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UAE food: Desi fare at a dhaba in Dubai

Dubai - Truck Adda restaurant in Dubai’s Jumeirah is a rich colourful food destination.

Photos/M. Sajjad
Photos/M. Sajjad

Abhishek Sengupta

Published: Wed 17 Mar 2021, 10:21 AM

Last updated: Wed 17 Mar 2021, 12:17 PM

If you have ever travelled across India or Pakistan by road, then you must have had at least one meal at a dhaba, a typical roadside restaurant on the highways of the Indian subcontinent, serving local cuisine, and catering primarily as truck stops, besides tourist hotspots.

And if you thought all of that couldn’t be replicated here in the UAE, then you probably haven’t been to Truck Adda restaurant in Dubai’s Jumeirah, not far from the giant Union House flag, where a slice of that cult truck life has been stunningly recreated through both food they serve and the ambience they have created using some incredible truck art and props.

You could kick things off in the most desi (country style) manner with a chai (tea) on a charpai or charpoy (a traditional woven South Asian bed) admiring some real handmade art while waiting for your kebabs and biryani to cook. And for an extra dash of exotica, you could try their Kashmiri tea, that tastes nothing like tea, is a lot milkier and creamier than you would imagine and is garnished with a sprinkling of chopped almonds and pistachios. And the best bit? It’s pink in colour! (see box)

It’s also the best way to set you up for a hearty lunch over biryani — prepared Karachi style — and a platter of mixed kebabs with some fresh baked bread. While the biryani is definitely not to be missed here for its fabulously spiced rice and meat, just as they would rustle up on the streets of Karachi, it is the Bihari beef boti kebab and the chicken charsi karahi that are an absolute must haves here. With summer fast approaching, the best way to enjoy this combination is with a glass full of lassi, the quintessential chilled yoghurt drink that cools everyone and everything down!

What’s Truck Art?

Truck art is a popular South Asian form of regional decoration especially in Pakistan and India with trucks (or lorries) featuring elaborate floral patterns, designs and calligraphy in local languages, mostly Hindi or Urdu. The decorations are meant to keep truck drivers rooted to their homes while they are on the road for weeks, if not months, at a stretch. So, this form of art is also often seen as a mode of expression for the truck drivers who use paintings, calligraphy and ornamental-decor like mirrors and wooden carvings to transform their giant vehicles. Historical scenes and poetic verses, that often go on to become iconic phrases, are a common theme as are chains and pendants dangling off the front bumpers.

The Dhaba’s the highway connection...

Dhabas or roadside eateries on the highway were earlier meant only for truck drivers taking more than a pit-stop. Today eating out at a dhaba is an urban trend. Some of the very first dhabas is said to have flourished along the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia’s oldest and longest major roads that has, for at least 2,500 years, linked Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent, running from Peshawar in modern Pakistan through Amritsar and Delhi to Kolkata in modern India and beyond.

Three things to try

Kashmiri Tea or Noon chai is traditionally made from a type of green tea leaves, milk, salt, baking soda and usually cooked in a samavar. A pinch of baking soda gives it a pronounced pink color. Sugar is not traditionally used in Kashmiri home recipes, although commercial preparations in Indian and Pakistani restaurants do include sweeteners.

Mutton Biryani is worth a try here for its exotic and aromatic version. If you haven’t tasted Sindhi style biryani, known in Pakistan for its spicy taste, fragrant rice and delicate meat, then this is the place to be.

Charsi Karahi is a hallmark of North Indian and Pakistani cuisine. The ingredients vary depending on the region, but the dish generally includes onions, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, red pepper, green chilies, cilantro leaves, ginger and garlic besides the meat of choice. The chicken charsi karahi here is a fine example of this art.

Truck or Lorry? What’s in a name

Truck is used in American English but is common in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan, while lorry is the equivalent in British English, and is popular in Ireland, Malaysia, Singapore and India. The first known usage of “truck” dates back to the early 17th century with references to the small strong wheels on ships’ cannon carriages. While ‘Lorry’ has a more uncertain origin, with its roots probably in the rail transport industry and might have derived from the verb lurry (to carry or drag along, or to lug) that was in use as early as 1660s. But there is no definitive theory to suggest that this narrative is possibly true! So call it what you will, truck or lorry.

Where is Truck Adda:

Shaikh Hamdan Award Complex, Jumeirah Road, in front of Union Flag, Dubai

Opens at 10:30am

Phone: 04 339 0062

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