“Mara mai ae Bafat Mari”
Loosely translated to my mother blurted out something she wasn’t meant to, the word ‘Bafat’ is popular, especially amongst the teenage Parsi population. Having been very close to my very well-meaning but honest mom growing up I’ve gone through several such moments where she would ‘Bafat’ something that was meant to be a secret and I’d then get grief about it from my friends who didn’t understand how I told my mom everything. After all, sharing your secrets especially with parents is almost like going against every rule of being an angsty teenager!
I don’t really know how this word got into the Parsi vocabulary. While writing this article I spent many hours researching the origins (ok, most of it was spent on Facebook) but all I could find was recipes for Bafat masala. While the Parsis now claim the Chicken Bafat to be theirs, its more likely that like the Vindaloo they adopted this recipe from the Mangloreans for whom Pork Bafat and for that matter event Bafat masala is a staple. In the olden times, most Parsi homes had a ‘boy’ or a cook that was Goan or Mangalorean so one can only assume that this lovely Bafat dish is their legacy to our community.
I found the base recipe for this Bafat in Bhicoo Maneckshaw’s Parsi Food and Customs book and then have tweaked it for spice and interchanged the meat with chicken below.
First, make the Bafat masala by grinding together all the masala ingredients with a little vinegar. I used Kolah’s sugarcane vinegar to give it that extra sour kick and the Parsi touch but you can use any other vinegar too.
Marinate the chicken in ginger-garlic paste and set aside. In a pan, heat up some oil and saute the chopped onions till light brown. Add in some water along with the saucepan, par-boil the potatoes until they are half cooked and set that aside too. You can see in the below pic that I also added the meat in along with the potatoes – if you’re cooking with boneless chicken, its better to cook the chicken later but if you are using lamb or bone-in chicken that requires extra time to cook then you can add that in now to semi cook it.
In a separate pan, add some ghee and fry the ground spices until the aroma starts wafting.
Add tomatoes, jaggery, salt, water and cook on low for 1 – 2 minutes.
When eating, I prefer a smoother gravy rather than biting into chunks of chilli so once the tomatoes were cooked I took the mixture off the stove and just blended it with a hand-blender. This is of course optional.
Now, put the gravy back on the heat. Add in the chicken, potatoes as well as the water and let it simmer until both are cooked through.
Serve hot with roti. This dish can also be made with lamb but you’d probably need a slow cooker or a pressure cooker to cook the meat through.
To make enough for 3 -4 people you will need:
For the Masala:
10 Dry Kashmiri Chillies
1.5 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 stick Cinnamon
4 pods Cardamom
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
70 – 100ml Vinegar (preferably Kolah’s cane vinegar)
For the Gravy:
400 gm Boneless Chicken
1 big Onion finely chopped
1.5 tsp Ginger-Garlic paste
2 Potatoes cubed
3 Tomatoes finely chopped
60 gm Jaggery
1/2 cup Water
2 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Ghee
1 tbsp Oil