Announcing: the Delhi-Lahore Dhaba trail

Announcing: the Delhi-Lahore Dhaba trail

At the Delhi-Lahore Dhaba Trail, participants will sample the best of highway cuisine on both sides of the border, guided by an Indian and Pakistani chef

In our gastronomic memory, dhabas aren’t just eateries by the highway; they are bookmarks of unforgettable experiences. Their smoky flavours make us forget the priciest of meals in the best of fine-dining restaurants. Nothing can beat the satisfaction of spooning kaali dal into a crisp tandoori naan — enhanced by dollops of white butter — on a cold winter day.

Dhabas are an inseparable part of our road journeys. Fauji dhaba, Pehelwan dhaba, Sher-e-Punjab — the names line our highways and stay in our memories. The Shudh Vaishnav dhabas on pilgrim routes even take care of cultural sensibilities, offering food cooked without garlic and onion.

The origin of the dhaba is nebulous. It is said they sprouted on either side of The Grand Trunk Road and other highways during the 20th century, essentially to serve truckers. The menu reflected the fact that most truckers came from Punjab. Interestingly, many iconic dhabas are not located on the highway. For instance Amritsar’s famous Kesar da Dhaba was founded in 1916 in Sheikhupura, Pakistan and moved to the walled city of Amritsar after Partition. Today, waiters serve its famous dal fry and chapatti in red T-shirts.

In a sense, dhabas are part our shared heritage with Pakistan; something the Delhi to Lahore dhaba trail from December 23-28 seeks to relive. (See box)

Several dhabas have acquired legendary status. Puran Singh Ka Mashhoor Vishal Dhaba (near bus stand, Ambala Cant), Sharma Dhaba on the Jaipur-Sikar road and Sukhdev Dhaba at Murthal are some names that spring to mind.

The upward mobility of dhabas is part of the larger India growth story. At many places, gaudy plastic chairs and tables have replaced charpais. Some dhabas now even have separate air-conditioned sections. Many have upgraded their wares and expanded their menus. Note how several gourmet eateries and five-star restaurants replicate the dhaba look.

But for all that, even today, it is hard to replicate the taste of dhaba specials — butter naan, mooli ke parathe, ande ki bhurji, dal fry, mutton rice curry and other dishes. What makes dhabas such a success story? Perhaps they offer a unique culinary experience — a combination of earthy hospitality, distinctive ambiance and spiced up comfort food.


A community for all interested food lovers

Readers can share their thoughts and ideas on food at the Facebook community:  Times Passion Tribes — Food. Trail updates will be available on this platform along with future activities.


1.          Move on to Ambala. It’s lunch time and what could be better than a stop at Pooran Singh ka Dhaba for iPassion-dhaba-trail.jpeg.jpts delectable dal makhni and butter chicken. Onward to Ludhiana. Night halt.

2.         Start for Amritsar from Ludhiana after a typical Punjabi breakfast; mid-way, participants get off the coach and board a tractor and visit a village where they will help prepare sarson ka saag and makke ki roti. Topping this feast will be a freshly done lassi. Arrive Amritsar early evening. And it is time to explore the street food at Amritsar —Beera’s Chicken, Makhan’s fish for example.

3.        It’s time to enjoy freshly made poori aloo with gudka-halwa at Kanha. Participants then head for the Golden Temple to perform ‘sewa’. Along with Chef Kunal Kapur they help prepare langar food. After participating in the langar they all head for the Beating Retreat ceremony at the Atari-Wagah border. Guests get ready to meet a few Pakistani friends who have crossed the border to share a bite at the famous Sarhad Dhaba. This is truly an Aman ki Asha setting two masterchefs from neighbouring nations, Chef Kunal Kapur from India and Chef Mehboob Khan from Pakistan, engage in a friendly cookout session. The emotionally charged evening ends with more promises of friendship between the nations.

4.       After a great breakfast at a dhaba, the group comprising Indians and Pakistanis cross the border to reach Lahore. Once in Lahore, they visit the street food at the Anarkali lane and feast at the famous Cuckoo’s Den.

5.        The day in Lahore will be one big culinary shopping expedition for palates — Phajje ke Paaye; Chaman ice-cream; buffet at the Village and of course dinner at Gwalmandi, discovering the street foods.

6.        Indian participants say goodbye to their Pakistani friends and return to India. After a sumptuous breakfast at the Royal Palms, participants arrive in India and head home.

How to apply

Participants need to first register on the website with their email ID.

Registration open from Nov 21 to 30, 2014. Once registered, applicants should select ‘Delhi to Lahore Dhaba trail’ from Choose Your Trail option

Sign up for the trail. Participants need to answer a few basic questions on dhabas.

Next, the system mails the detailed itinerary and the associated cost of the trail to applicants.

After going through the details, participants have to complete the signing up process by paying Rs 1,000 as registration fee.

This is a fully refundable amount and only confirms the participant’s interest in the trail.

Based on the application and your interaction on our website on social media platforms, Times Passion Trails will select 30 participants

Selected participants pay the trail fee (shared on earlier email) and join the chefs on this memorable trail

DATES | Dec 23 to Dec 28, 2014 (6D/5N)

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