The Dawoodi Bohra community, a.k.a. the Bohris comes under the Ismaili branch of Shia Islam. Often referred to as Bohris, they have their roots in Yemen while most of their population resides in India, Pakistan, and the Middle east. Bohras have been entrepreneurs, businessmen, and traders for generations. This is the reason why they are called "Bohra" which has been derived from a Gujarati word that primarily means businessmen. The community has a rich cultural heritage. This reflects well in the Bohri cuisine with elaborate recipes and the presence of various spices.
When people from the Bohra community came to India, they first got settled in Surat, Gujarat, and then moved to different parts of the country. Due to this, the community has a major influence on Gujarati culture in their language and the food as well.
A normal Bohri meal is a series of beautiful dishes which are eaten in a specific sequence and the type of service is also quite different from how we eat normally. When we say meal, Bohri cuisine is a whole experience! The Bohras take their food very seriously and it is not a casual dining experience at all.
The Bohri Thaal
The most important element in the Bohri cuisine is the Bohri Thaal. As the name indicates, it's food served in round platters called Thaal or Thaali. But this one's different. A Bohri Thaal is way bigger than a normal-sized thali. It's as big as a tabletop and can accommodate up to 8 people where everyone eats from their particular section. Imagine it like a big pizza where everyone has a slice of their own.
No one starts eating unless all the people have joined the seating. After everyone is seated, a traditional handwashing ritual is done in Chelamchi Lota followed by eating a grain of salt which is important before the meal commences.
Everyone is served Sharbat before starting their meals. Gol Paani is one of the most loved beverages in the community which is made with jaggery, mint leaves, lime, basil seeds, and water.
Food is served one after the other in huge platters and there is absolutely no cutlery that has to be used. The Bohras believe in eating with their hands and everything is self-served using hands, even the big pieces of meat like Raan.
One interesting fact, Bohras like to start their meal with desserts! Yes! It can be anything but generally, they eat sweetened rice called "Sodanna", ice-creams or Halwa to start their meal. The sweet dishes are called "Meethas".
Meethas are followed by "Khaaras" which means savoury dishes. After every course of Khaara, they eat Meetha and the courses go on that way.
Snacks in Bohri cuisine
After the dessert course, the first Khaaras meal in Bohri Thaal is several snacks that are loved by the Bohras. These snacks include Patti Kheema Samosa which is filled with the spiced mutton mixture, mutton patties, Aloo patties, fried chicken, and kebabs.
The piece de resistance is Lagan Nu Seekh which is very similar to a minced meat pie enriched with an array of spices and topped with eggs.
Bohras are fond meat eaters and most of their snacks use meat in it, primarily mutton.
Main course dishes of Bohri cuisine
Meethas are again consumed after the snacks and then come the hearty main courses. One of the most loved main course dishes is surprisingly a vegetarian dish. It is called Dal Chawal Palidu. Rice and lentils are cooked in layers in Dum and then it is served with sautéed Moringa. The Bohras are so fond of this dish that no celebration ends without having Dal Chawal Palidu, and it's not even an exaggeration.
Then comes a variety of curries. These include Qormas, slow cooked meat curry in Bohri Kaara masala, Kebab Ni Tarkaari, and the most loved Raan. Raan is a slow-roasted leg of mutton that is super tender and is eaten with Naan and Rotis.
Then enters the very famous Bohri Biryani. This is probably the most famous rice dish from the unexplored Bohri cuisine.
The recipe of Bohri biryani either has mutton or chicken and is very similar to a Mughlai biryani. The meat is kept marinated in spices and ginger garlic paste overnight then cooked in yoghurt and a lot of spices. Then it is layered with cooked rice, topped with mint leaves, fried onion, saffron and ghee. It is then cooked in Dum so that the rice absorbs the flavours of the meat and becomes flavourful.
This biryani comes to the table and everyone eats it together with their hands. This depicts unity, equality, and sharing. Each person has their own section on the plate. Though it's not marked, everyone stays within their section and eats with utmost respect and love for each other.
The Biryani is again followed by another dessert and this is how the meal ends.
Where to find Bohri food in Mumbai
Mumbai being the economic capital of the country has attracted Bohras and over the years a lot of Bohras made Mumbai their home. It has one of the largest populations of Dawoodi Bohra community after Surat. Though Bohri food is not that well explored by foodies, there are quite a few good places in Mumbai that one can go to if they are looking to enjoy a Bohri meal.
1. The Bohri Kitchen, Worli
Located in Worli, this iconic place is run by a mother-son duo who aim to take Bohri cuisine on a global level. It initially started from home where Mrs Nafeesa used to call in people at home on weekends just to give them an experience of home-cooked Bohri Thaal. Currently, The Bohri Kitchen a.k.a. TBK is one of the most renowned places that serve the complete authentic Bohri Thaal with finger-licking dishes.
2. The Bohri Fusion, Vikhroli
One of the very famous hubs for good quality Bohri food, The Bohri Fusion is a great option if you stay anywhere around Vikhroli or Powai. Well-known for its mutton Shami Kebab, chicken Kheema and Irani Cheese Kebab, this place serves great authentic Bohri food which is loved by the locals for its taste and authenticity.
3. Sam's Bohri Zaika, Chandivali
Located in the busy area of Chandivali, Sam's Bohri Zaika is known for its mouth-watering Bohri dishes, particularly their Haleem and Khichda which taste brilliant. With a cosy ambience and beautiful décor, this place gives a very good Bohri Thaal experience to the diners. With a small seating setup and home delivery facilities, they also take in bulk orders. So if you stay anywhere near Chandivali and are planning to feed something new to your friends at your next party, you know where to go!
4. The Tha'l Co, Bandra west
Situated on the very famous Hill road, The Tha'l Co is a beautifully set up restaurant that serves authentic Bohri cuisine. People love the place for its location, ambience, lavish décor, and hygiene practices. With the most ordered dishes being Bohri chicken biryani and mutton seekh kebab, The Tha'l Co is a meat lover's dream. All the meat dishes are tender and made with authentic Bohri spices and spice mixes. All in all, you need to pay a visit to The Tha'l Co to experience their Bohri Thaal.
This was all that you needed to know about the beautiful food from the Bohras. So, when are you planning to try out the food?