A special thanks to my friend and client Alia Sojwal who first made and posted about her Undhiyu on social media. Not only did I pester her into sending some to me but she was also kind enough to come experiment in my kitchen on how we could evolve her Undhiyu recipe into the Parsi classic, Umbariyu.
I first came across the word ‘Umbariyu’ when I was sitting in the hospital bed with my mum. She was undergoing chemotherapy for her relapse and we had decided to spend the time translating the index of the Parsi magnum opus, Vividh Vani. I asked mum if she had eaten this dish and she told me she had not but it probably had something to do with the Undhiyu that everyone in Mumbai starts clamouring about the moment the slightest chill is in the air.
Turns out, the Umbariyu is exactly like the Undhiyu but, with meat. Trust a Parsi to do that!
I like researching the reason why a dish is called a certain thing and Undhiyu is called so because its traditionally made in an earthern pot that is place ‘oondho’ or upside down inside the earth and is then cooked using cow dung fuel (the slowest form of a fuel source) over multiple hours. Each layer in the pot has a different kind of root vegetable or winter bean/lentil and the steam that gathers in the pot not only cooks the vegetables slowly but also cooking it in the ground gives it a lovely smoky flavour.
I will be honest and say that I’ve not had that much Undhiyu before to know if this is still the way the dish is cooked. However, two things were pretty clear to me when I managed to translate the complete Umbariyu recipe. The first was that the smoking element was quite important and the second being that if I wanted to make this dish in our kitchens today I had to forget about cooking in the ground (I’m pretty sure #BawaGroom would just bury me in the pit if I tell him I need him to dig me one to trial out a recipe for the blog). I therefore filed the Umbariyu to the back of my head until I saw Alia’s post about her Undhiyu.
Coincidentally, on the same day I ended up seeing a replay of Masterchef Season 10 where Saransh Goila sets a pressure test and shows how he uses smoked butter to add that signature smokiness to his Butter Chicken. Something just went ‘ping’ in my head and I decided I now finally wanted to tackle the Umbariyu. It of course helped that winter is still on which means that all the ingredients are available.
The original plan was to just add some mutton to Alia’s Undhiyu recipe and we would be done. However, I asked for feedback on my favourite Parsi food group, Parsis Exchange Recipes and members told me that a traditional Umbariyu also had kebabs and eggs. And so, we decided to add those too!
The Umbariyu is what I would call a ‘Community Dish’ – a new category of recipes I’ve added on the blog actually. The reason being that you can only properly make it when you make a large portion of it and also because it takes about four people 3 – 4 hours to finish it. Now, if you are a lone cook this may put you off but it shouldn’t because you firstly you can halve this recipe and still get great results and also because this dish freezes incredibly well! When I completed the Umbariyu and posted pics about it on social media it turns out Surat also makes Chicken Umbariyu – sounds horrible to me though. However, since making this I did trying making it with Pork and it was simply magic!
So without further ado, here’s the full recipe for the Umbariyu – a tad bit long but very very worth it.