January 4, 2022
Growing up in a Parsi home in Mumbai, my mother often stocked our kitchen with organ meat, something we took for granted. I woke up to mum’s toast and bukka (goat kidneys) curling in the pan for breakfast; she would quiet its mild funk with ginger, garlic, cumin, and chili. For lunch, mum would mash and shape goat brains into cutlets, coat them with bread crumbs, and fry them. Winters brought her chora ma khariya, goat trotters wallowing for hours in black-eyed peas, until they transformed into a thick dark butterscotch-hued stew. My grandparents, who had lived much of their lives in a Gujarati village, spoke of bhujan, a hodge-podge of kidney, heart, liver, and possibly testicles, left to simmer over a wood flame. To this day, my mother remembers mudi, a dish from her childhood made from parts of a lamb’s head.
Parsis have long loved offal, the internal organs of animals. For my grandparents, offal symbolized precarious village life, one that valued and respected every part of a slaughtered animal and a workaround for less than accessible refrigeration. For my great aunts, it represented tradition — it was how their mother had eaten, and their grandmother before her. But this celebrated culinary practice is slowly disappearing from Parsi homes.
Parsi gastronomic history features dishes such as khara kaleji bukka (savory liver, kidney, and sweetbreads), tarela bheja (fried brain), bhaji ma bheja (brains cooked with spinach), liver cutlets, and jeeb ni aadimudi (sweet-sour tongue and liver cooked in sugar and vinegar), bukka par eeda (kidneys on eggs), liver khichdi, and brain curry. Early 20th century English and Gujarati cookbooks from home cooks, caterers, and restaurateurs such as Bhicoo Manekshaw, Jeroo Mehta, Katy Dalal, Deenbai Pestonji Dubash, and Goolbai Sanga helped preserve these recipes.