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Tantalisingly Punjabi

Check out the `Needs' restaurant in Begumpet which serves authentic Punjabi fare amidst an archetypal ambience, at unbelievably affordable prices.



DIGGING IN: Feasting on `Aloo ka Paratha' and `Baigan Bartha.' - Photos: Satish H

PIPING HOT aloo ke parathe with evergreen sarson da saag and peppery baigan bharta from the lazeez Punjabi tandoor (... can the hunger pangs in your stomach dare ask for anything more?) Let the connoisseurs go balle balle over the tempting thought (... or the taste!), you check out the authentic Punjabi menu at `Needs' restaurant. (Phone: 3407754)

Tucked away behind the busy Lifestyle building in Begumpet is Needs — a cosy eatery, quite nondescript in existence yet far busier than the plush shopping plaza itself. One really cannot afford to miss the place for location (just beside St. Francis Degree College), for the aroma emanating from the tandoor is as tantalising as the infectious hospitality of Uttam Singh and Ajinder Kaur (the owners).

No sooner you step inside, Daler Mehendi's sonoric record will sure make you say Ta Ra Ra Ra, after him, if not cajole you for a Bhangda. As you park yourself on the chair in one of the empty tables (only if you are lucky, that is), and get accustomed to the surroundings, you will find a young lad sporting a ceaseless grin, approach you with a bottle of matka-cooled water. That is Hardeep — one of the cooks and the owners' son — for you. After a refreshing aaah, be ready for a dheere ka jhatka jo zor se lage! The menu. Incredibly cheap.

Where else on earth (i.e., in Hyderabad) do you get a phulka for Rs 1.50 and chicken roast for Rs. 40? An aloo, gobi or a onion paratha is priced at Rs. 8 while a vegetable biryani is available for Rs. 15. While paneer butter masala can be had for Rs. 25, chicken curry can be had for the same amount and murg masala can be had at an additional Rs. 10. The same price is applied for butter chicken. Be it methi aloo, baigan aloo masala or aloo paneer, the price is Rs. 20. A lassi is pegged at Rs. 10.

The sight of the busy kitchen and the smell of the Punjabi masalas begin their magic on you as you stop studying the menu and place the order. Before the food is served, as you enjoy the bhangra beats, you wonder how the owner can sustain the restaurant (that has a capacity of about 50 people) offering the food at a price so dirt cheap.



IN LINE: The infectious hospitality has people queuing up.

Before long, emerges 66-year-old Uttam Singh who seems to have an answer. "Actually, we want people to enjoy the food. To make money is not our main motive." Not quite a satisfactory answer, though.

"My wife and son cook the food themselves, and sometimes during rush hour, the three of us get down to the business of serving the food. As we have a very few helpers, we save on other expenses," Singh continues. Now this looks like a more logical explanation.

The food is served. Steaming and sizzling. The sight: so persuasive that as you devour hungrily and place orders for more, you invariably amaze at the magic of fingers that has made such a sumptuous fare. So purely Punjabi. And as you burp after the contented homely meal, the Singhs are happy, as they know for sure that you will come back again, very soon.

But who is responsible for the addictive temptation in the taste? "I prepare the food myself, even grind the masalas myself and also take care to see that our customers are served authentic Punjabi cuisine, so irresistible that you keep longing for more and more," says Ajinder who religiously believes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. "How do you think I won Mr. Singh's heart?" she jokes. Dil da mamla hai!!

SOUVIK CHOWDHURY

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