Monday, December 15, 2008

Baba Ka Dhaba, Calgary

Baba Ka Dhaba
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
Plans had been afoot to eat at Baba Ka Dhaba for some time. Known as “the stand up” among my friends, I had been seduced with talk of totally delicious Indian food. It was reaching mythical status, and then everyone went into damage limitation mode, telling me to get drunk before I got there and to wear my oldest clothes.

A dhaba is a roadside restaurant throughout India and Pakistan. They are very popular with truck drivers, as they are often next to a petrol station. For British readers, this means you’re eating in the Indian equivalent of a “Happy Chef”, although pleasantly, the comparison stops there. The food served is often Punjabi, pretty spicy and with more of a homestyle feel that you’d get in a restaurant. If only the UK had roadside food as pungent and delicious as Baba Ka Dhaba. Perhaps I’d still be living there…

To continue the driving theme, Calgary’s Baba Ka Dhaba does look very similar to one of those illegal mini-cab offices you find in the east end of London. Not a lampshade in sight and it’s tiled, so you can either tell yourself it’s a bit like eating in a urinal, or that it’s really easy to hose down at the end of the night. To be honest though, this place probably hasn’t seen a good hosing down in a while.

The food, however, was glorious. Pillowy naan bread. Butter chicken in a sauce as silky as my underwear drawer. Chicken tikka, on the bone, all scrackly and charred from the oven. Pakora curry, a dish I had never heard of before, that was like eating the scrummiest dream you’ve ever had about your favourite person. Lamb chops and sheekh kebabs, be still my beating heart, that are better than Mirchi and rival those at Lahore Karahi in Tooting. We even got to go off-menu with goat hooves in a thin spicy gravy and some Nepalese fish, just flaking as you bite into the batter patina.

You’ll see my glamorous assistant Amit pointing out that the menu at Baba Ka Dhaba rotates through the week, so I can’t guarantee that what we had will be there when you go. In fact, I have an aloo naan winging its way to me as I type, as this is one of the Monday items.

Now, before you rush off there, remember that I don’t mind eating in a place that the interweb tells me has 16 health code violations. I cut some restaurants a lot of slack when it comes to things like this. Oddly enough, if I heard that a fine dining place was storing ice-cream on top of bones, then I’d be cautious. But this place is a hole in the wall and I’ve eaten pani puree on the streets of Bangalore, so I know I have a pretty cast iron stomach. What does make me weep though, is when people use the internet to complain that the chicken tikka wasn’t cooked properly and they got sick. Hello? If the chicken isn’t cooked properly, send it back, you cretin. Sometimes I find myself waiting for people to blossom from imbecile to idiot, and wondering why there isn’t some sort of test before people are allowed to post opinions on the web.

Baba Ka Dhaba is at 3504 17th Ave SE. You can call them on 403-207-5552.

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Anonymous John Scott said...

Really good post Suzi - well done. It makes me want to get along to Rasa or wander off to that street near Euston Station that is full of curry houses. It's all vegetarian though... Talking of which, off to the great Vanilla Black on Friday!

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Tana said...

"Pakora curry, a dish I had never heard of before, that was like eating the scrummiest dream you’ve ever had about your favourite person."

So it tastes like Hugh Jackman?

I'll have one in large, please.

(That sentence makes me miss your lovely voice and elocution terribly. And now with the passport dilemma...well, damn it.)

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

health code violations be damned!!! the naan is the texture of angel wings. the food there is good, period. amen

10:50 PM  

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