Dubai: Sind Punjab Restaurant, a popular Indian Punjabi restaurant in Dubai, has turned 42.
Established in July 1977, the restaurant has through four decades stood the test of time only to grow in strength.
Guruwinder Singh of Sind Punjab said the restaurant first started in Bur Dubai. Later, in 1985, the restaurant opened another outlet in Karama and later in Dubai Internet City (DIC).
Gulf News visited its Bur Dubai outlet to find out why people still flock the eating joint in large numbers.
Blast from the past
“When we first opened the restaurant in Bur Dubai, it was the holy month of Ramadan. The government gave us permission to serve meals inside the restaurant after drawing the curtains. We were a hit from the first day we began operations,” recalled Singh.
“The Bur Dubai restaurant has been in the same location all these years. There was a Pakistani restaurant that was operating in the place we are now. But it was not doing well and so we started Sind Punjab.”
Singh recalled when the restaurant started, daal (a yellow lentil gravy) cost Dh3, chole bature (a dish made of fried bread and chick peas) cost Dh5, chana masala (a gravy chick peas dish) cost Dh3, butter chicken around Dh10 for each serving. “These prices are now up three to four times in the last four decades. Yet, we are better priced than most other restaurants. All our dishes are made with a labour of love.”
He said during the 70s there was an influx of blue collar workers coming to Dubai. “The Dubai World Trade Centre was being constructed and there were many workers – mostly Indians coming to work in the emirate. Every Indian loves Punjabi food as it is rich in spices, texture and flavour. Besides, we are very economically priced and therefore our food is accessible to blue collar workers. The hungry workers would love to eat chaat and our meat dishes.”
The compact eatery located in Bur Dubai is a ‘go to place’ for those with a craving for authentic Indian Punjabi food. Sind Punjab is located in two other locales – Karama and Dubai Internet City (DIC). For the record this restaurant with around 100 staff serves 300 to 400 people every day. “We have deliveries every day until 2 am,” gushed Singh.
And it is the good reputation of the restaurant, built through the years, he said, which has kept a good many loyal customers coming back to Sind Punjab to dine.
Singh added a quick note that it is not just regular diners from the UAE flocking the restaurant, but many Bollywood stars and Indian celebrities too like to indulge at Sind Punjab. “Several Bollywood stars have dined at our restaurant. When they are here in Dubai, they don’t miss a chance to visit our restaurant and partake in authentic Punjabi food,” he said.
“The late Raj Kapoor and his wife Krishna dined here at our restaurant. They were sitting right here,” said Singh pointing to a corner seating area close to the entrance.
“It was 1985 and there was a cricket match in Sharjah. Raj Kapoor and his wife Krishna were attending the tournament. Straight after the match Raj Kapoor came to our restaurant with his wife for dinner. He ordered five plates of paani puri and had it all himself. He was having a bad cough, but he still enjoyed the paani puri. He also ordered Kulfi Falooda. It was like a celebration having him with us and it was such a pleasure serving him.”
“Other notable celebrities have also graced our restaurant like Shammi Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, and Navjot Singh Sidhu. Not too many celebrities leave Dubai without making a visit to our restaurant.”
And so we don’t miss a chance ourselves to indulge in a few authentic Punjabi delicacies. My colleague who is French takes a dig at paani puri (a snack made of hollow crepes filled with tamarind juice and spice filled water), butter chicken, butter naan, kulfi falooda (a cold dessert) and gulab jamun (a milk-solid-based sweet). And his review is positive.
“Indian food is usually spicy for my taste buds, but the butter chicken was just right for my palette,” said Antonin Kelian Kallouche.
“When I heard I was going to dine at a Punjabi restaurant, I thought it would be a very spicy affair for me. But it turned out to be quite a pleasant experience. I particularly enjoyed the paani puri. I have never tried that dish before so it was interesting experience. It was crunchy and yummy.”
I personally indulged in some sugar cane juice as it was quite a rare treat for me. The sheer sight of the sugar cane going through the roller to pulp out the juice gets me excited. I remember as a child drinking this from vendors on the streets of Mumbai. It was quite a walk down the memory lane.
A guest dining at the restaurant also reminisced the past. “I am third generation in Dubai so you can imagine, my family has been coming to this restaurant since the time it was set up in 1977. My father had a shop here in Bur Dubai and very often we would order take-a-way food from here,” said Amrita Sihra.
She was dining with a friend Mohammad Ibrahim from Jordan. “I always come here with Amrita. She introduced me to this place. The Daal Makhni and Chicken Tikka Masala are my favourite dishes here.”