A road trip in India, especially in the northern states, comes with the mandatory pit-stops. Halting at a 'dhaaba' to stretch one's legs and to feast on robust local fare is a given.
Originally meant to cater to the truck-drivers who ply on these highways, dhaabas are almost synonymous with basic, plain local food but served hot and minus frills. Homely and wholesome and most serve food that is just too delicious to be restricted to only truck-drivers. So every traveller has his own list of must-stop dhaabas that he swears by.
Driving from Delhi to Chandigarh, we were told we just had to stop for a bite at Pahalwan Dhaba at Murthal. So we did. And wolfed down plate after plate of steaming hot rotis and parathas with soft, creamy white butter (it has to be white butter. That too is mandatory, I'm told )
Do you blame us? It was just SO good!
The paneer paranthes disappeared with a smear of hot, melting butter and scoop of channa slathered in a thick masala gravy.
On the way in, heaped-up trayloads of fried mouthfuls are displayed. Golden yellow with lashings of turmeric and soaked in batter then deep-fried to what looked like a junk-foodie's version of heaven. Me, I saw the pista green walls behind the rich yellow and smiled into my camera.
The jalebis need no recommendation, though. There's something about a jalebi that still glistens in its syrupy juice that can activate all the tastebuds south of the Himalayas (and that's not counting the ones from other directions too, I'm sure).
Not all dhaabas are as organised or clean as this. In fact, compared to most of the other dhaabas we passed or stopped at, this one was almost a 5-star version!
It even had a satellite of stalls and hawkers, including a guy selling ber (Indian Jujube). I was fascinated by his re-purposed tyre-tray. Seeing my fascination, he offered me a ber but I was too famished to settle for ber when I could have paranthe just a couple of steps away.
In hindsight, I know I should have bought some ber too!