Ballé Ballé!!

Santanu Mitra


Mei kya ji sat sri akaal, but what makes Happy Singh happy? Well, it must be the new dhaba in his name. Far away from the dusty plains and juicy green meadows of the Punjab, Happy Singh has found a niche in our very own Kathmandu, out in the verdant lawns of Garden Terrace, Soaltee Crowne Plaza, he has opened the box of delicious Punjabi cuisine for the Nepali palate. But first things, first. Some things need to be said and got out of the way before settling down to the real meat. The bar! Well, if all dhabas in the Punjab had bars like this one, driving on the highways would have become fraught with weaving traffic not to mention overturned trucks. From Margherittas to Bloody Marys, wine to champagne, and all ranges of imported and local alcohol, the bar is stocked to overflowing. Ballé ballé I say, letsh drink and be merry!

Drinks apart, the ambience of the dhaba is a real treat. Different kiosks catering to different areas of Punjabi cuisine, starting from the Lassi Corner to the Masala Chai Stop, tandoor (clay oven) to Khata-khat meat fry tawas serving tender kidney, liver, gurdey-kapo-orey, and tikkas of lamb and chicken the instant spread is mindboggling and certainly mouthwatering. Welcomed with jaljeera, sherbet or rose drinks, the service gets better and better as the tummy gets fuller and fuller. Chaat is brought in quarter plates, very much spicy and tangy. Followed by drinks to your taste with succulent tandoori or fries.

Happening for the third year in a row, the Dhaba concept has really caught on with the Nepali populace. Not only is the fare unique but somehow has a nearness to Newari food, thereby making the crossover a real pleasure. Says Sarad Upadhyay, sales manager,” Last couple of years it was such a success that we wanted to make it a yearly feature!” And sure, nothing succeeds like success. But a lot of very hard work has to go into planning a theme event like this. It was obvious from the décor ranging from wondrous old Hindi movie posters painstakingly sought and bought by the staff, to the authentic 50’s and 60’s Hindi movie songs wafting in the breeze, to the truck with “Sonu te Monu di papa ki gaddi” emblazoned on the door, to a tube well gushing water to the coloured neon lights and pennants flapping in the wind, everything brought to mind the Dhabas by the dusty highways dotting the rural hinterland of India. To cap it all there is Happy Singh in person welcoming you in with a smile. Says Iqbal Singh Raina aka Happy, “It is such a pleasure to see my Punjab brought like this to Nepal.”

The fare comprises Tawa Subzi, Chicken Tangri, Gobi Tandoor, Tawa Mushroom, unforgettable Gajar da Halwa, Aloo da Parontha… its an unending list. Not to mention tongue burning Jalebis! And lassi Punjabi ishtyle. Which brings us to the tragedy in the story. This reporter was offered the very same Lassi right at the beginning of the evening but he chose to forego the treat for other beverages. And as the evening wore on there wasn’t any space left over to accommodate the Lassi. Which was the tragedy. Good Punjabi Lassi is to die for!