Yazdani: Bread and butter for three generations of Mumbai Iranis
Rashid Zend is possibly the most endearing Irani I’ve ever met in Mumbai.
When I ask him his name, the bucket-hat wearing gentleman at the cash register says with an air of royalty and a comfortable nonchalance, “My name is Harun Al Rashid,” hinting at the fact that he is named after the famous Caliph who ruled Iran around 800AD.
After a little more prodding, the man admits he is also known as Rashid Zend, the 73-year-old second-generation co-owner of Yazdani in Fort, and he tells me a little about how his bakery came into being.
The name Yazdani originates from the town of Yazd, which is the capital of the Yazd Province in Iran, and a hub of Iranian culture.
Back in 1951, Rashid’s father Meherwan Zend started the Yazdani Restaurant and Bakery in place of a Japanese bank that stood there through World War II. Today, the three brothers, Rashid, Zend, Parvez and his son, Tirandaz run the bakery.
For the first three decades Yazdani served dhansak, dal rice, kheema pav, biryani and other such staple Irani fare.
“Back then dhansak cost 1 anna and biryani cost only 2 annas,” recalls Tirandaz, the ebullient younger Irani. It was only in the 1980s that Yazdani shifted focus to being a bakery and boulangerie after his grandfather had died.
A quick peek into the kitchen and you will see a flurry of bakers working manically: greasing pans for baking, cleaning the raisins and weighing the dough, while another worker catches a wink beneath the large wooden table piled with dough.
The sheer size of the ovens and bags of flour are enough to leave you speechless. Yazdani makes 1,000 laadi pavs each day (that would be 6,000 individual pavs).
What to buy: Bread, biscuits and brun pav
The Yazdani bakery is tucked into a by-lane in Fort and is quite easy to miss, given the unassuming exterior.
Once inside, you can take your seat on one of the many wooden benches in the modest sized seating area. A slight look around the place will divulge its rich history. The vintage framed posters of burly men, the humongous clock from an era gone by, and the antique brass call bell make the Yazdani experience a charming one.
Your visit to Yazdani is not complete if you haven’t chatted up the owners while sipping on your chai and biting into your brun maska, slathered with copious amounts of Amul butter.
Regulars, however, swear by the multi-grain bread and ginger biscuits and rum-soaked plum cakes that are popular during Christmas.
“Don’t eat and drive after those,” Rashid says with a poker face that breaks into a smirk seconds later.
Other popular Yazdani fare includes khari biscuits, apple pies (more like raisin pies) and mawa cakes.
Rashid also proudly tells me that this is possibly the only bakery that makes bread packed with 12 types of grains and seeds. The latent chemist in him reasons as to why this bread is healthier. “You see, the whole wheat releases sugar slowly, and just once slice is enough to fill you up.”
Yazdani deserves its place in Mumbai history, foremost for being unfazed by rapid commercialization of food.
On quizzing Tirandaz if they’d ever consider shutting the place down, he answers unabashed, in his typical bawa tone. “Mad or what?!”
11/11-A, Cawasji Patel Street, Fort; +91 (0) 22 2287 0739. Open 5:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m., with a drive-through open all night.