If you hear the words Dhokla, Faafda, Khandvi, Oondhiyo, Khakra, thepla, you know you are in Gujarat… But then did you know about Dabeli, it is a famous dish from Bhuj, probably the largest city in the district of Kutch. It is almost like a desi version of the burger… There is a bun, there is filling, there are sauces/chutneys and well, you have a go by stuffing it in your mouth.. 😉
I discovered it during my recent trip to Gujarat. Driving back from Rann of Kutch to Bhuj, hunger pangs were slowly creeping up. I did not want to go back to the hotel and have tea with sandwich or pakodas. Was quite keen on trying some local food, which is when I spotted this cart on the roadside and there was quite a crowd around it.
Stopped the car and went over to find out what it was, and that is how I found “Dabeli”. The man behind the counter had an air of confidence about him. He barely looked up at the customers, just chit chatted as he went about moving the Pav [bun] about on the giant round pan , once in a while grabbing the slab of butter and rubbing some more on the pan.
Since we were 4 of us, and 2 hadn’t had this before, there was a mini debate on how many we should order. Finally we ordered 4 Dabelis asking him to make them less spicy. When one friend asked how much it was, he literally snapped at her saying “stop talking, just take it , eat it and pay if you like.. You know I have had customers eat, drive off and then come back saying sorry we forgot to pay” [but the way he said it showed how passionate he was about what he made and that he was just happy to serve customers] I watched in fascination as he went about putting the dish together. He went on to say there was a youtube video made by a customer on him that we can check..
He took the bun from the tawa, spread a good dollop of spicy chutney, another of the sweet one, and then added the Dabeli masala [ mix of spices, peanuts and boiled potatoes], then came the spicy crunchy peanuts and finally it was shut tight and served. Now it was time to stuff our faces and enjoy this dish… I loved it.. infact I think two of these and a meal was done! Oh btw, he also sells packets of Dabeli masala powder [all you gotta do is boil potatos, and add this before cooking the mix down] and spicy peanuts as well..
While we were gorging down our Dabelis, I noticed a customer pull in on one of those specially Hand Control Bike for Handicapped, and he also suffered from some nervous disorder as his hands were shaking.. The guy at the Dabeli counter asked his assistant to give the guy in the bike his dabeli, making sure he held it right in his hand.. Few minutes later, he chit chatted with that customer asking if he needed anything more and if he liked what he had… Talk about service right!! This is something that changes the experience we have and what makes a world of difference..
As I made my way back to the car, I heard him continue to chit chat with the next lot of customers who had landed up at his stall..
Next time you are driving around in Bhuj and on Hospital road, look this guy up and thank me later!