HOT LIKE CURRY- Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine is the first culinary venture of its kind in Hammond, Louisiana. Photo by Jeremy Rhodes.
By Jeremy Rhodes
Scientists say that our sense of smell holds the strongest potential of memory. I claim this to be self evident being that I wish to relive the memory of walking into Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine for the first time. Hearing the appeasing songs of Indian pop music and smelling the aroma of some of the finest Indian food I have ever had brought me to a scerine place in my mind. In my ignorance I could never imagine such a culinary blessing to grace Hammond America, but fear not readers, Indian Food is closer to home than you could imagine. At first glance, Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine only looks like a gas station because it is, the Best Stop 34 to be exact. Look beyond the humble interior because behind the doors lies a treat for the senses.
I was in a jovial state of mind by all the options that were presented before me. Not only was the menu concise and informative, it also gave the option of mild, medium or spicy for all the dishes. For the sake of retelling my experience to others, I decided to order the scipy version of the Butter Chicken. I chose this dish because I feel that the Butter Chicken is a good starting point for any newcomers who may never have had Indian cuisine before and I wanted to face the trust behind the infamous overbearing spiciness that is notorious with Indian Cuisine.
Photo by Jeremy Rhodes.
In response, I say with all honesty that the Butter Chicken was an absolute delight. This dish alone could convert anyone sits on the fence of suspicion. There was a euphoric wave of joy in every spoonful I had. The cream in the dish cut the spiciness without leaving any flavor out. The dish is served with traditional brass bowls and Indian rice. With the Indian music playing behind me and the dishes steaming before me I could close my eyes and be at complete peace in the world.
I was joined by friends on this culinary conquest, to which they ordered the Chicken Vindaloo and the Palak Kofta. The Chicken Vindaloo had a savory spice found in the garlic tomato sauce. The hidden gem about this dish are the potatoes that compliment the sauce by absorbing vast amounts of flavor. Though this dish had quite a spicy kick, it is the flavor that brings out the love and tradition that cooked with it. The Palak Kofta is a vegetarian dish with a thick, hearty spinach sauce. I truly love this dish for the mixed vegetable balls that come with it shows the powerful taste possibilities vegetables can have.
I will be frank when I say that the location of this restaurant is not the best place to hold such majestic food but I sit back and think how perfectly quaint it is for Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine to be found in a gas station. It is as if this restaurant challenges the adventurous eater to find them and in result find culinary bliss.
Photo by Jeremy Rhodes.
While talking with customers around me I found that many of them were returning customers. It is as if these partitions discovered a goldmine and have fallen madly in love with what is offered. One customer, Wade Bridges, was eating here to celebrate his birthday. Bridges was very passionate about his love of Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine and recalls his first time trying their food by saying, “I was super trebadacious about Indian food and I didn’t know anything about it going in. I found that it is absolutely an experience. We are from the South we know spice we can handle that, this is a completely different kind. This is flavor this is not just straight heat.” When asked about how he would sell the idea of Indian food to a person who has never had it he said, “Honestly, I am just going to continue to rave about it. How good it is and how filling it is.”
My overall thoughts on this restaurant is that this is an eatery I want to see flourish. The herbs and spices experienced here awakened tastebuds I did not know I even had. I think the consensus from fans of Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine is that this place has great food. I agree with this, however, not only is this a great restaurant I also believe this is an important restaurant. Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine brings a hidden gem of culture to Hammond. The south’s comfort food is about bringing three things to the table; food, smiles and community. I saw with my own eyes complete strangers talking to each other while enjoying this food. It is as if the flavors melted our guard we tend to build around ourselves. Punjabi Dhaba Indian Cuisine is a place to be adventurous, satisfied and happy.