Ordering food in a dhaba

The mystery of food ordering in an Indian restaurant

There are many types of places where you can eat in India, ranging from street food stalls to fancy elite restaurant . In this post we will be talking about a type of restaurant which is far from fancy and it is commonly known as the Indian Dhaba — a local restaurant for common people.Ordering food in India

However, even within Dhabas, there is a wide variety wherein some serve very basic food at cheap prices and others have melded into more sophisticated restaurants, reflected in the prices as well. Here, as I said, we are after the lower range Dhaba which will most likely be, regardless of travel budget, come across while traveling in India. If not, you should certainly seek one out. They serve great and authentic food, it’s cheap and above all it’s an amazing experience.

A chronicle of a failure foretoldOrdering food in Indian restaurant  

The following scenario has happened to me more than once, so I consider it to be a chronicle of a failure foretold. Nevertheless I think it’s important to share this conclusion with you. This conclusion comes exactly the opposite of what you all know; that is to go to restaurant when you are hungry or about to be. In India, you must go to the restaurant when you are absolutely full. Actually the best time to go is when you have had the last bite of a healthy meal.

Say you just arrived to a restaurant exhausted and starved from a long day of exploration. You have just ordered Sabzi with rice (A typical dish in local Dhabas) expecting to get a plate of rice, and a plate of cooked vegetables gravy and chapattis (flatbread) in just a few minutes.

That’s how our Sabzi with rice case study begins:

1)      You may be proud of yourself having successfully made your order properly, now the ball’s in the waiter’s court. You have done your part; all you need to do is lay back and wait for the great food to come and finish another perfect day.

2)       After awhile, you may realize that there are no signs for salvation and the food is yet to come. It’s your turn again to make a reminder that you are alive and hungry. Once you have successfully made your note, it would be good idea to browse the camera’s photographs in order to kill the time.

3)      When you are just about to lose your patience the waiter will come with a plate in his hands — that would probably be the chapatti.  A message of hope just arrived and now everything looks promising. Unfortunately, what I’m about to say is statistically backed up not only by my experiences, but by many others’ as well- the chapatti slices stand for themselves. Seemingly you should have dipped them in the vegetable gravy (in an ideal world), but apparently, you may find that it has nothing to do with the rest of the dish in terms of timing.dhaba_ordering food

4)      Even the strongest person cannot resist the temptation when he/she is so hungry. I can assure you that it will be consumed long before the vegetables, gravy and rice appear.

5)      Once you finish eating the chapatti, you may feel mild relief mixed with some self-disappointment for not being able to wait for the entire meal. But rest assured; it wasn’t a fatal mistake as you’ll see as your meal goes on. Think of it as a small victory in the whole doomed campaign.

6)      Now it’s time for the rice. A few minutes or so after you eat all the chapatti slices, a plain plate of white rice is in front of you. With no chappati and no vegetable gravy around you are about to have another rough dilemma. To eat or not to eat? the chappati was certainly not enough to fill you up but it’s pointless to eat just plain white rice without the vegetable gravy . You are forced to wait again. Slowly, slowly the rice will de disappear and you’ll become totally full.

7)      Guess what? This is exactly the time when the vegetable gravy finally shows itself.

That’s it – the house always wins!   

Murphy ’s Law in action, right in the middle of Indian restaurant           

murphys lawNow, having all figured out how to avoid the above scenario, determined to improve your odds for enjoying the great Indian cuisine in local style, you decide to take action. Knowing that it may take so much time to eat, this time you won’t be coming as hungry as before. However, for some reason Murphy is always ready to stick his nose in — especially where not welcome with his first Meta rule: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. When you are not expecting the food to come so fast and you have got some tiny snacks to get through the long intervals between plates, hocus pocus! The entire dish comes right away with everything in it, the whole nine yards. Even with extra Dahi (yogurt) on the house.

So here you are with a full scale meal in front of you, but unfortunately, you are not hungry…

Again, the house always wins!


Have you ever been to India? Sound familiar? Feel free to leave a comment 

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