. A life-size family tree tracing Mr. SodaBottleOpenerWala's lineage was also a welcome sight. :)
Coincidentally, the unveiling of the pop-up Menu with Anaida in attendance timed itself well with the celebration of Navroze, i.e. Parsi New Year in the offing a day later. It was a sheer delight to be acquainted with, and concur with Anaida's perception of a holistic aura to food. Also, her perspective of 'No Chili' concurs with mine as I detest spice in my food. It was a pleasure to share the table and a wonderful meal with a like-minded person as Anaida.
With a host of authentic Persian delicacies up their sleeves, each prepared using ingredients that have medicinal and healing properties, Anaida and Chef Hemant have presented the pop-up menu as an A’la Carte and as a vegetarian & non-vegetarian Sini, inspired by the concept of Indian Thalis specially curated with the entire Persian vegetarian and non-vegetarian experience on a platter.
Out of all the dishes on the Menu, Anaida's Soup-e-Jadooi and Salad-e-Salamat were the ones made solely with a holistic and natural healing purpose, borrowing from Anaida's mother's anecdotes.
The Soup-e-Jadooi is a remarkable concoction of chicken with coriander, pearl barley, mixed sprouts, turnip, mushroom, carrots and roasted vermicelli. It acts as the perfect pick-me-up for anyone feeling under the weather.
According to Anaida,
Here's what all was relished over some nice company and good banter at Anaida's Persian Pop Up...
To begin with, we had Irani Chai which was black tea brewed with love in a porcelain pot and served with dates and sugar cubes on the side.
Well, summer's here already and what better than to drive away the sweltering heat with a spoonful of delicious variations of Raita presented in the form of Mast-o-Khiyar (Iranian style Raita with a dash of chopped cucumber, dried mint and rose petals flavored with sea salt) and Laboo Burani, which is a Raita of sweetened beetroot in hung yogurt flavored with rose petals. Both these preparations went well with Salad-e-Salamat.
Irani Haleem came from a traditional Iranian recipe made using slow cooked lamb and wheat paste and went well with the quintessential Bambaiyya Pav.
Fesenjan was a specialty from Iran made by slow cooking chicken in pomegranate molasses along with walnuts turned out to be a personal favorite.
Khorak-e-Ghosht or lamb shank slow-cooked in onions, chick peas and mild spices flavored with Persian black lime was also well appreciated when paired with Saffron Rice.
One of the star variations to Ladies' Finger put forward by Anaida was christened as Khoresht-e-Bamiye and consisted of the humble vegetable being cooked with tomatoes and onions, topped with fried eggplant and finely fried potatoes.
Coming to eggplant, Anaida's Kashk-o-Bademjan is essentially an eggplant roll flavored with Iranian eggplant paste paired with fried onions and mild spices, served alongside flavorful Kashk, made from dried yogurt.
Among the rice preparations, we savored Dill and Fava Bean Rice being presented as Baghali Polo on the pop-up menu, and Chef Hemant's special creation, Tahchin which consists of chicken marinated in yogurt, cooked in charcoal, mixed with cardamom and saffron flavored rice. It was also served with a mildly spiced tomato dip on the side.
The curated selection of desserts is a delight, to say the least. Shole Zard or ‘yellow flame’ is a Persian pudding dating back several thousand years prepared with aromatic rice flavored with saffron and almonds. It was traditionally served at special occasions such as weddings, gatherings or new year as it is laden with saffron, an exotic and expensive ingredient.
On the other hand, Persian Halwa made with wheat flour cooked in ghee and rose water flavored with cinnamon and nuts formed for the perfect end to our Persian meal at Anaida's pop-up.
Also, as the outlet has a newly acquired liquor license, they believed in flaunting it by presenting their Vodka sampler. Being a teetotaler, I skipped its tasting but a capture was also good enough to appreciate its presentation.
Before I wrap up this account of my time at SBOW, Noida, I must also commend the staff for being on the toes with their on-fleek service, catering to regular patrons with as much aplomb as they did to us Bloggers. I had a wonderful time at SodaBottleOpenerWala and it remains my go-to place for all things authentically Persian. :)