Dhaba or Punjabi dhaba is a roadside restaurant in the Indian subcontinent. They are on highways, generally serve local cuisine, and also serve as truck stops. They are most commonly found next to petrol stations, and most are open 24 hours a day.
Since many Indian and Pakistani truck drivers are of Punjabi descent, and Punjabi food and music are popular throughout India & Pakistan, the word dhaba has come to represent any restaurant that serves Punjabi food, especially the heavily spiced and fried Punjabi fare preferred by many truck drivers.
Dhaba roadside eateries are a common feature on Punjab’s national and state highways. Earlier frequented only by truck drivers, today eating at a dhaba—urban or roadside—is a trend. Thus, Punjabi dhaba has become a part of the culture of the Punjabi people.
Try the North Indian Special Dishes at Vijay Punjabi Dhaba – VIDEO
The word has been alleged in folk etymology to stem from dabba, m., box, lunch box, tiffin.
Punjabi food served in dhabas is wholesome and full of rustic flavour. Food is served on big brass or steel thali (plates) and drinks – water, lassi, milk (of several varieties), or tea, as well as shorbas (soups) – are served.
Two types of food are served in the Punjabi dhabas – non-vegetarian cuisine (which is the most popular) and vegetarian fare termed vaishno dhabas (where food is cooked in pure ghee or clarified white butter). Dal makhni is a popular dish in the vegetarian dhaba.
Most Punjabi menus are made according to the season. The universal favourite is chole bhature which is a year-round item and is available at every wayside dhaba; it originated in Northern India but is now found anywhere in the Indian subcontinent or other countries where the South Asian diaspora have migrated in large numbers. But, the pride of the Punjabi winter cuisine is sarson da saag (curry made out of mustard leaves) served with blobs of white butter accompanied by makki ki roti and lassi.
The word has come to represent Indian subcontinental cuisine so much that many Indian restaurants in Asia (Bangkok) Europe and Americas have adopted it as a part of the name.