The word 'Dhaba' refers to a Road-side restaurant. In India they are commonly found next to petrol/gas stations and on most interstate highways, and most of them are open all day. Since most Indian truck drivers hail from Punjab, and Punjabi food and music is quite popular throughout India, the word dhaba has come to represent any restaurant that serves primarily Punjabi food. Dhabas were characterized by mud structures and cots to sit upon (called 'chaarpai' in Hindi) while eating. A wooden plank would be placed across the width of the cot to place the dishes. With time, the cots were replaced by tables. The food is typically inexpensive and has a 'homemade' feel to it. Here is a chicken preparation that is commonly served in Dhabas that reflects simple yet scrumptious Punjabi cooking.
The last time I dined from a Dhaba was a few weeks before my wedding day, with my family, while traveling from Kerala to Coimbatore to buy my wedding saree and jewelery. Wedding shopping is a big deal in India, usually involving close family relatives and I really loved that trip, being the center of attraction that day and being able to spend some quality family time, shopping :). Being the first child on my mom's side of the family, my (now late) maternal uncle used to really pamper me and always tried to fulfill all my wishes. It got late as we wrapped up the shopping and all of us were tired after a day long shopping spree. After a few minutes on the highway I started hearing strange rumbling noises from my tummy. I was really hungry but having already left the city, we were in a deserted area with nothing much around. Slowly everyone in the car started getting hungry and we were just so ecstatic to see a dhaba up ahead, with bright lights and bustling with activity. Though my mom initially dissuaded us from eating there , thinking it might not be the safest option, my uncle was all for it so we finally decided to give it a try. A few dozen rotis and curry dishes later, we were completely satiated and captivated with the simply spicy but yummy delicious food!!!
2 1/2 Lb (1.10 Kg) - Chicken
2 Tbsp - Lemon Juice
1 tsp - Pepper powder
1/4 Tsp - Turmeric powder
12 cloves - Garlic
1 1/2 inch - Ginger
2 Cup - Finely chopped red onions
3 - Dry Red Chilly
12 -20 - Black Peppercorns (Depending on your spice level)
1 Tsp - Jeera seeds / Cumin seeds
1 Tsp - Red chilly powder
1 Tsp - Garam Masala
1 Tbsp - Coriander Powder
1/4 Tsp - Turmeric Powder
4 - Tomato
Fresh Cilantro for garnish
- Marinate the chicken with lemon juice, pepper powder, turmeric powder and salt and keep it in the refrigerator.
- Using a mortar and pestle crush the ginger and garlic and keep aside
- Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add jeera seeds, black peppercorns and dry red chilly and saute until the jeera gives out an aroma. Be careful not to burn it.
- Add the ginger and garlic and saute for a min. Add the chopped red onion and saute until they are dark brown.
- Add red chilly powder, garam masala, coriander powder, turmeric powder and saute for about 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken pieces to the pan. Discard any marinade that is left. Now cook the chicken until the pieces are browned and almost all the water has evaporated. This might take a while but really worth the effort and time. By this time the chicken might be cooked through.
- Roughly chop the tomatoes and add it to the blender to make a puree. Pour the tomato puree to the browned chicken. Adjust the salt. Cook for 5 minutes and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro. Serve hot with Roti, Rice or Naan.
- You can add a dollop of sour cream before serving
- You can also add a dab of butter just before serving to make this dish rich and extra tasty
- This dish has very less gravy, so in case you want more gravy just add a little water or milk with the tomato puree and cook to your desired consistency