A recent road trip to coastal Gujarat from my city of Hyderabad took me through many cities, towns and villages in the course of an almost thousand kilometer drive. When Zoroastrians first came to India from Persia, they brought their sacred fire with them in a boat. They were given shelter by Jadav Rana in Sanjan and the Holy fire was moved from Sanjan to the Barhot Caves until it finally got its home at the Iranshah in the sleepy village of Udvada.

For most Parsis, a trip to Udvada is a must after their thread ceremony, marriage and many other happy occasions. Visiting the holiest flame is always combined with ‘pet pooja’. Udvada is the place where one can eat the freshest of fish, be it Pomfrets, Bombay Ducks or the local Boi fish. One cannot imagine returning from Udvada without sampling the legendry local Fried Boi. I ate this fish for lunch and dinner and would have happily eaten it for breakfast too if I hadn’t been sidetracked by the many cups of milky tea to which mint and lemon grass was added, the sweet ‘sev’(vermicelli), Parsi ‘Pora’ (omlette) and liver fry which was that day’s breakfast menu at Ashishvang Hotel where I was staying. A visit after breakfast to the Iranshah where the fire has been burning continuously since 1,250 years and to the nearby Pundole ‘agiari’ (fire temple) took me past local vendors of dried ‘ber’ (Indian Plum), home made pepper and green garlic pappads,

the famous Irani bakery which sells the famous ‘nankathai’ and ‘batasas’ (biscuits), sandal wood vendors and small shops selling methia nu and libu nu achar (mango and lime pickles) and gharab nu achar( fish roe pickle). We stop to buy the ‘dhansak’ and ‘sambhar’ ( different from the South Indian ‘sambar’)  masalas that give lentils their distinctively Parsi flavour.

The next stop is Navsari, 77 km away. The sprawling old Navsari Atashbehram was built in 1765. Directly opposite it is “The Kolas.” Praying is thirsty work and we end up sampling the falooda, ice cream, raspberry and double lemon sodas plus scoops of handmade ice cream. I liked the mango and chikoo flavors the most. Buying the famous Navsari saris is next on the agenda and then we head back to Udvada for a late lunch comprising of Pomfret curry, fried boi (I was happy to note that they were large: their heads and tails spilled out of the serving dish), papeta nu gosh (lamb and potatoes) and fried chicken cutlets.

More tea and we were all set to drive to Daman, the ex Portuguese colony which is only 12 km away from Udvada on a very scenic and narrow road. But this time,  I am very sorry to see the beautiful old trees hacked and chopped to make room for wider roads. The old tree lined curved road winding past old Parsi owned bungalows seemed to be a thing of the past. Daman’s main claim to fame is its sale of alcohol as the rest of Gujarat is a ‘dry’ state.

I love Daman for its Old Portuguese buildings and churches. The town is divided by the Daman Ganga River. The northern section is known as Nani Daman, or Little Daman, and contains the hotels, restaurants, bars and so on. In the southern part, known as Moti Daman, or Big Daman, government buildings and churches are enclosed within an imposing wall.

We are back in Udvada in time for dinner. There is more fresh fish on the menu and Chicken Farchas. We had passed the fisher women in Udvada market earlier that evening and were taken pleasantly surprised at just how inexpensive the fresh shrimp and seafood actually was.

After another hearty breakfast, we set out for our return trip to Hyderabad via Nasik and Aurangabad. I realize that we have spent more time eating and sightseeing in coastal Gujarat than we have spent praying. This is just my kind of a pilgrimage.

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33 responses »

  1. Aline says:

    Dear Beyniaz Edulji,

    Is this building that you posted the photo in Daman? Do you know where it is located? Thanks!

  2. Varun Reddy says:

    How can the fire keep burning for more than 1,250 years? Any clues as to what makes it do so?

    And the fish – I am so hungry right now… The pics in these blog posts excite me as much as the writing…

    These places will surely be on my list during my next Vadodara trip…

    • beyniaz says:

      Thanks for reading this Varun. The fire is fed with wood and sandal wood every few hours through the night and day by the priests on duty and so is never allowed to go out.

  3. Dear Beyni,

    Travelling is something lovely. You know it more than me and then, when you combine it with tasty food served in a platter….My Oh My!

    Nice blog- travelogue.

  4. Geetashree Chatterjee says:

    A delicious treat and a taste buds tickling pilgrimage. Enjoyed reading.

  5. Indrani Talukdar says:

    You have tickled a Bengali’s palate in a way you can never imagine! Now I want to go to Udvada to sample the fish. Great write-up, as always.

    • beyniaz says:

      Indrani, I would love to hear a Bengali’s opinion of the Boi fish. I am sure any Bengali would relish this fish.

  6. deepika says:

    A good informative write up and a unique pilgrimage.
    Bye the way, is there any scpoe for vegetarians?

  7. Madam,

    I normally avoid seeing your food blog lest my hunger for good food, increases!

    But this time around, your blog has inspired my wife to take a little more interest in the dishes she made the last two days, and that is how I have read your blog fully.

    I was about to end the comment with “Bon apetite” but stopped short as I recalled a popular joke – I am sure you too would have heard it.

    A nice south indian guy was in Paris, and he was eating at a hotel when a frenchman walked in, and said, “Bon Apetite, Monsiuer”. Our friend thought that the frenchman was introducing himself. He stood up, and said, “Chokkalingam, sir!” This went on for a few days, after which, an other, French knowing Indian told our friend what Bon apetite really meant. Our friend eagerly waited for the next day to correct himself – when the frenchman came into the restaurant, our friend beat him to the wish, saying, “Bon apetite” first, and the surprised frenchman, grinned, and said in return, “Chockalingam, sir!”

  8. vimala madon says:

    Delicious blog beyniaz. You’re the kind of person my boys love, always talking and thinking and doing food!
    But how come I didn’t get to eat most of the things you mentioned when we were there last year. Possibly we ate what our hosts (at the navjote) provided. Certainly not because Behram was too busy praying!

    • beyniaz says:

      Thanks Vimala. Tell the boys to drop in for a treat anytime they are hungry. What did you eat in Udvada if you didn’t have the dishes I mentioned? After all this is standard fare served by all the hotels there. Where did you stay?

  9. Sonal Shree says:

    Beyniaz, why do you put the pics of the trio-on-plate everytime (it was on facebook and now, here)for me to curse the distance between us created by the computer screen!
    Very informative account.

  10. Zarin says:

    That was good reading, Beyniaz, thanks. Enjoyed.
    We too go to Udvada practically every year. We stay for atleast 3 days in which I like to relax. Relaxing means reading for me, I love to lie in bed and read some comics, fiction and non-fiction books are for home reading. Initially, we used to go by train but then since 5-6 years we go by car.Those are very memorable days for me. In the evening, we walked on the beach right up to Kolak which is a small fishing village, we would take a motor-boat working on kerosene or petrol, previously there were boats with sails (which was more fun), we would cross the creek and go on the opposite side which is the Daman side where there are a number of bars which serve alcoholic drinks, We used to have beer with peanuts and then head for home by a return boat. It would be too dark by that time to walk from the beach side so we would walk from the village. After this long walk, we develop good appetite and are ready for dinner.

  11. Aaftaab Vakil says:

    Hi beyniaz,

    There is an agaiary at Daman, the gate of which has a plaque in portugese

    “sagrado foco dos parsis

    prohibid a entrada”

  12. Zahl Tantra says:

    I must meet up to know about these saris of Navsari. My brother and I did the udwada trip in jan this year and we had such a fun- tastic time eating all the parsi delicaies you write about that we’ve resolved to make it an annual affair !

    • Beyniaz says:

      Thanks for reading this and writing in Zahl. Guess the numbers of pilgrims are swelling mainly because of the great food. Navsari (and nearby Surat) shops stock the most exquisite embroidered, zari and ‘ghat’ saris.

  13. vimala ramu says:

    A good informative account, though, being a staunch Veggie, I can’t imagine Pilgrimage and non veg food together !

  14. Sneha says:

    Hey, the next time you come anywhere near the length and breath of Mumbai – drop me a note and I’ll be there, happy to take you around this place 🙂
    Excellent account. That’s how a pilgrimage should be…lke yours was. God feels good looking at us happy.

  15. Jehangir says:

    Hi interesting mouthwatering article – enjoyed reading it. You missed the Dudh na puff and the home made ice cream sellers.

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