Dhaba style Baisakhi

The season for Punjabi cheer is ongoing and you’ll see cheerful Punjabi food doing the rounds everyplace. Dhaba, the Claridges’ signature restaurant, is no exception. Closed for renovations for quite a while, Dhaba opened it’s doors again late last month with Baisakhi being the first special occasion for it’s kitchens.

Parul and I shared a quick Baisakhi meal together, the menu suggested by Chef Gurjyote Singh. Quite a balanced spread, we started with aloo methi and corn tikkis, alongside tawa chaamp. The tikkis were nice, just as expected, with just a hint of the welcome bitter of methi coming through accompanied by unexpected bursts of juicy corn. One expects all tawa dishes to sport the characteristic scorch marks of the tava. Speaking for myself, they bring with them a hint of charry smokiness as well as the definite knowledge that they’ve seen the top of a hot tawa. Alas, most patrons at Dhaba don’t seem to agree, preferring the finesse over charred authenticity; probably why the Chefs, add a bit of extra masala, and lift the meat off the scorched portions, if you get my meaning. Scorched or not, it did taste nice.

Moving on, there were quite a few choices of breads available, from the famous chur-chur naan, through the ubiquitous tandoori roti and the must-have Amritsari Kulcha, stuffed with potato, which I prefer very crisp. How do you like your stuffed kulchas? It isn’t often that I get to eat choliyas, the tender, sweet green gram that is only available around now. At Dhaba these were cooked with soft paneer in a mild, thick onion and tomato gravy. Served with the choliya was a portion of Saag Chicken, which I thought fairly ordinary.

Here’s the kicker – the dal, I forget it’s name, was the most finger-licking delicious concoction I’ve eaten in a while. The quantities of desi ghee within might have had something to do with the raptures of delight I experienced with every spoon, but I doubt the ghee was solely responsible. That’s like seeing a good photograph and complimenting the photographer on his camera. Not fair at all. It was perfectly seasoned, not too smooth, neither too rough, with the right proportions of lentils within, as well as creamy, but not too much so.

Available for both, lunch and dinner, the menu is a la carte and I’m sure you’re going to have a great time with typical, cheerful Punjabi food.

Ed: Photo not from Dhaba, Claridges

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.