Monday 15 September 2014


Batasa, a popular butter biscuit, has been around for generations. A story during an epidemic in India about the Dutch colonial masters, when they prepared stale bread dunked in water and rebaked little dough balls. They discovered that this worked best with a cup of tea to keep down with the sick and help regain their energy. It has now become a tradition in Parsi homes to serve a cup of hot, steaming, sweet, Parsi choi (tea) to be dunked into. Hard, crumbly, buttery ball-shaped biscuits are popular among both young and old.
Is it the comfort of something familiar that is driving the revival of this plain and simple baked biscuit in the regions 'beyond' where we came from and now live in the west? With a long history and a wonderful legendary story, when the Dutch left the shores of the West Port of Surat, India, in the 1700s, where a flourishing bakery was handed over to a Parsi named Faramji Dotivala who used to work there. This baker continued with the bakery for the British community who then took over this colonised region. Once the British waned in numbers, the bread's popularity diminished, and this wasted bread was soon distributed to the locals who were poor. Having the advantage of being fermented with an ingredient called toddy, (prepared from the sap of the palm that was tapped every morning at the crack of dawn), there was little chance of the bread catching mould, thus prolonging the life of this popular staple. One thing led to another and the local doctors suggested this stale bread be given as a convalescent food to patients with a cup of sweet tea, familiar to the locals, as it was easier to digest and kept their stomachs full. Dotivala started producing smaller, specially dried bread buns, and 'batasas' were soon produced using the same ingredients. 
These were soon to become the iconic round dough balls baked and further dried on low heat in the oven, (similar to being twice-baked biscuits), to be dunked in a cup of steaming, Parsi choi, that is strong, sweet, milky and well balanced with fresh mint and lemon grass to flavour the tea. These biscuits are hard enough not to fall apart when dipped but absorb the tea and its delicious taste. Years later, the batasa was changed to a richer version with the addition of butter and or ghee or clarified butter. With alcohol prohibition being introduced, toddy was replaced with yeast or even completely omitted from the recipe. 
Aside from Surat, Navsari, and Pune, where batasas compete for recognition, it was and still is a staple sold in the local tea houses in Mumbai and until recently, Karachi. Sadly, with migration among the community in droves, many of these old world gems are harder to find locally. But the good news is there is a continued revival of old Parsi cuisine, especially in North America where people are being taught and offering these goodies for private sales. We hope to see these wonderful chai houses crop up once again where the new and old worlds meet. 

today's situation: 
Made from a few ingredients, some like their batasa crisp while others like them flaky. There is also an amazing cheese, batasa, now popular among Canadians. The option to add cumin or caraway seeds and toasted slivered almonds still remains the same. Happily, the shape continues to be mainly round, like the original buns! 

Niloufer's Kitchen has now come up with an exclusive multi-seed batasa that has been tried and tested, bringing this ancient recipe into the 21st century. It is inclusive of the ''supergrains" and is easy enough to include as per instructions below.

Makes 45 batasas


4 cups sifted all purpose flour

3 tbsp semolina
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


For Multi-Seed "supergrain" batasas  add any of the following (a total of 50 gm by weight)

2 tsp hemp seeds 2 tsp chia seeds
2 tsp white sesame
2 tsp golden flax
2 tsp golden millet
2 tsp golden cornmeal

226g/ 8 oz salted butter

8 tbsp water

In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add the softened butter in little pieces. With the tip of your fingers, crumble the mixture till it resembles little beads. You can alternately use two butter knives or place all of it in a food processor using the pulse button. Do not overwork the dough. Roll it out into a long, even sausage on a lightly floured surface. 
Cut this into 45-60 pieces. Roll each one very lightly into a ball. Place this on a baking sheet. 
Preheat the oven to 165 C | 325 F. Cook for 30 minutes. Lower the temperature to  135 C | 275 F and cook for 30 minutes. Now lower the oven temperature to 105 C | 225 F and cook until it cooks and dries from the inside, which will be another hour plus. 
Let it cool and store it in an airtight box.


If you have a cake beater, use the 'k beater' attachment to mix. If you have a food processor, it will take 5 to 10 minutes to put this together. The dough should be soft to the touch and smooth all over—very similar to the chapati or rotli dough. 
Overturn, cut into 2 or 4 equal pieces, and work with one at a time. It is more even and quicker. 
Keep the baking trays ready with greaseproof or parchment paper, or lightly grease the tray with butter. You will need two large cookie sheets to fit all of them.  
The trick is to dry the batasas from the inside, and so the heat variation is very important. 
Batasas should have a light pinky colour and not be white. 
Try to keep them all even. 

Optionally  if you are not making the plain or Multi-Seed variety, you may add either 
50 g/ 2 oz toasted slivered peeled almonds
1 tsp cardamom powder
2 tsp caraway or cumin seeds
1/2 cup almond powder or almond flour in place of 1/2 cup flour 

There are plenty of recipes with a bit of yeast added, which then gives them a definitive aroma, texture, and taste; all of these are a personal preference and neither wrong nor right.

My published cookbooks are available for sale through myself and on Amazon.

The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders is a 3 award winning book. It has been self published in July 2019 and will be going into its second print in 2022. 

The Vegetarian Parsi, inspired by tradition is an award winning cookbook. It was published by Spenta Multimedia India and is available on Amazon India and through email order at

The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine was published in 2016 by Austin Macauley and continues to be available through amazon book depot book depository and from the publishers.

Readers Comment:

December 14th 2014

Batasa /makhaniya /jeera butter...
many chaitime biscuit
A perfect recipe from Niloufer's Kitchen..

This was posted today March 18th 2015. How wonderful to see a piece of history relived. Feeling excited!!

At the famous Dotiwala Bakery in Surat. Cyrus Dotiwala gave us a special access tour of the back of house bakery operations. And a gift hamper to all of the Fellows. Thank you Dotiwala Family for being gracious hosts and welcoming us to your bakery ‪#‎RTR2015‬

April 2015

Great recipe Niloufer. My batasas are a bit "knobbly" but taste YUM!

October 11th 2017

Mehereen Bhaijiwala I love so many things from your blog and book. My favorite are of course the Batasas followed closely by the prawn biryani and then the ribbon rice. Yum!!!! I could go on and on so many recipes,so little space..

Aban Kapadia
The perfect batasa. Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment