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Ever tried Anda Parotta from that tea stall around the corner?

How many times have you walked past those teeny cafeterias on the road and thought, ‘yech. I’d NEVER go in there.’ or ‘hmmm…could be good, but not worth risking my tummy.’ or ‘a place of the workers, for the workers, by the workers. I’m staying the heck away.

Probably not too many times. Cause most of the time, we don’t even notice the little Keralite mole right around the corner that’s been serving chai and anda (eggs) for the last decade. If we live in the older parts of the city, we’re programmed to walk right past them. Or we’ve packed up and shifted away from them. We've trotted off to the more polished side of Sheikh Zayed, where a squeaky tea stall dare not erect its canopy next to the likes of a milk & HONEY…or…shudder…our beloved Jones.

I’m not suggesting that the food at such places won’t curdle your tummy. Or that something they serve is so extraordinary that by God, you’re a fool for not getting, com’on, at least a takeout? Or that the ambience is one that’d inspire you to pop the question to that drop-dead gorgeous woman you’ve been trailing like a puppy for the past 18 months.

All I’m saying is: Don’t write ‘em off before you’ve tried them. That’s like someone looking at the icky blotch of a chocolate cake you’ve laboured over all day and…silently picking the store-bought cookies instead. And if you’re too afraid to try cause your stomach might implode with the egg sandwich their kitchen whips up, then…then commission someone else to try it first. There’s always a willing tester.

There’s always ME.

For the people who’ve lived on Rigga/Muraggabbat in Deira and driven past Al Diqdaqa Tea Stall, right behind the mosque, this review’s for you. I’ll admit I’d never really noticed this place myself, not over the span of its twelve year existence, not until last Friday morning, when I woke up slammed with a massive craving for eggs and parathas à la Kerala, or parotta. (remember, not all parathas are born equal. The concentric discs of a white flour and oil-rich parotta, stretched, twirled and rolled, are far softer, chewier, and more pliable than its North Indian forefather, the equally oil-laden, often veggie-stuffed, whole wheat paratha.) Mom suggested this place cause she’d heard of it from others…‘but darling, it’s super tiny, for bachelors, you can’t really sit and eat there…’

Hell yeah. Totally my kind of place.

Somehow, the thought of a closet-sized kitchen tucked away in some Godforsaken alley of Dubai really turns me on. It kicks up the Adventurer in me. The Hunter, the Experimenter, the Mad Scientist in me.

And believe it or not, the thought of such a place kicks up even the Nervous Nelly in me. Especially when I’m the only woman wielding a Canon monster-camera in a testosterone-cramped cafeteria whose anda parotta have never been stress tested on a lily-livered constitution. But regardless,

I am The Willing Tester.

Slave to my stomach, now concave with hunger, I ordered the eggs wrapped in a parotta, with the chef’s selection of a few token veggies thrown in. A simple 2.50 dirham breakfast, with another 1.00 dirham thrown in for a cup of chai poured from a golden-brownish kettle with such personality that it packed me off on a whole other train of thought…how many cups of chai has it poured over the past 12 years? how many droopy-eyed workers has it propped awake at 3pm in the afternoon, ensuring that they don’t jackhammer their foot in the midst of a hot afternoon nod-off?

I was alone on this mission. My friends, startled that I’d walk into a dive like this one, scuttled down the road to Breakfast to Breakfast [which incidentally, won a whole new level of respect with me last week with their sujuk manousheh, cheese sambousek, and Dallmayr milk coffee. I wish I’d sampled these when I’d waxed eloquent about BtoB’s manakish here.] The big question for me, sitting there small and alone and testosterone-deficient on table #1 of 2, with the owner shoveling biryani into his face on table #2 of 2, was: Should I just order a takeout and flee from here? Or should I stay here, eat my anda paratha steaming hot…and go down in history as the first woman to eat her breakfast at Al Diqdaqa Tea Stall in Dubai?

The shy little coward that I am, I copped out. I’d order and flee. Ek anda paratha please, for takeout.

As I sat there waiting for my order, I attempted to sweep together the last few shards of my courage and begged the owner to let me take photographs. I’m an online food writer, khana kay baray mein likthee hoon, I offered in broken hindi…could I take photograph please?

Oh, you want me to write the name of my site down for you? Acha...sure, I can write it down for you.

w...w...w…iliveinafryingpan…dot….com.

[Right. Like he’s ever gonna go check that out.]…[tra la la la la]…[unveil Canon]…[click click]…[snappity snap]…

…huh? No way. You…you pulled up my site on your blackberry?! [My blog was now smiling back at me from the Diqdaqa Tea Stall owner’s blackberry screen. Moral of the story – never underestimate the Tea Stall Owner. NEVER. I’ve learned this time and again from Tea Stall Owner rags-to-riches success stories in India, but I still pass judgments like an ignoramus when perched on a rickety tea stall chair.]

My anda parotta was ready. I sat there for a few minutes, just staring at it, paralyzed with indecision. This should really be eaten hot shouldn't it? It DOES deserve a fair chance, not soggy takeout treatment. But it feels like a man-only zone! And won't it look stupid if I now ask them to unwrap it and serve it on a plate?

I should have gotten over looking stupid 20 years ago.

The window of time within which an anda parotta roll will stay warm for you is SUPER slim. By the time I was done fumbling around with the dang thing, eat here, not eat here, LET’S UNWRAP THIS BABY RIGHT HERE ALREADY!, my fickle roll had gone cold. So while I’d love to give you this glowing image of the piping hot anda parotta roll served by the underdog Tea Stall, I can’t. It was an ordinary egg-in-parotta roll, one that could have had a fair chance had Vacillating Vanessa not possessed me at the last, most excruciatingly inconvenient moment.

...and contrary to what I was expecting, that parotta was not really greasy at all. (I personally think greasy would have been more exciting and newsworthy, but in the grand scheme of things, with a ton of bachelor dudes looking to this tea stall as their daily breakfast deal rather than a whimsical little tasting experiment, not greasy is probably a good thing.)

 

With the number of Rainbow milk cans on display in the store, you just know they have a history in making creamy, karak chai. This ain’t the place to order an earl grey, or maybe a jasmine tea, with a drop of honey if you please? Nope. What you get is what that Godfather of a kettle will pour out for you – a good solid concoction that’ll shoot right through your body, bada-bing.

Oh FYI, a week later, my tummy is still alive, well, and happily lapping up other experimental eats I choose to throw its way.

Now while Diqdaqa’s luke warm anda parotta wasn’t life-changing, I think their biryani and plate of fried chicken looked like it had a ton of potential. Especially that chicken. It looks like it has a serious non-nonsense fiery crisp about it.

Yep, you guessed it…I’ll go back. But till that happens, I’d be curious…any of you walked into a tiny Keralite cafeteria in some part of Dubai? Ordered something there that rocked your world? Or do you have one around the corner that you haven’t tried? And you're looking for a brave tester to go forth before you?

Confide in me. I am your Taster, coming soon to that inconspicuous little corner stall…yep, that one there stooped ‘round the corner, the one that’s stuck it out resiliently year after year, recession after boom, parotta after parotta…

I’m coming right there, to that corner stall near you.


Al Diqdaqa Tea Stall
Approximate directions on this google map, with Clock Tower as your starting point





17 Comments

  1. le chef

    I’m Keralite by birth and blood and this post had me swelling with pride. Read the Meena Bazaar food day out and with the tea stall in context, have you tried the famous Disco Sandwich and Disco Tea? I’m assuming you already have. This post just brought that out from taste bud memory.

  2. love the blackberry action!

  3. nadia

    Haha, I love the Blackberry action too! You are so brave to go in there alone and ask permission to take photographs! But it’s all worth it because anda parotta has never looked this glamorous before :)

  4. farwin

    True! that blackberry action is super.We go to this tiny joint in Karama that makes the best Disco tea ever.Can’t remember the name though.

  5. ninu

    what on earth is a disco tea !! wow. i want me some disco… ARVA. u must go taste for me. =D

  6. PrincessKristy

    Ooooh! I always run to the end of the textile souk in Bur Dubai where there’s a little place that does Karak Chai, and also always grab n’ run! Haven’t been brave enough to eat there yet. Good on you!

    • InaFryingPan

      @le chef – Ok, slap me hard but I don’t think I have. Or maybe I have back in the 90’s, because Disco Tea rings an obnoxiously loud bell in my mind. Please redeem myself and every other commenter who’s now dead curious about Disco Tea, and share the exact location of this place. It’s close to Bur Juman right? TELL MAAAY. I VAAAANT MY DISCO CHAAAI.
      (yeah. I’m done being crazy now. but I still want the location please.)

      @ginger and scotch – Yep. And I thought I was the only one who owned a blackberry. I’m devastated.

      @nadia – No no, I was quite the indecisive coward. But I know the trick next time. Pull up my site on my BB…or ask the owner to do it on his…and then get a free ticket to photography and hot anda parotta.
      Saved by The Data Plan.

      @farwin – location, location!! we’re all crazy curious now! I’m gonna walk around Karama asking passerbys for the disco tea place. I’m always up for being creepy in Karama.

      @ninu – join the boat of the non-disco-tea drinkers who’re chewing themselves to bits with curiosity over where to get this darned concoction.
      WILL SOMEONE ACTUALLY TELL US WHERE, PLEASE?!
      …and for you Ninu, I will absolutely taste it. On my list already, even though I have no clue where it is. But I shall HUNT it down.

      @PrincessKristy – I MUST eat there for you my fellow foodie. Gimme the exact coordinates and I will be there to try that karak chai. Its secrets (whether yummy or crap) must be laid bare for all Dubai foodies. ;)

    • PrincessKristy

      Awww, how to describe. Head into the textile souq from the bur dubai water taxi station, where the Bank of Baroda is. Keep on going past the tourist junk, past the next abra stop, then keep on going. It will be a little door/window on your right, leading along an alleyway to more of the souqs, just hanging off the main drag….

    • InaFryingPan

      @PrincessKristy – Oh God, I love these directions…this place has all the workings of a fantabulous hidden gem. You may be onto something, I’m going to hunt this place out pronto. That, and that dang disco tea place.

  7. DISCO TEA?!? That sounds like a blast :-) I want to have one too! Sounds like a party in the mouth…literally!

  8. I love this blog!!

  9. Brigitte

    So where exactly do you get the disco tea? And a landmark to pinpoint the diqdaqa stall? Just the clock tower?

    • InaFryingPan

      @Didi – fksdhfursfjkvnjkfvgisjgvht. (<– pent-up frustration at the niggling thought of disco tea buried in a treasure chest at the back of my mind from the ’90s, but can’t find the blasted key. I hate growing old.)

      @Alex – …and I love flattery, BRING IT ON! Kidding…humble thank you :) and thank you for the lovely email.

      @Brigitte – Diqdaqa’s exact location is on the google map that I have linked to at the end of the post, the mosque on Rigga is the nearest landmark.
      …and the secret hideout of disco tea to be revealed soon, stay tuned ;) [= I don’t know. Somebody please help me already.]

  10. le chef

    The disco tea i’ve had is inside Meena Bazaar..You should find it in a lane that is close to Vashu, the dress material store that’s nestled away from the main road..it’s a tiny cafetaria and don’t be fooled by the others. This is also run by Keralites and they have a paper stuck to the glass entrance door that reads disco tea and disco sandwich. I wish I could remember clearer directions. Hope this helps. Good Luck :D -Sayana

  11. oh my! this tea stall is walking distance from our home.. my husband and I get tea and pazhampori every now and then.. never knew they had porotta omlette.. I used to eat those like CRAZY once upon a time!!

    If you are planning to go to Digdaqa again or if you are in the neighborhood, do let me know! :))

  12. Brenda

    I love your blog and the way you describe food. Arva, you are indeed talented! Even though I am in Abu Dhabi, I am craving this lil roll of a sandwich, although I fear my stomach is not as strong as yours! Nonetheless, I love the pic of the chicken laid inconspicuously on top of a banana peel :)

    • InaFryingPan

      @le chef – oh YES. I have been walking around Karama asking random restaurant cashiers where I could find disco chai. Not pleasant. This is perfect Sayana, thank you!

      @Neelu – what? really? omg…batter-fried bananas there? you’re on lady, YOU ARE SO ON. God I loved those pazhamporis and chai when I visited Kerala, such comfort foods.

      @Brenda – Aw thank you! I’m sure Abu Dhabi has these anda parotta places too, though I’m too far away to come scope it out :(
      …I know, that banana peel added real character to the place!

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  1. By The Dirty Truth Behind Disco Tea. | I live in a Frying Pan. 25 Feb ’12 at 11:00 am

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