Sustaining Heritage: Parsi Food Tales Past and Present

Alison Booth and Perzen Patel

3Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand

Food is an important marker of identity for the heritage maintenance of any culture—its processing, preparation, and consumption being sites of multiple meanings. This research takes an Autoethnographic approach to capture the role food has played in preserving Parsi heritage, from Mumbai roots and diasporic perspectives, inspired by an early 20th Century family cookbook of traditional Parsi recipes.  Out of 1.2 billion people in India, only 69,000 are Parsis. Mumbai (Bombay) is home to the largest Parsis population in India. This research explores the multitude of ways food plays in preserving Parsi heritage through innovative twenty-first century marketing. Parsi food has a prominent place in the cultural landscape of Mumbai, and travel guides and reviews insist ‘authentic’ Parsi cuisine is a part of the ‘Bombay experience’.   We explore the multiple ways social media, podcasts, food blogs, cooking classes, food fairs and e-publications may play in preserving, an old and noble gastronomic heritage, beyond traditional restaurant models. The sharing of food tales and old ways of partaking food, may assist in preserving a disappearing cultural identity from extinction by revitalising the role of the kitchen hearth.


Alison is a Research Associate at University of Otago’s Centre for Global Migrations and AUT’s Centre for Active Aging. Current projects include; Diwali in Dunedin, India on Auckland Stages: Performing Change, Performing Tradition, palliative care wish impacts (Race4Life), and family participations in community events (Rotorua Lakes Council).

Perzen is a marketing specialist and entrepreneur embedded in her Parsi cultural routes and family heirlooms. Her growing research interest in food anthropology, has led to her heritage and roots through her award winning Parsi food blog, (, Parsi catering initiatives and India’s first Parsi podcast, Not Just Dhansak.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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