The first whiff of a lunch box
Tamra at Shangri-La has come up with the unique idea of desi dabbas that will make you nostalgic about your childhood. By Angela Paljor
“The idea of the dabbawala promotion came from the nostalgic feeling we have about our school days when we would sit with our tiffins and share them with our friends. This promotion is also a tribute to the entire community of tiffin carriers in Mumbai who supply lunch to various offices,” shares chef Neeraj Tyagi, who is working up a summer special with the whiff of home food and comfort. So we have the delivery boy in trademark topi and attire ride up to our table in a copper rose-coloured bicycle, ringing his bell. With a courteous smile he offers us a dabba menu. Once we make our choice, he whirrs back only to return with the tiffin cases, strapped to his bicycle. “We want the guests to open their own dabbas and be surprised by the elements in it,” Chef Tyagi adds.
Tamara offers a range of cuisine in their dabba menu, including Thailand ka dabba (Thai food being a favourite in Indian homes) tempting Desi Chineez, (the Chinese favourites with a fiery Indian twist that we have all come to know and love) Phorner Dabba (macaroni and bake combinations) Desi Dabba (the balanced Indian meal in a box), Mera Gaon Mera Desh (rustic, earthy favourites) Shudh Shakahari (pure vegetarian without onion and garlic) and South ka Dabba (the unpredictable mix of Andhra fish curry, Koi Vepudu and Pori). The world cuisine represented in the dabbas is basically what we have savoured in hawkers’ markets and known to most of us. For example, the Thai component includes the familiar chicken krapow, vegetable green curry and jasmine rice.
My favourite though is the Mera Gaon Mera Desh platter which offers Puran Singh ka Kukkad, Kadi pakoda and plain rice. The chicken, clearly derived from the eponymous dhaba near Ambala, is a melt-in-your-mouth curried comfort while the kadi chawal keeps it simple and wholesome, just as if it has been wheeled out of a mother’s kitchen. The kachcha aam and til ki chhatni enhances the flavour. But the spiced up Andhra fish curry, Koi Vepudu or stir-fried amaranth leaves and the puffed rice show that south Indian food has a wider flavour bouquet that goes beyond our idea of staples.
The Desi Chineez is totally Indianised and its Manchurian and stir-fried delicacies would remind you of the days you hung out at trolley carts to satisfy your cravings. Chef Tyagi shares, “We wanted the food to be very homey, not at all complicated as such. We have dedicated dabbas for each cuisine but they are all a complete meal, comprising a main dish, a staple, bread and rice.”
Do not forget to taste the Phorner Dabba with its unique ratatouille. If you are expecting it to be in layers, it is not per grammar but the taste will make it up.
There are special drinks that come along with your dabba, all of which are suitably local and perfect for the summer. Nobody can say no to Thanda Banta, Shikanji and Masala Cola. Certainly not to anything lime and lemony. At the end of your dabba, the restaurant allows you a light indulgence by offering you a crème brulee.
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