Happy Singh Da Dhaba
All the food at Happy Singh Da Dhaba tastes so different that one wonders if it is really Punjabi food. The dishes here do not have a strong masala aroma or make you feel heavy and stuffed. It is so surprising that this rendition of Punjabi highway food does not even leave a colour or grease on fingers.
That is exactly what Chef Rajinder Singh Paul from Punjab (see photo below, right) and Executive Chef of Soaltee Crowne Plaza Yuba Raj Pokhrel (see photo below, left) were aiming to do: blend traditional preparation with the therapeutic properties of spices. The two chefs are collaborating to introduce ethnic cuisine of Punjab in Kathmandu through the Happy Singh Da Dhaba food festival.
“In old times, people in Punjab or any other place did not use too much fat or masala in their food. To give them strength to work harder in the fields, they survived on whole foods like lassi and corn rotis, which were super healthy and tasty,” explains Singh.
But slowly foods were commercialised. People built on the presentation and appearance rather than its nutritional values. “So now, we are bringing back the forgotten traditions of food preparation and serving”, adds Chef Pokhrel.
Indeed, the items at Happy Singh Da Dhaba have their own distinctive flavours and aroma, discernible after the first bite. Every dish is made from fresh ingredients and freshly pounded spices. No use of refined flour, or fats, synthetic vinegar, soya sauce, artificial flavours or colourings, nothing that is unhealthy. And everything is cooked in slow heat and charcoal, and served in earthen pots, giving all dish the authentic flavours of Punjab.
Colourful paper decor hangs above the venue that is filled with the sound of Punjabi music. Old movie posters on the walls of the stalls which have their own typical Punjabi Dhaba names. If one still does not get the Punjabi feel with all this, then there are waiters and chefs dressed in kurta, salwar and turbans.Happy Singh Da Dhaba is Soaltee’s annual food festival which gets refined and improvised every year with inputs from international and in-house chefs. This year, Chef Singh Paul was invited over to create more hygienic and healthy Punjabi dishes that reflect his progressive yet grounded-to-the-root approach.
Chef Singh is actually a post graduate in physics who has been cooking for 40 years now. He combines his knowledge of science and passion for culinary art. His approach is using fresh and nutritious ingredients, using proper and sustainable vessels to cook and maintaining proper temperature while cooking. That is a physicist doing the cooking.
Guests are suggested to start their dinner with drinks like Thandai, Jaljeera or Masala chhans. Move on to Butter chicken, Keema gurda kajeli with pav, Sarsoun da saag, Pindi chana, Harea dal, Patiala biryani or Tandoori roti. And end it with Khaur rabdi, Gajrella and Anjeer burfi.
And while tea is available everywhere in Kathmandu, this drink is still the major recommendation. Spices like cinnamon sticks, ginger, cardamom, cloves are pounded instantly and put into the boiling milk and water to make the aromatic masala tea.
3 November – 7 December
Garden Terrace, Soaltee Crowne Plaza, Tahachal
Rs1,950 (++taxes, includes a drink),