Where taxi drivers dine

We visit the restaurants that fuel the city's cab drivers Discuss this article

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There are 17,278 registered RTA taxi drivers in Dubai. That’s 17,278 people dedicated (some more than others, admittedly) to keeping the city moving, ferrying passengers to and fro, and running the 14-lane gauntlet that is Sheikh Zayed Road day in, day out.

Most of the city’s cabbies hail from Pakistan (35 per cent) and India (25 per cent), as well as Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia and Sudan. Such colourful cultural diversity is catered for by the city’s equally diverse restaurant scene, which was enough of a reason for me to spend several lunch hours hopping into a cab and joining whoever picked me up for a bite to eat.

Adukkala Restaurant
I was alerted to the whereabouts of this restaurant by a Keralan colleague, who assured me it was a favourite among taxi drivers who hail from this southern Indian state (there’s a high chance that an Indian taxi
driver will come from Kerala). Since I’m in the area anyway, I take his word for it and drop by to find the restaurant devoid of customers at noon.

‘Do taxi drivers come here for lunch?’ I ask the manager, a thick-set man with an equally thick moustache. ‘Yes!’ he says with a laugh. ‘Many come here for lunch!’ I look around to double check and am disappointed that the restaurant is still empty. ‘Ha!’ he says, eyeing my expression, ‘they come later!’

I take a table next to a mural depicting snapshots of what must be home for many customers – house boats, elephants and colourfully clad holy men. The manager issues me a glass of red liquid that he implores me to drink. It’s rasam, a hot drink spiced with dried chillis, coriander and mint leaves, and it’s exceptionally good – much like liquid curry. I’m then served a glass of green liquid, aka ‘pulissery’ – a yoghurt-based drink flavoured with turmeric and yet more dried chillis. As I drain the last drops I look up to see a flurry of red ties walk through the door, one of which is marched over by the manager to prove that his restaurant is indeed a favourite with Keralan cabbies.

Rajesh introduces himself. He’s been in Dubai for six years and eats
at Adukkala three times a day, every day. ‘So you’ve eaten every meal here for the past six years?’ I ask incredulously. ‘Yes,’ replies Rajesh with a smile. ‘No!’ rebukes the manager, ‘we’ve only been open for a year and a half.’ ‘Yes,’ nods Rajesh, still smiling.

I love thali, so I’m more than happy when I’m confronted with two trays – one laden with kotari bowls, each full of curry, the other lined with a banana leaf and a mound of motta (fat) rice, a fried sardine, lemon pickle and coconut chutney.

Rajesh talks me through each of the curries, from the sambar to the thoran (daal and coconut), yam and black chenna and koota curry, explaining in what order and how to eat them. There are no spoons or forks at Adukkala, so I’m forced to fumble through each offering with my right hand – a skill that I begin to master towards the end of the meal, although I still manage to make a wonderful mess (the trick, apparently, is pushing the rice-curry mix into your mouth with your thumb).

I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m dining with Keralans or simply because the food is fantastic, but I daresay this is the best thali I’ve eaten in Dubai.
Open daily 6am-1am. Unlicensed. Cash only. Opposite Lamcy Plaza, Oud Metha (04 334 4043).

The bill

1x Parcel pothichor Dhs10
Total Dhs10

By Oliver Robinson
Time Out Dubai,

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