To be honest, I’ve never eaten in a ‘real’ dhaba. But yes, I can claim to have eaten in a few mock dhabas, starting with Pritam da Dhaba at Dadar (Mumbai) in my childhood with Amma and Appa. It was one of the few restaurants we would eat out at. I remember staring at the side counter of their open air section, in complete awe of the chefs throwing the roomali roti in the air to stretch it out. The seating was authentic dhaba style, rope cots with colourful cushions and waiters in the Punjabi kurta and dhoti. I also remember the copper plates and tall copper glasses that they served food and chaas in. It was an amazing place to dine out for me as a kid in the 80s. Post 2000, we saw a slew of such dhaba themed restaurants open in Mumbai, but none to match the wonder that the first one held for me.
Dhabewali dal is a hearty dish using black udad dal and rajma, and sometimes a mix of some other lentils as well. It is reminiscent of cold evenings in the North of India, sitting in a busy dhaba by the side of a highway, smoke billowing from the tandoor, the aroma of burning coals and fresh out of the tandoor rotis, and a few hearty dishes brought to the rickety table and a large glass of lassi to wash it all down.
There is another variation of Dhabewali dal, which is Langarwali Dal served in the community meal service called Langar in Gurudwaras (Sikh place of worship). That can be prepared similarly by using equal parts of split udad dal and chana dal (Bengal gram dal). The soaking time can be reduced, as compared to rajma, used in Dhabewali Dal
P.S. Just did a quick check on Zomato while typing this, and Pritam da Dhaba still exists! I’ve mentally added this to my to-do list while in Mumbai for the next 5 weeks, just for nostalgia sake, if not anything else. If you have any reccos for me in Mumbai AND Delhi, leave me a comment or Tweet to me @saffrontrail 🙂
Recipe for Dhabewali Dal