Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Masoor ma Jheebh (Goat's tongue in Lentils)

As part of my new found zeal to blog and my newly distilled direction i.e. Gastronomic Heritage, one of the things I am going to write about are little known traditional Parsi recipes most of which are staring oblivion in the eye.

The Parsis of India are the descendants of a group of religious refugees who left Persia somewhere between the 8th and 9th centuries AD and landed on the western coast of India at Sanjan. They came seeking asylum and according to their legends promised to blend in with the local populace in speech, dress, food and other habits as long as they got to practice their religion as they pleased. They prospered in India and their food is a very interesting marriage of Indian flavours with the meat heavy and dry fruit rich traditions of Persia. With the advent of the Portuguese and British they soon adapted various European recipes and assimilated European origin produce in their food.

This post is a Recipe Post and deals with an old favourite which has lost its lustre in modern India. I remember this becoming infrequent at the table even when I was a little boy. Today it has almost totally disappeared from the Parsi dining table. This dish goes by the simple name Masoor ma Jheebh which translates into English as Tongue in Lentils. This was classically a a winter favourite and held pride of place with its close cousin Chora ma Paya (more on that in a later post). The Parsis love their meat and their legumes and bringing the two together is a common thing in Parsi cuisine.

Masoor ma Jheebh is traditionally made using goat or sheep tongue though I am sure it could also be made with beef or buffalo tongue. We still get orders for this at Katy's Kitchen though almost exclusively from expats back in India on short holidays after 20-30-40 years. It was almost a year since my last order when Joana Lobo asked me to cook some for an article she did for the Mumbai Mirror on tongue recipes. I realised that it was something right up our street and the resultant was a photo shoot from which I have put the pictures in this post.

The tongue is traditionally cooked in the lentils but I have found its better to cook both separately. The tongue is kept intact. It is cleaned (you may or may not skin it), marinated in salt, pepper, turmeric and ginger garlic paste. Then it is steamed till soft and put aside, the resultant soup/stock is also reserved. The lentils are best cooked in a pressure cooker with salt and turmeric. They are washed and water, salt and turmeric is added to the cooker. Once cooked (15 mins on simmer after steam is fully built up) Parsis traditionally add a vaghaar. This consists of finely chopped onions, garlic, green chillies & tomatoes, curry leaves and spices fried in vegetable oil. The onions are first fried till pink, the tomatoes, garlic next. once cooked the green chillies are added with some red chillie powder and garam masala powder. The vaghaar is allowed to cook well at a moderate heat with constant stirring. When done (i.e. when the oil separates from the spice mix) the vagaar is poured hot into the lentils, the reserved soup is added and the whole mix brought to a boil. It is then simmered and a small amount of jaggery is scraped in (you can use sugar if you don't have jaggery) and finally a dash of red, sugarcane vinegar is added as you switch off the heat and let the masoor sit for a bit. The rested tongue is sliced into cubes and added to the masoor after 10-15 mins, mixed in and topped with corriander. Served with hot rotlis (Parsi unleavened bread), Brun Pau (Hard Bread buns) or Sukki Khichri (dry yellow rice).

I personally love tongue and find it one of the softest, tastiest cuts of meat in an animal. It isn't very strong a flavour and chopped into small cubes is often mixed with mutton in villages where no part of the animal is wasted. Masoor ma Jheebh is a beautiful union of the sweetish lentils cooked in a traditionally Parsi Khatti-Miththi-Tikhkh (Sour-Sweeet-Spricy) way and then gently married to the meaty soup and soft cubes of tongue.


  1. What an interesting story! Never heard of this dish! So glad you have taken to blogging again!

  2. I've always been curious about Parsi food - there has to be something beyond the Dhansaks, Salli Botis and Lagan nu Custards. And I'm so glad I stumbled upon your space. You have a regular follower now!