A dhaba in Amritsar, that has its origins in Pakistan’s Punjab province, has been serving up mah ki daal and lachcha paratha for over 100 years. For Kesar da Dhaba, tucked away in the lanes between Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh, this entails using up 30 kg desi ghee every day. Between 11 am and 11 pm, the dhaba gets a steady stream of visitors. While the other specialities on their 10-dish menu include palak paneer, chana, rajma and saag fry, it’s their mah ki daal-lachcha parantha combo that has most people coming in.
Kesar da Dhaba started as a small eatery in Pakistan’s Sheikhupura, 38 km from Lahore, in 1916. Lala Kesar Mal, the owner of the eatery, originally served mah ki daal and roti, along with a bowl of phirni, a rice dessert served in earthern pots — his own recipe. But after Partition, as Mal moved to Amritsar, Kesar da Dhaba changed address.
Over a century, the dhaba has expanded its menu to include other Punjabi dishes. Vijay Kumar, Mal’s grandson, now in his fifties, says their recipes are neither written nor recorded anywhere, but are handed down generations. Only the family knows the ideal mix.
Today, the dhaba has two large seating areas and a big takeaway counter. For the health-conscious, the dhaba serves “less-ghee parantha”. “When you come to Kesar, don’t bother about how much ghee you eat. We use the purest ghee,” says Kumar, adding, “It’s better to swap Diet Coke with a glass of lassi, too.”
Over the decades, several politicians and film personalities have been among its patrons. Former prime minister Indira Gandhi would send her staff to pack daal, paratha and palak paneer for her, says Kumar. Rajesh Khanna, who grew up in a nearby haveli, often came here. Some portions of actor Saif Ali Khan’s film Chef (2017) were shot here. Kumar says, “We had to shut the dhaba for most part of the day. Saif used our tandoor to make lachchha parathas.”
This article appeared in print with the headline ‘This dhaba in Amritsar has been pleasing the palate with its century-old recipe of ‘mah ki daal’ and ‘lachcha parantha’