Friday, February 17, 2017

Munna Ka Dhaba: Dhaba LÓriginal

Tandoori Chicken with Curd and Pudhina Chutney

Once in a rural hinterland close to one of the eastern borders of India, a middle aged man, a total stranger to the place ,in white shirt and mundu (Kerala Dhothi) , after relishing a heavy dinner at a dhaba, wiped his hand on a piece of newspaper and asked the cashier “Kitna Hua”?”(How much for the dinner). To his surprise, the man at the counter replied “ Aaap se kaise paisa lenge Munna Bhai? How could I take money from you, Brother Munna).
From a seventeen year boy who ran away from his village in Malappuarm, to explore the world, Saithalavi knew that he had grown rich in his life experience and world view. But it was news to him that he had become so famous, to be well know to a random dhaba owner in the extreme other corner of the country. 
Munnabhai is a name so dear to almost all truck drivers in the country.  And how does this name connect to Saithalavi? Saithalavi is popularly known as Munnabhai amongst the truck drivers, after his dhaba, Munna Tandoori Dhaba. 

Munna Tandoori Dhaba is at Kolappuram, almost 30 kilometers away from Calicut City, towards Trichur. It is one amongst the only two genuine dhabhas in Kerala, the other being Geetha Dhaba in the northern border of Kerala. The two essentials of any dhaba– inclusiveness and authenticity, makes these two quite different from the other umpteen number of eateries in Kerala, by the title dhaba. 

Saithalavi has been running this eatery for the last eighteen years. He explains that the food experience at ‘Munna ka Dhaba’, is an amalgamation of his own life experiences. His quest for the unseen, which led him on his journey across the country, has helped him understand the needs of a traveler. 

What you would experience at his dhaba in terms of the food, the ambience and the experience as such is an emulation of Saithalavi’s perception of the world, food, most importantly his understanding on how people connect to food. In simpler words he understands what does it take for one to connect to a particular food as ‘’my kind of food’’, and this is exactly what he recreates at his dhaba. And that’s why it’s not a surprise that more than hundred truck drivers make it a point to drive upto Munna ka Dhaba everyday, on their long drive across the country.

And the best part is, sitting in the middle of a packed house of foodies, at his commercially successful venture,   he tells me and my friend Albert, “”By the way, this is just a side business. My real business is there in the village. I am a farmer. I cultivate some acres of paddy””. And that’s him, in the quest of himself, beyond him. 

If you want to have genuine Tandoor Rotis, this is the place for you. And how about some Tandoori Chicken. If you are in for the real smoky flavor, this is the only place, anywhere close.  And don’t miss out the veggies. Now, the cost..Two Tandoori Chicken, Two Bengan (Brinjal) Masala,  Gobi (Cauliflower) Masala, 13 tandoori rotis,   a pet bottle of pepsi…..See it to believe it.

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