DISCOVER TOPLI PANEER, AN ELUSIVE PARSI DELICACY
Topli paneer is a soft cheese that is difficult to make and hence a lesser-known Parsi food item. While it’s not commonly found in restaurants, you can order some from members of the community such as Aban Pardiwala, who make and sell it from their homes.
To order from Aban Pardiwala, you can call her at 93222 77950. Orders are to be collected from her home at Pedder Road.
There’s nothing quite like the iceberg-white topli paneer, coiled in its saline bath, to summon memories of my childhood: of large jars of paneer tucked away within the innards of the fridge to evade my ferreting eye; of bowlfuls eaten in my great aunt’s house, after lunch, while the lulling afternoon dozed and yawned around me; of my blythe, beautiful mother, ladling out an early birthday breakfast of warm, sugared ravo and cool, salty paneer, the sun squinting through the open windows.
It is a difficult dish to make, an elusive dish, not usually offered at Parsi restaurants whose menus are built around a greatest hits version of Parsi food.
But Aban Pardiwala makes it. Out of the beatific Ms. Pardiwala’s kitchen come all the Parsi food staples – sali boti, chicken farcha, kid gosh, dhansak pastes. Most significantly (for me) though, the topli paneer.
To understand what topli paneer tastes like, imagine a panacotta, wobbly, creamy, tangy, and streaked with salt. Ms. Pardiwala conjures up delightful vegetarian versions with the aid of her beloved Rosie, sprightly at 79. “It’s very hard to make these,” she says. “It has taken me 10 years to get it right.”
Those 10 years were well spent. I carry home a dozen delicious paneers, sloshing in their eddies of whey. By nightfall, they are over.
Feature photo by Elvis D’Silva