Parsi food has earned a reputation for being complicated and just a little bit unattainable for those outside the community. I’ve often watched people salivating over Chicken Farchas or Patra Ni Macchi as they lament their lack of Parsi friends so they can snag those coveted dinner spots at Navjotes and Baug weddings. Sure, the Lagan Nu Patra (wedding feast served on banana leaves) is an experience unto itself, but there’s no need to wait around for an invite before tucking into a Parsi specialty.
One of the best examples of this is the Saas Ni Macchi, a fish dish in a sweet and tangy white sauce. The word ‘saas’ is simply a Parsi-fied twist on the word sauce and the dish is inspired in part by continental white sauces and the Portuguese influence of using vinegar with fish. It’s a coveted menu item at events but also a staple for festive occasions like Navroz when families gather to eat a hearty home-cooked meal. Plus, with less than 10 ingredients and a straightforward recipe, even the most tentative home chef can serve this up with ease.
Also Read: A Beginner’s Guide To Parsi Cuisine
Pomfret is the fish of choice for most since the flesh is firm and stands up well to being cooked in the sauce without flaking, but any firm white fish will serve the purpose. Some people even prefer to sub in prawns for an interesting twist and a slightly more intense seafood flavour. White flour (maida) is most commonly used to achieve a pure white sauce, but if you’re making it at home chickpea flour is a great addition for the added nuttiness, if you don’t mind sacrificing the visual appeal. Plus if you’re looking for a hassle-free midweek option, you can even bake the dish instead of simmering it on the stovetop, so there’s truly a Saas for every occasion.
4 – 6 fillets of firm-fleshed white fish
1 medium-sized red tomato or 8 -10 cherry tomatoes
2 heaped tbsp chickpea flour
1 heaped tsp garlic paste or 3 cloves garlic, mashed
2 – 3 green chillies
1 tsp cumin powder
1 large egg
2 heaped tsp brown sugar or jaggery
1 tbsp brown vinegar
1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander leaves
3 tbsp cooking oil
2 cups of water
Salt to taste
Clean, rinse and pat dry the fish pieces with kitchen paper and set aside
Finely chop the tomato(es) and the green chillies.
In a large flat pan or wok, add the oil put the oil, the chickpea flour, garlic paste, and cumin powder and mix well over low to medium heat, stirring the paste continuously until it just begins to bubble.
Slowly add half the water, stirring continuously to avoid lumps forming and add the chopped tomato.
Lower the heat and add the pieces of fish, giving the pan a shake.
Cover and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, turn the fish over carefully, give the pan a shake and swivel occasionally so that the contents do not burn or stick at the bottom.
In a small bowl, put the egg, sugar and vinegar and beat together well until the ingredients are blended.
Check to see if the fish is cooked and that there is sufficient liquid in the pan (about 1½ cups), and take it off the heat.
Add salt and give the pan a shake, and set it aside for about 5 minutes for the contents to cool a bit.
Pour the beaten egg mixture over the contents of the pan, shake it and return it over low heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the coriander leaves, simmer for 5 more minutes, and serve in a large dish.
Garnish with more coriander leaves and serve hot with Yellow Rice, pickles, and fried or roasted poppadums.