Feature Story

The Dhaba - ढाबा

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Dhaba ढाबा - Freshly slow cooked - When you're ready !
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Parotta & Puri baker woman, Pillai family veg dhaba  பரà¯à®à¯à®à®¾ பà¯à®°à®¿ Tamil, India
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Village bus stop - Nepal

I remember being 12 years old, we visited the Ford assembly line in Detroit. By the end of the tour we got to where the completed cars were driven off the assembly line and into a parking lot. Every 5 minutes a car would be completed and roll off. That didn't mean however that is takes 5 minutes to make a car....

The same goes for Indian "fast food". A diner can come into a Dhabba (local restaurant) every 5 minutes and immediately be served fresh food. However this food was chopped of fresh vegetables and spices and slow cooked the same day in a process that took over an hour.

The constant stream of diners keeps consuming the food which makes for an ever fresh pots being cooked.

The other clever thing about these Dhabbas is that you do not waste food but you also never leave hungry. That is because your plate is refilled, free, by the cook, every time you finish a specific portion of it.

The bread, Chappati or Roti, is also flying right off the Tandoor (oven) and onto your plate every time you finished your last one.

All the above refers to RURAL dhabas. In the city the name might be Dhaba but not the character. Because on roadside, bus stops, railway stations, city centers etc.. the customers are not relatives and neighbors, as would be in the village or town, but an ever changing crowd, the quality of the food is not a home cooked grade.

How can you recognize a Dhaba? Look for a black covered interior (mostly because of wood fed oven), rickety tables and chairs (looked like they had been fixed and put together many times), a barefoot cook that doubles as a cashier and/or a waiter too.

Here is a video I captured at a South Indian Dhaba of the Parotta flat-bread making.

More on this personal documentary My India: Where every village is home - Experience !

Chapati in Hindi: चपाती, Tamil: சப்பாதி, Kannada: ಚಪಾತಿ, Urdu: چپاتی, Marathi: पोळी, Punjabi: ਛਪਤਿ

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Hi there!

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