Is it the love, the passion, the warmth, the generosity…which one was prevalent and overtaking the other when she decided and conceptualized such a great luncheon at her place?
I’m not here to do a psychological post-mortem! But Zara Chishty Abedin reminds me of my late grandmother who loved to treat people with traditional good food! Neither an occasion, nor a celebration is required for that. She just thought and invited 15 of us to her place to taste some traditional Sindhi cuisine.
Bindu Advani, a Sindhi was converted to Zara Chishty Abedin by virtue of getting married to a Muslim family. But when I reached her place I found a true Indian in her. She offers prayers with equal ease to Lord Buddha, Allah (Quran), or Guru Nanak, very much the same way she cooks Sindhi, Chinese, Mughlai, or continental dishes.
Sindhi cuisine is mostly non-veg and influenced by Mughal, Iranian, and Central Asian traditions. It has a predominance of rice, curry and a flat-bread of wheat. The dishes all have exclusive names and taste since they use subtle spices. We started with Sanna Pakoda (Small pakodas made of spinach and finely chopped onions.), Alu Tikki, Magaz ka Pakoda (Spicy goat brain fritters) paired with Sa Chutni (Green dhania mint dip) and chilled ginger ale. The day started with a bang! Absolutely gorgeous in taste as they use a few ingredients like Sukha Anardana in Alu Tikki, or Pulajiri (Shah Jeera) in Magaz ka Pakoda.
Then came the Sel Pallo, a popular Sindhi delicacy, where a whole Hilsha fish is slowly cooked in green masala. Master Chef Zara did it all by herself and it came out deadly! The gravy fish often has roe, which is called “aani” in Sindhi and is enjoyed as a delicacy. It was served with Keema Macaroni Ki Pudding. Sindhis consider Macaroni as veg. But this time it was cooked together with mutton keema and baked in eggs.
We had two back to back signature dishes from the province of Sindh – Dal Pakwaan and Kadhi Chawal. Dal Pakwaan is a breakfast item. It is a combination of spicy chana dal cooked with chopped onions and lemon wedges to garnish with green chutney to taste better. We had it with Pakwaan, the crispy, flaky fried bread that includes carom and cumin seeds. This tastes absolutely nutty. For Kadhi Chawal, the thick curry is made of water and gram flour along with okra, drumstick, turmeric, cluster beans, and curry leaves. We had it with steamed rice and boondi raita.
A loving mother of two darling daughters, a doting wife and an outstanding Chef, Zara is calm and composed when it’s a call to balance both her professional and professional life. She is a follower of Maulana Rumi’s quote. Everybody has been created with the desire to perform a specific task, according to this verse. And Zara decided, not to walk on anyone’s shadow. Whether she fails or succeeds, it is hers. No matter what others take from her, but they cannot take her dignity. Loving to love yourself is the greatest strength that she exercises within herself.
And that’s the reason, she wins everybody’s heart.