Yesterday after a long and busy weekend, we found ourselves in our favourite dhaba in New Delhi eating mixed vege curry, Dahl Makhani, aloo paranthas and kadai paneer to take away. We sat down amongst the trees, ordered out food and whilst it cooked directly behind us in the open air kitchen. Within 5 minutes our food was freshly served and paranthas were hot with an extra cube of butter along side our meal. So what is so good about eating at a dhaba in India? Well, it’s not only the fresh food, it is the outdoor setting, the simpleness and uniqueness to it that you can only find in India.
Some of the most satisfying food I have tasted since living in India, has not been at a fancy restaurant, it has been at a local dhaba. For those who are unaware, a dhaba is a ‘restaurant /eatery by the roadside’, normally situated along a highway that serves the local cuisine. However, they are also found in cities on a quiet street. Dhaba food consists of mainly Indian Punjabi and Chinese food, with different types of vegetable curry, paneer, dahl and depending on which part of India, non-veg is also served with parantha, tandoori roti and dahi. We prefer to stop by a local dhaba for food and chai and pit stop, rather than eating at a big chain food store like Mc Donald’s.
The best part about a dhaba is that it is such a simple outdoor setting. It has a simple kitchen outside with a few burners, a tandoor for rotis covered with a plastic like sheet as if you are sitting in a large tent. The place is surrounded by plastic tables and chairs on the grass facing the street. Originally, the seats were more like cots called ‘charpai’. Sitting on Charpai takes you back in time and my son just loves putting his feet up on it. One piece of advice (especially for foreigners) is to only eat the cooked food and try and avoid the salad or anything that is washed in water. A Delhi belly is not at all fun! But if you find yourself in India, definitely dine in at a dhaba!