Friday, January 13, 2012

The "Dhaba" - home away from home

Happy Sankranti folks! It's also Friday the 13th. So far so good. My computer crashed 2 days ago. Has not been fixed yet. Using my older son, Sanil's laptop now. He parted with it after a long argument. Teenagers! He is a nice kid though. Very respectful and organised. I was craving for some nice home cooked food tonight. Hence, I thought I would write a post about the warm and cozy "Dhaba".

India is well connected by not so well maintained roads. In Northern India, the friendly eatery joints called Dhaba’s have evolved along the National Highways.  Strategically placed, these Dhabas  are very easily accessible. Brightly lit with blubs and neon signs, the Dhabas are hard to miss at night too!  They are very well equipped with chairs and tables which are placed on the outside of the Dhaba, so, weary passengers can enjoy the beautiful green and yellow colored fields that the Dhaba is surrounded by while they are waiting for their perfectly satisfying meal. For a bollywood fan like me, it is a treat for the eyes, since I could easily relate to all Yash Chopra movies.  For a core South Indian that enjoys the Masala Dosa and filter coffee tradition, entering a Dhaba was a whole new experience. The Dhaba welcomes you with a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant aromas.  A perfect ambiance is created by sounds in the Dhaba environment – the clattering of spoons and plates, the clapping as the servers roll out the parata (bread) dough in between their palms, the mooing of healthy cows, the chirping of birds, the Punjabi language that the servers are talking in and above all the distinct sound of old hindi songs playing in the background .  I couldn’t help but notice the hot clay oven called tandoor. The server was skillfully placing the paratas (bread) using a piece of cloth into the hot tandoor. His impeccable timing to take the parata out of the tandoor without letting it burn was admirable. As I was dodging the vulgar gaze of the older men surrounding a make shift fireplace (see pic), an under aged server asked me to take a seat. Feeling very sad about the situation and taking mental notes, to one day, try and make a difference about poverty in India, I willing took the seat being offered. The little boy then brought a poorly written menu in English, along with a plate of “achaar” (pickle),  that god knows was how old. The Dhabas mostly boast of this highly potent drink called chai (tea) made of fresh milk, tea leaves , ginger and oodles of sugar. One cannot leave a Dhaba without trying this beverage that can be consumed any number of times and at any hour of the day. I enjoyed watching the making of the tea. The tea is brought to a boil and allowed to boil till it becomes very thick. The tea is then poured through a sieve, from a height of 3 feet or so, into a cup made of glass. This tea is impossible to reproduce at home. Like the tea, the Dhabas also offer Paratas (breads) of various types soaked in butter.  Droooool! Playing glutton is easy. I left the Dhaba after paying the reasonable bill of Rs. 40.00 (close to 0.90 cents) with the taste of saunf (fennel seeds) in my mouth which the Dhaba gives as a mouth freshener when you leave. With so much grease, and yummy food, how do the Punjabis stay healthy, I wonder. I could not eat this type of food on an everyday basis in South India, however, I must say, the weather conditions in the North allowed me to digest all this food and ask for more. Now I understand how different parts of the world have different cuisines.  It is not by taste, but more by necessity. Punjab, is a state with abundance of water and land. It is easier to grow foods like wheat and rice in their fields.  God has created the world very thoughtfully.  For a foodie, a visit to a Dhaba is a must!

1 comment:

  1. nice pictures, don't have patience to read all in one day. hopefully the gaale for the tea is not made from his kashti he he he.