Postcards from Persia at Sodabottleopenerwala
If you’re a 90’s kid, get to know your Pop-Queen Anaida, a little more through her traditional Irani food served at Sodabottleopnerwala, our quirky Parsi den.
I’ll straight away get to the point and tell you – do yourself a favour. Walk into Sodabottleonerwala and eat the Persian Food by 90’s Pop Sensation Anaida.
Every time I have been to Soaabottleopenwala, it has always been a happy outing. Given the delicious Parsi-Bambaiya food they serve and the cheerful vibe they exude, it’s hard, not to fall in love with the place. However, I’ve never been blown away by their food as much as I was this time when I went for Anaida’s Pop-up, where they served Traditional Irani Food. Never have I ever had food like this before.
Starting from Anaida’s Soop e Jadooi, which had a beautiful blend of finally chopped coriander, pearl barley, turnip, mushroom, carrots and roasted vermicelli with chicken. The comforting flavour of this clear soup was truly magical. Perfect for a warm winter night, this soup, as Anaida puts it, can cure a soul. However, its vegetarian counterpart had my heart beating. Made with Spinach, Leaks, Parsley chopped together, boiled chickpea, kidney beans and mixed with caramelised onions, burnt garlic, ghee with dried mint and Kashk (dried yogurt), it tasted splendid! Anaida, being the gracious host ‘enlightened’ me about Kashk. It is thick yoghurt rolled in the shape of a ball, sun dried and stored. In order to eat it, Kashk is mixed with water and turned into paste every time before it’s consumed.
Also, the cream like consistency of the raitas like Mast-O-Khiyar (yoghurt with chopped cucumber, dried mint, rose petals and sea salt) and Laboo Burani (sweetened beetroot with rose petals) will keep you wanting for more. They are meant to clean your palate before you dunk down those curries and chelo. I also enjoyed eating Anaida’s Bademjan roll, served with Kashk. Bademjan was made out of a paste of roasted eggplant flavoured with fried onions and Irani spices, covered in bread. While it was similar to our very own Bharta and Roti, the addition of Kashk, which had a pungent-salty flavour and some mild Irani spices, rendered a distinct foreign flavour to this dish.
We also had Irani Haleem, usually eaten during breakfast. It had slow cooked Lamb and wheat paste flavoured with cinnamon, garnished with fried onions. Unlike Hyderabadi Haleem, this did not contain lentils and wasn’t cooked in ghee. Sweet fried onions and lime’s subtle tangy flavour beautifully complemented the deep meaty flavour. Spoon after spoon, the delicious flavour just grew stronger. It didn’t feel heavy, as it didn’t contain much fat either.
With each dish it kept getting harder and harder to not fall in love with this food. And, believe me the best was yet to come.
Along with rice (flavoured in saffron), served in pretty rose print bowls with enticing aroma, both Khorak-e-Ghost and Fesenjan were served.
Khorak-e-Ghost was prepared with slow cooked Lamb Shank flavoured with imported Persian spices and black lime. Iranis, Anaida explained, would squeeze the juice of whole black lime in the curry before eating, as they love tangy curries. However, I found the curry equally delicious as is, without squeezing the lime. The Lamb was tender and had enhanced flavours, as it had been slow cooked with mild spices.
As for Fesenjan, if I had the chance to travel to Iran for just one meal, it would be this. I am literally drooling while writing about it. Clearly, my favourite dish of the meal, this was made with chicken cooked with pomegranate molasses, ground walnuts along with tomato, onions and spices. The sweet, tangy, juicy flavour can be best enjoyed with Saffron Rice and that’s exactly what I did. The pomegranate flavour shone in the stew and walnuts added earthiness to the dish. This was worth every penny. I’ve heard that it’s cooked on special occasions in Iran and is hard to find in restaurants and now I do understand the celebrity status it enjoys.
While Anaida and I enjoyed talking about Irani films by Abbas Kirostami, Majid Majidi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the food kept pouring in. Already stuffed by now, I had small helping of Lubiya Polo, made with tomato and cinnamon flavoured minced lamb cooked with Basmati Rice. Served with a layer of bread on top, it tasted delicious with Masto-O-Khiyar.
I, in fact, found Baghali Polo prepared with dill flavoured with fava beans, with a dash of saffron butter, a lot tastier than Lubiya Polo. Anaida scooped up saffron butter and served it atop the rice. Trust me, it took the taste level several notches higher.
We finished our meal with Shole Zard and Persian Halwa. Shole zard was rice cooked with saffron and Rose water and garnished with almonds. Persian Halwa was made with wheat flour, cooked in ghee much like our Karah-Prashad, only difference being that it had rose water.
At the end our meal, I wanted to applaud Anaida and Chef Hemant for being so creative in the kitchen. Not only did they dig up the traditional recipes, but also made efforts to import ingredients such as saffron and spices from Iran, so as to make it an authentic fair. Anaida sourced the crockery and made sure the food was served just the way they would do it in Iran. And the highest respect goes to Mohit Balachandran, Head Masalchi of Sodabottleopnerwala for being brave and for leaving no stone unturned to put up this entire show together. You guys should put Fasenjan in your regular menu.
Whether it was the delicate blend of typical Persian flavours such as cinnamon, cardamom, rose and saffron or the tangy meat curries, the food had quintessential use of nuts and pomegranate. As a result, there was no one dominating flavour, but a blend of tangy, sweet, meaty, nutty, buttery and of course aromatic, all at the same time. I fell in love with the scent of dried rose petals, the whiff of saffron as the food kept me guessing, with layers of flavours in every bite.
DID YOU KNOW: The original Biryani contains no rice. In fact Biryani literally means ‘roasted in fire’. A speciality of Esfahan, a province in Iran, it’s made with fire-roasted minced lamb snuggled into folds of Naan. They’re serving it here at this Pop-Up.
NOTE: Postcards from Persia – a pop-up by Anaida Parvaneh at Sodabottleopnerwala (Khan Market & Mall of India) is available till 30 April 2017.
PS: I was invited to review the Irani Food served during the Pop-up. However, all views and thoughts are my own.
PPS: The pictures in the article are restaurant’s property and are NOT clicked by Gurjas of www.eatstoryart.in
In a nutshell:
Location: Sodabottleopenerwala – Khan Market, Mall of India (Noida)
Atmosphere: The restaurant has a happy, quirky and lively vibe.
Service: The manager and service boys are well informed about the menu and décor. They are the most friendly staff.
Food: Authentic Irani food. Do visit, as it’s hard to get such quality food in the capital. Also, its available only till 30 April 2017.
Must Haves: Fesenjan, Bhagali Polo, Irani Haleem, Anaida’s Soop e Jadooi umm.. almost everything.