Dummy's Guide to the Parsi Pulao and Masala Dal

Step-by-step guide to a Parsi staple

Parsi New Year falls on August 17, 2019

August 17 is Parsi New Year. Before you go around wishing your Parsi friends on their new year and asking them to feed you dhansak, know that it’s the one thing you likely won’t be served on that day. Contrary to popular belief, dhansak is not a festive dish. Sure you have it every other Sunday with Parsi Brown Rice and salad but it’s never had during auspicious days such as New Year, Navjote and weddings. Dhansak is often the dish of choice when someone has passed on in the house and you toss together all the leftover vegetables and meat and cook them with different dals. What you can ask for on Parsi New Year, though, is Pulao and Masala Dal. Every family has different recipes for Parsi Pulao and Masala Dal that’ve been handed down over generations. These ones have been handed to me by my mother-in-law:

Parsi Pulao


For marinating

  • 2 legs chicken

  • 1 small bowl curd

  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander-cumin powder

  • 2 tsp red chilli powder

  • 2 tsp ginger garlic masala

  • 2 tsp rechado paste

  • 1tbsp oil

  • Salt to taste

For cooking

  • 1 tbsp oil

  • 3-4 cloves

  • 1 cardamom

  • 3 cinnamon

  • 3 pepper

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 onions (chopped)

  • 2 onions (sliced)

  • 3 tomatoes (pureed)

  • 3 potatoes

  • 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste

  • 1/2 bunch mint leaves

  • 1 1/2 cup rice

  • 1 pinch saffron soaked in water

How to cook Parsi Pulao

  • Mix curd, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, coriander-cumin powder, red chilli powder, ginger garlic masala, rechado paste, oil and salt

  • Marinate chicken in the mixture for 30 minutes

  • Deep fry sliced onions and keep aside

  • Separately, heat oil

  • Add cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, bay leaves

  • Once they start to crackle add the chopped onions and salt

  • Sauté till they turn pink

  • Add ginger garlic paste

  • Add tomato puree and sauté till it becomes dark red

  • Add potatoes, marinated chicken, half of the mint leaves and rice

  • Let it cook in a vessel with a lid (as opposed to a pressure cooker)

  • Once rice is mostly cooked, add saffron water remainder of the mint leaves

  • Let it cook completely (tip: keep the vessel on a pan so the rice doesn’t burn)

  • Once done, garnish with fried onion

Parsi Masala Dal


  • 3/4 cup tur dal

  • 1/4 cup moong and masoor dal mixture

  • 1 onion (chopped)

  • 1 potato

  • 1 tomato

  • Few cloves of garlic

  • 1/2 small bunch coriander

  • 1/2 small bunch mint

  • 1 pinch Turmeric

  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder

  • 1/2 tsp sambar masala

  • 1/2 tsp coriander-cumin powder

  • 1 1/2 tbsp (heaped) dhansak masala

  • 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste

  • 1/2 tsp garam masala

  • 1 tbsp ghee

  • Salt to taste

How to cook Parsi Masala Dal

  • Soak tur dal, moong dal and masoor dal for half hour

  • Strain water and keep aside

  • In a pressure cooker add onion, potato, tomato, garlic, half the turmeric, red chilli powder, sambar masala, coriander-cumin powder, ginger garlic paste, two generous pinches of dhansak masala and salt to taste

  • Add the dals and water and mix well (tip: add more than twice the amount of water as the dals)

  • Bring the dal to boil for three whistles and simmer the gas and let it cook for 15 more minutes

  • Cool and blend

  • In a separate vessel fry chopped onions till they turn pink

  • Add remainder of the ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander-cumin powder, sambar masala, garam masala and dhansak masala

  • Once the masala is cooked stir it into the dal

  • Add ghee

  • Garnish with coriander and mint