Paranthas at Murthal in Sonepat
Murthal in Sonepat is well-renowned for its paranthas. These famed delicacies are a major reason why people drive long distances and come from all parts of the neighboring states to have and eat this delectable dish. Stuffed with a wide variety of vegetables, the paranthas in Murthal are your stairway to heaven with a large dollop of creamy white butter floating over one parantha. So, what exactly do these bits of cooked dough especially made in Murthal have that makes even the longest journey seem just like a culinary adventure?
Paranthas, as we know are the favorite breakfast items in the menu of the families living in North India. Especially in parts of Punjab and Haryana, where these hot and steaming forms of cooked flat bread are topped with a large dollop of butter and accompanied with a spicy and tangy pickle and a cool bowl of sweet and sour curd. These paranthas are surely the full proof way to have a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner which leaves you wanting for more as well as satisfies your hunger pangs in a way in which no other food item can. The village of Murthal in Sonepat is a rapidly developing village along the National Highway 1 connecting the national capital Delhi to the state of Punjab. The national highway along the village of Murthal leads to Panipat as well as to all the other important destinations in the beautiful hills of Himachal Pradesh and the other neighboring states. Thus, the long rows of the dhabas in Murthal act as a great stopping point for people travelling onto other places in addition to it as being a lovely one day culinary adventure destination.
There is an interesting tale behind the reason for the all-vegetarian dhabas in Murthal. It has been said that around a period of some sixty years ago, a Naga Sadhu had visited the village of Murthal. According to some stories, it is said that he had blessed the people living there while the other popular tales in the area point out that this ascetic had cursed the place saying that any commercial establishment within 10 kilometers of that spot which would serve non-vegetarian food like eggs, chicken, mutton and fish would not gain any profits from the business. Instead, that commercial establishment which would not comply with these rules would just shut down within a period of six months. It is also said that out of the 50-60 dhabas in Murthal village on the National Highway, those who have taken notice of these words have succeeded in their businesses. There are countless others as well who have not heeded these words, suffered losses and have mysteriously shut down their businesses within a period of three to six months.
There are a number of dhabas in the Murthal village, the most popular ones being the Pahalwan Dhaba, the Gulshan Vaishno Dhaba, the Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba and the Ahuja Dhaba. However, although they are all called dhabas which typically cater to a host of truck drivers on a regular basis who stop on their way, the seating arrangements are not on the usual charpoys under the sky. Alternatively, most of the dhabas have comfortable and spacious seating arrangements under a roof and are fitted with air conditioners and fans along with clean and laminated furniture. There are also well-maintained and polished restrooms with electric hand dryers and numerous shops selling digestive tablets, toys and pickles all over the premises.
Historically, these dhabas had started around the years 1948-49 catering mainly to truck drivers who stopped there for a meal and to rest their weary limbs during their tiring journeys. They became widely popular in a short span of time as there were very limited options for the truck drivers during those times and the hot, fried and crispy paranthas stuffed with vegetables which were served 24 hours of the day along with chilled glasses of lassi and sweet and spicy pickle became the favorite among the drivers and the travelers reminding them of home cooked food. Since paranthas were not readily available in those times, these dhabas and their stuffed paranthas became hugely popular among the masses.
The most famous tandoori paranthas in Murthal are the alu paranthas (paranthas stuffed with potatoes), alu pyaaz paranthas (paranthas with a stuffing of a mixture of spicy potatoes and onions), gobhi paranthas (cauliflower stuffed paranthas), mixed vegetable paranthas, mooli paranthas (paranthas with a stuffing of spiced and grated radish) and paneer paranthas (paranthas stuffed with paneer / cottage cheese) among many others. According to the local shop owners, earlier, these tandoori paranthas were not roasted on the tandoors using coal, instead, they were shallow fried in pure ghee. Due to the modern era of health conscious people, the dhaba owners changed this practice around 10 – 15 years ago and started making the paranthas on the tandoor. The oil-free roasted paranthas are then served with large dollops of fresh homemade white butter and then accompanied by a five spice pickle (commonly called the pachranga pickle), sweet and sour baby onions pickled in vinegar (also known as sirke waale pyaaz in Hindi) and fresh green chillies to give that extra bite to the whole meal. The paranthas in these dhabas are quite reasonable to the pocket and cost from INR 35 onwards.
The regular stuffed tandoori paranthas made at these various dhabas in Murthal require about 80 to 90 grams of flour in quantity which is a mixture of the grindstone flour and that of the flour mill. Unlike the dough that is used for making chappattis which is extremely tight, the dough used for making the tandoori paranthas are slightly flaky and loose. This dough is made by mixing the two types of flour and adding a small quantity of water so as to not to make it very compact. This dough then has finely chopped vegetables along with some cut up green chillies, salt and coriander leaves added to it along with the required stuffing for the parantha, like the mashed potatoes and the finely cut raw onions for the alu pyaaz parantha, crumbled cottage cheese (paneer) mixed with spices for the paneer parantha and so on. The ball of the parantha is then rolled out using a rolling pin and then roasted on a hot coal tandoor which is then plated up with a large dollop of creamy white butter.
Along with various types of stuffed paranthas, visitors can also find a rustic and earthly flavor in the other items available at these dhabas. From beverages like hot, sugary tea and supremely refreshing, chilled and light lassi to Punjabi seasonal specialties like makki ki roti and sarson ka saag and delectable desserts like the raisin packed suji ka halwa, crispy jalebis and saffron kheer with almonds floating in them among many others. In the recent times, these dhabas have also started following in the footsteps of the restaurant tradition and have started making dishes from the South Indian and Chinese cuisines.
All these items accompanied by delicious tandoor roasted paranthas make Murthal to be an ideal stopping destination that can take your taste buds to a heavenly culinary journey and make for quite a memorable experience!