I found the most Authentic Punjabi Dabha in Bangalore!
What defines a Punjabi Dabha?
Dhaba is the name given to roadside inexpensive restaurants in India. They are situated on highways, and also serve as truck stops.They are most commonly found next to petrol stations, and most are open 24 hours a day. Since many Indian truck drivers are of Punjabi descent, the word dhaba has come to represent a highway restaurant that serves Punjabi food, especially the simple, spicy Punjabi fare preferred by many truck drivers.
The word has come to represent sub-continental cuisine so much that many Indian restaurants in Europe and America have adopted it as a part of the name.
I’m Vishnu, a travel blogger from www.travelbugdiary.com and foodie from Bangalore. I grew up in Bokaro, an industrial town in Jharkhand, North India.
One of my earliest experiences of a night out on a weekend was visiting a dhaba away from the city. My parents, their friends and all the children would gang up in the town and drive out with much enthusiasm to a dabha. All the kids would be put together in one single car with an almost over-the-top excitement and non-stop cacophony. I can still recall reaching the dhaba, finding a nice spot and sitting in the open air under the stars on a Charpai ( a cot to sit upon ) with a wooden plank placed across that served as a temporary table. All the excitement of being with friends was soon forgotten when the food landed on the modest makeshift table. I can still taste the tandoori roti, dal and butter chicken. Not to forget the final swipe off with a tall glass of creamy lassi.
We moved to Bangalore from Bokaro when I was 12 years old. Parts of Bangalore reminded me of Bokaro especially the Punjabi Dabhas on the outskirts of the city in Yelahanka, Kanakpura road, Mysore road and Tumkur road. The experience of being away from the chaos of the city, overlooking the lush green paddy fields, motor vehicles zipping past me on the highway while I was comfortably resting on the Charpai gave me a sense of freedom and made me feel liberated to have escaped the manic city. The food as always was humble, tasty with a homemade feel to it. The people at the dabha were hospitable, caring and always catered to any needs we had, like a home away from home. You could spend as much time as you wanted at a dabha and nobody asked you to leave. A dabha wasn’t just a place where truck drivers stopped for a break from their journey; it was for everybody who needed a break from the chaos of they city life to ponder over and contemplate.
However, over the past few decades, Bangalore has expanded in all directions and these small dabhas were forced to convert into so-called multi-cusine family restaurants to keep up with the establishments around. The charm of a true dabha was lost and it was hard to find a place to experience the same feeling again.
It was one of those days when tight deadlines and a stressful work life were getting to me. Frustrated with the monotony of work, I called a few friends asked them if they were upto taking a road trip to a destination ‘unkown’. We hopped into a car and headed towards Tumkur road. 45 mins later, on the outskirts of the city, we realized we were low on fuel and decided to stop at the next fuel station. While filling gas, we saw a tiny little dabha right next to the fuel station. Thrilled beyond words, I decided we had to eat a meal there. It was called Choudhary Punjabi Dabha. Not one of those fake so called Punjabi dabhas-multi-cuisine restaurants owned by a south indian. This was a true blue truckkers dabha, frequented mostly by truck drivers.
We sat on the Charpai overlooking the highway. On the menu was the usual channa dry, roasted masala paapad, tandoori roti, dal fry and jeera rice. The food was delicious, simple and inexpensive. We ate like there was no tomorrow yet the total bill for food was just 80 Rs per head. They also served us chilled beer and we sat there for a few hours, admiring the beauty of the paddy fields and the constant bustle of the highway. It was as if everybody was stuck in the chaos of the world and we were the only ones who had pressed the pause button on our lives and living in that moment.
We have found another trucker’s dabha – Bal Punjabi Dabha which is open 24 hours, serves chilled beer and the authentic Punjabi fare, a few kilometers from Choudhary Dabha.
So the next time you are headed out of the city and want to have a true Dabha experience, keep an eye on a line of trucks parked alongside the road. Stop over and enjoy a the gastronomical experience of a true Punjabi Dabha.