Fast and feast with the Bohras

Jul 13, 2013, 00:47 IST | Ruchika Kher and Dhara Vora

Food and festivals go hand in hand. The holy month of Ramzan has begun and with it, parts of the city transform into a haven for food lovers. But, not many are aware of the delish spread made by the Bohra community. The GUIDE stumbled upon a gastronomical joyride to bring these delights under the spotlight

Bohra Muslims are known to love their food. So, it’s no surprise that their food offers a variety of delectable dishes. The community has a tradition of eating food from one Thal (a huge round metal plate with food items). “Eight people eat from one thal,” shares Maleka Rupawala, a home cook in Marol who makes a variety of dishes for Bohra Muslims. Most place their orders with her and pick it up from her residence.

A retailer in Bohri Mohalla selling snacks and savouries does brisk business after sundown. Pics/Bipin Kokate, Pradeep Dhivar and Datta Kumbhar

Dinner Favourites
Typically, one thal has two starters - usually Chicken Tikka/ Chicken Cutlets/Shami Kebab and Tandoori Batata. Then, it comprises of mains like Dabba Gosht (a succulent boneless mutton dish) and rice dishes such Biryani or Pulao. As a vegetarian option, Bohras prefer soup with rice. “We opt for lentil soup and bottle gourd soup among others,” mentions Rupawala. Two options in sweets form part of the thal. Thals are priced between R1,000 to R3,000, depending on the items.

Fast breakers
While in the past, the Bohra community would break their Ramzan fast at sunset with a host of dishes that were rich and heavy, things have drastically changed now. The Iftar (evening meal with which Muslims break their fast) for the Bohra community now consists of dates (an integral part), biscuits and tea.

“Our community has seen a revolution over time. We have started believing that Iftar should be light, mainly for health reasons. Also, after a while, we eat a full meal, so it’s better that the evening one is lighter,” reasons Imran Suratwala of Saifee Caterers; he’s been in the business of catering Bohra cuisine for
60 years.

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>> When one talks about Bohra food, it is essential to mention Dal Chawal Palidu (DCP), an absolute necessary for the community. DCP is a vegetarian rice dish created out of Tuvar Dal (lentils), rice and a flour-based stew, stewed with drumstick or bottlegourd. Sometimes, a non-vegetarian version of the same is also consumed, where mutton is added to the dish. “DCP is very famous in our community. We don’t eat during Ramzan and the day of the Eid, but also on the first day of every month. It is an exclusive dish,” informs Suratwala.

>> The Russian Kebab is another unique and interesting dish that people in the Bohra community relish. It is made of minced chicken and mint chutney balls, mixed with seviyyan and then deep fried. These are generally eaten as starters in the thal.

Food facts
> Bohra food is not very spicy. Bohras like their food almost bland.
> Nowadays, they use less oil in the dishes.
> The food is not very salty.
> Aginonomoto is never used in their food.

How did the term ‘Bohra’ originate?
The word Bohra comes from the Gujarati word ‘vehru’ (trade) referring to their traditional profession. Today, most Bohras speak Gujarati in their homes. 

Street wonders


If you thought khichdi was for the sick, try the Khichda. A lentil and mutton combination cooked for several hours to produce a rich texture, this dish is rich in flavour and spice. A similar dish belonging from Hyderabadi cuisine, is referred to as Haleem, though it is cooked for a longer period of time.
At Jalil Cold Drink and Juice Centre, 79/83 Arsiwala Building, Raudat Tahera Road, Bohri Mohalla.

Ice cream
Ice cream

The Icecreamwalas, as their surname suggests, take their ice cream very seriously. And hence they have successfully been hand churning out fresh fruit ice creams for 125 years now. Taj Ice Cream wears its crown with humility and runs through a simple shop at Bhendi Bazaar. Their ice creams are known for its dense creamy texture, which is achieved by hand-churning it for several hours in wooden vats or sanchas. Taj is known for its fresh fruit versions and the Sitaphal Ice Cream (`400 per kg) is a must-have at any time of the year.
At Taj Ice Creams, 36/40 Bohri Mohalla, opposite Indadiya Bakery.
Call 23461257


Just as we find the surnames of people from the Bohra community endearing, the name of this sweet also leaves a smile on our face. Khaja, as the name suggests, is something that will be gobbled down as soon as you buy it. And 50-year-old store, Tawakkal Sweets, which is currently run by brothers Shabbir, Mohammad, Mustafa Mithaiwala and Shabbir’s son Moayyad, is known for it. Made using maida, malai, mawa and other rich ingredients, one should try their regular Mawa Khaja (`48 per piece) or if you wish to indulge, the Malai Khaja (`90 per piece) will be apt. Also try Mawa Samosa (`20 per piece) and other Bohra sweets such as Salampak and Kajupak.
At Tawakkal, Khara Tank Road, Bohri Mohalla.
Call 23466360 / 2366353

Aloo Patrelwali biryani
This one is a fake biryani, in a good way. When the proprietors informed us that the Aloo Patrelwali Biryani is a biryani made without rice, we were stumped. The dish is made of patrel leaves, commonly used for making Aloo Vadi and is cooked with mutton and a mix of different masalas. Usually, they offer chicken versions, but during Ramzan, they prepare a special mutton variant. Costs `180 per kg.
At Firoz Farsan, Khara Tank Road, Bohri Mohalla.
Call 23463638

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