Mouth watering paneer pasanda, delicious Dal makhani, delectable kheer and orders taken in crass Punjabi, a meal in Bobby’s Punjabi Dhaba transports you to a small hamlet in Punjab. You won’t believe it as the food is as good as ‘ghar ka khana.’ Hidden amidst shoddy shops on St Johns’s Road, this authentic Punjab joint can be easily missed. A big room with wooden tables and stools, the dhaba is done up typical Punjabi style.
The owner of the joint Jaspal Singh alias Bobby runs around serving food while exchanging greetings with his customers. Even as the dhaba is being cleaned, a small line has already formed outside. Families, group of boys, couples, eagerly wait their turn, some are already leafing through the menu. At noon, the dhaba is already packed to capacity. The smell of fried onions and melting butter wafts from the open kitchen. The cook (also from Punjab) can be seen vigorously stirring the dal and seasoning the paneer. A pure vegetarian joint, the dhaba serves everything in disposable utensils.
The meal with a tadka of history
Dal makhani, aloo gobhi ki subzi, a giant glass of lassi, thick curds that can be sliced like an ice cream are served along with hot paranthas. Dollops of butter decorate each dish. The food is simple yet scrumptious. The dal has been cooked to perfection, the raw spices have a lingering taste. Aam ka achar, hari mirchi and kutta hua pyaas (mango pickle, green chilies and cut onions) compliment the meal.
The highlight is the tall glass of lassi. A burst of flavours in your mouth, the ginger and masala also help in digestion. A plate of thick kheer is served for dessert. Sprinkled with dry fruit, this typical Punjabi kheer is a clear winner. Not very sweet, the concoction of milk and rice melts in your mouth.
Whatever be the dish, Singh informs it is priced at Rs 80. But there was a time when he sold it for Rs 8. Originally from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Singh’s family moved to Bangalore before partition. An ancestral house near the gurudwara at Ulsoor was where Singh’s grandmother served her first meal to a group of Punjabis, who had come for their Sunday prayers. “My grandfather used to work in Kudremukh and used to come home once in 6 months. It was my grandmother and mother who started the dhaba but from home,” he said.
Back in the days, before the IT boom, there were not many north Indian joints. Few people, who came to the gurudwara, started enquiring about good home food. “The gurudwara people told them about us. We started with just one table. My grandmother used to cook, my mother used to make chapatis and I used to serve after returning from college,” he said. Slowly the dhaba gained popularity and soon became a hot spot not only for Punjabis but also for Kannadigas. We get people from all communities. Everyone enjoys simple and tasty food,” he said.
A 28-year-old relationship
What little they made at home, they sold it to earn a few bucks. This started 28 years back in a small shack which has grown into a full fledged business. “ Those days, it was our only source of income. But with god’s grace, the business has flourished,” he said. One and half years back, Singh shifted the dhabha from Ulsoor to the current location. “There was a family dispute over that property and that’s why we couldn’t renovate the dhaba. This new place is spacious,” he added. A resident of Peenya, Singh and his wife both run this business today.
On weekends, the dhaba is packed. The fastest going item are the parathas. Singh says even the dal and paneer subzi are quite popular. Even though the Singhs have relatives in Ludhiana and Moga, they visit Punjab only during holidays. “Bangalore is home now. I know almost all south Indian languages. I am happy here,” he signs off.