My Favorite Roadside Indian Restaurant Dhabas Gobi Subji

I never expected to be having Butter Chicken for breakfast in the prairie lands of northern Texas. But Texas can be a surprising place. Eight weeks on the highways, byways and I-whatevers of America taught me that I know nothing about this great country of ours. I had no idea what state had the worst freeways in America (The 1-4o through New Mexico; Never again!) The road-weary traveler in me did know that whatever you do, once you leave California, don’t you dare call I-10 the 10! Believe it or not, the Indian food-obsessed chef in me had never even heard of a dhaba! Travel the interstates of India or Pakistan and you will see Dhabas on nearly every off-ramp. These roadside Indian restaurant dhabas are so very popular with truck drivers all over the world.

The southwest in general was not at all what I expected. I thought northern Texas would be a dry wasteland with nothing but tumbleweeds and cattle feedlots for miles. Well, we did pass one ginormous feedlot and my hound puppy went nuts with the cow scent! No seriously though. I wish I had snapped a video of her enjoying that fresh cow scent with her nose in the air. She was so amazed.

Beyond the feedlots filled full of future hamburgers I honestly did not expect fields of green prairie land and Indian food when I pictured Texas. Yes, I said Indian food! The day before as we traveled just below the Oklahoma panhandle all I could think about was the Grapes of Wrath and all the people who lived through the Dust Bowl, the biggest man-made catastrophe in American history. But as we traveled west on I-40 a fantastic thing began to happen. We saw signs for Indian food everywhere! It distracted me from my plans that yes, I really really need to reread Four Winds by Kristan Hannah. These roadside Indian restaurants dhabas are hidden gems hidden among the truckstops every fifty or so miles on almost every interstate all over Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Indian food in this farm-studded prairie land among the corn fields? Now how on earth does that happen?

Before we traveled the backroads of America through the southwest I had never even heard of a dhaba. Here I am, that American who is India’s greatest fan. I’m so obsessed with Indian food and culture ( Yes like Cathy Bates in a kurti) and I have no idea what a dhaba is! To be fair, my boyfriend, who is Anglo-American from Bangalore India originally had no idea we have dhabas in America before this road trip.

Dhaba Dhaba do!

roadside Indian restaurants dhabas
Sweating at midnight next to the muddy Mississippi

Eight weeks on the backroads of America and I knew driving through Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona was going to be the hardest part of our road trip. Number one, it was the last push on the road towards our mountain home, our garden and our kitty cats. Number two, I knew the heat would suffocate me. I knew that the heat of the southwest would be a challenge for me and my outdoor way of life. In most of the campgrounds we stayed at in the southwest, I was able to find either the pool or a lake or the Mississippi River to stay next to. This kind of backfired though because near Memphis Tennessee that lake was un-swimmable and the Mississippi was so overgrown on the edges. I was a bit terrified for the puppy of the four different kinds of venomous snakes that call Tennessee home. So my ophidiophobia kept the pup and me out of the lakes and the muddy Mississippi, which hey is apparently the most polluted river in America. I’ve got enough maladies, I probably don’t need to go a swim in a river full of sewage treatment runoff.

roadside Indian restaurants dhabas
Happier less humid times cooking al-fresco

By the time we were on the 40 heading through Arkansas, I was a hot sweaty fat mess. My hair was a frizzy halo around my head from the humidity and I had angrily thrown my organic natural deodorant into the muddy Mississippi out of pure sweaty stinky anger.

(That is totally a joke I would never litter intentionally. Please don’t cancel me) The puppy and I hadn’t hiked in days. Furthermore, I ordered barbeque food from so many amazing-sounding restaurants with great reviews. But absolutely everything we ordered was just barely edible. The foodie in me usually cooks all of our healthy, sometimes keto meals on our journeys in the motorhome across the country. That’s one of the things that I love about traveling in the motorhome. I can pack my almond flour, coconut oil and dhania jeera and be ready to whip up anything from a Malaysian Style Fish Curry to a Vegan Kale and Cucumber Keto Salad at the drop of a hat.

But I knew that it was going to be a sweating motorhome mess as we traveled across the southwest. So I had plans for us to get takeout from quite a few different fantastic sounding

(According to Yelp) mostly barbecue restaurants. After the fourth day of ordering barely edible barbecue, I was really craving some kind of ethnic food, any kind of ethnic food at that point. But here we were in the middle of Arkansas. That was so not happening. And it was so ridiculous hot and humid. There was no way I was going to turn the motorhome oven on. As I sweated all over Arkansas I had no idea that roadside Indian restaurants dhabas were even a possibility.

roadside Indian restaurants dhabas
The Famous Hattie B’s in Nashville, Tennessee

As I sweated my way through the absolute misery that is Arkansas in the summertime, I was hoping and praying my sanity would last until we reached cooler climates, less humidity or a pool.

Maybe some Indian food would make me less bitchy?

The hiker in me was slowly dying or perhaps melting from the hot ball of hate. Some people call it the sun. I needed mountains and I needed them stat. Or maybe I just needed some Punjabi-style Indian food to drown my sorrows in. It had been so many days of sitting in a motor home watching the southern states of America flying by outside the windows. My butter chicken butt was definitely back. It was time to embrace it.

God Bless Texas!

Day four had me saying good God, why is it so humid outside still. How does anyone live here? Day four of what I say is our drive across the south, even though I realize it’s not really even the south yet, saw us driving across the Oklahoma border. Thank the Lord the humidity dropped. We camped for the night at the KOA east of Oklahoma City and it was a welcome surprise. There was finally a pool for me to dip my fat sweaty body into. And the humidity had dropped by a good 15%. Not only that, but I found an absolutely amazing hole-in-the-wall barbeque place in Oklahoma City.

We have tried a lot of different barbecues in Kentucky and Tennessee and everything was honestly not even as good as what I make at home. King’s Custom Smoked Meats came to our rescue big time and really lifted our spirits. It’s funny how a good smoked meal can do that. This hole-in-the-wall barbeque joint was the Oklahoma-style barbecue I had been dreaming about. If you ever make your way through Oklahoma City, you absolutely have to stop here. The burnt ends were the absolute best that I’ve ever had in my entire life. They might have been one of the top ten delicious things I actually shoved into my mouth on this entire 8-week road trip. The brisket that we ordered from this restaurant was by far and away the best brisket we had anywhere in the south. And their barbecue sauce actually did not taste store-bought, it was sweet. It was tangy. It was spicy and it was the way barbecue sauce should taste. Not like Bulls Eye for the love of God. Surprisingly, Oklahoma had put me in a pretty good mood.

Smiling because we survived the tornado-strength winds.

What I one hundred percent did not expect about the American Southwest was to embrace one hundred and three degree days because well as they say “It’s a dry heat” Summertime in Tennessee had me wringing the sweat out of my bra several times a day. That is how hot, humid and miserable it was anytime we ventured outside. Thank the Lord when we spent five days in Nashville, we camped at basically the best RV resort ever, Elm Hill RV Resort. They even delivered ice to our RV for us and had trash pickup in the a.m.! It was the Cosmopolitan Hotel of RV Resorts! This explains all the quarter-million dollar rigs parked next to our 99 Fleetwood fixer-upper. If my boyfriend was not a genius of engineering, motorhome emergencies, plumbing what the hell just happened’s and everything else a twenty-plus-year-old motorhome can throw at her family, I don’t know how we would have made it nearly eight thousand miles in eight weeks.

Sweating in Elvis’s living room

But we adore our Fleetwood motorhome away from home and wouldn’t vacation any other way. This is an excellent way to feel when the hot swamp that is Tennessee forces you to hide in the dark interior of the motorhome for multiple days while crossing through Memphis Tennessee. Well okay, we did break camp and face the hot wet mouth that is Memphis briefly so I could sweat in Elvis’s living room. Love Elvis? Well, then Graceland in Memphis is one of the grand ol attractions you just have to check out. But I don’t recommend doing it in late July unless you have some serious Burning Love for hot weather.

The outdoor adventurer in me is miserable in this hot and humid southwest summer. When can I walk the puppy when it is still eighty-four degrees with seventy percent humidity even at eleven o clock at night? The puppy has taken to disemboweling tumbleweeds to show her disdain for the southwest while being chained to her tether in the shade at our campsite.

Tennesse was hotter than hell but at least it wasn’t Alburquerque. Thank the Lord we just barely drove through a truckstop in Albuquerque. We stocked up the motorhome on gas and then we were out of there. Albuquerque was basically like driving through the set of Breaking Bad. We saw so many people living in their cars. Nearly every car we passed had broken windows. I expected to see Jessie Pinkman on every corner. We thought about spending two days in Albuquerque to do the Breaking Bad tour and thank God we didn’t. Our thirty-minute stop at the Love’s Truck Stop basically was the tour! This place is so depressing. I knew New Mexico was one of the states with the lowest poverty rates but it was shocking to see a state in the United States this economically depressed. But hey I’m sure legalizing weed in a state where everyone already has a drug problem is a great idea! I pray that money goes to fix their jagged pothole highways because those were simply not fun in a big ass RV.

My Glamour Shot in the RV

Northern Texas is known to be such a hot and desolate place unless you like tumbleweeds and feed lots. Or unless you are a fan of roadside Indian restaurants dhabas. But when you are driving as many miles as you possibly can in a day on I-40 isn’t it amazing to be able to stop roadside and have Punjabi food? Amazing and truly unexpected. After traveling south through Kentucky, being miserable in Tennessee and just trying to get the hell out of Arkansas, I’ll admit it. We were a little bit desperate for some ethnic foods. I just assumed I was going to have to wait till we got home to my kitchen, my spices and my pantry full of Asian delicacies to have anything ethnic whatsoever. The roadside Indian restaurants dhabas of Oklahoma and Texas were a complete surprise. So how is it that Indian food is so prolific in the middle of Texas and Oklahoma?

Believe it or not, twenty percent of American truck drivers are Punjabi. Punjabi Sikhs fled India escaping religious prosecution in the ’80s. Here in America, they found it easy to get a trucking job without a degree, besides a quick pass through truck driving school, and then make easy money. And let’s face it, there is a lot of money in trucking these days. So obviously these roadside dhabas cater to their needs. Who wants to stop at a greasy Taco Bell when you can stop at a roadside Indian restaurants dhabas Dhabas for home-cooked Punjabi food? Dhabas are a common sight all over the interstates of the heartland. Of course, so many of them are unmarked and only advertised via word of mouth. Punjabi Dhaba off of I-40 in the tiny town of Shamrock Texas is where we stopped. This one was not advertised with a big billboard on the side of the interstate. But we found a great little dhaba cafe and Indian grocery store tucked away in a vintage-looking gas station with twenty big rigs parked out front. We really wanted to stop at It’s a Punjabi Affair but they were not open the day we were driving through Texas.

My favorite roadside Indian restaurants dhabas recipe

Do you love gobi like I love gobi? Are you wondering what the hell a gobi is? Are you wondering who the hell Dhaba is? Or what the hell a subji is? Subji is basically the Urdu word for a mixed veg dish. This is your new favorite veg recipe trust me. Feel free to use coconut oil to make this vegan. This is my version of the subji my boyfriend’s sister-in-law made for us while we motored on through Toronto early on in our summertime trip.

Marian’s Gobi Aloo Subji

2 large red onions, sliced thin

4 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 and a 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1 teaspoon mustard seeds, fryer for thirty seconds

2 cups cauliflower, cut into thin florets and blanched just slightly

2 teaspoons ground tomatoes

1 cup white potatoes, cut into cubes

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped very fine

1 cup water

1 cup homemade stock ( I prefer lamb or goat)

To start on the subji, fry the cut chili in the ghee and set those roasted chiles aside. Fry the onions well in the ghee. Set those onions aside to cool. Blend the onions and chiles in your mixie or blender.

Return the onion masala to the wok. Add the corinader and garlic ginger. Add in a little water, a quarter cup at a time to keep your masala from catching. Keep stirring as your spices roast, at least ten minutes. Mix in the cumin seeds and turmeric. Keep stirring your masala and roasting it until it’s a very thick and fragrant paste. Stir fry in your potato pieces.

Add in your tomatoes and the lamb stock and let simmer for fifteen minutes. Mix in the pepper. Cover and let simmer until the potatoes are cooked.

Mix your gobi into the subji and add the salt. Let simmer just until the gobi is warm. Mix in the cilantro and you are ready to serve your very own roadside Indian restaurants dhabas subji.







  1. Touring Duo

    That sounds like a tasty Gobi and I am all for using coconut oil for cooking! What a road trip and a half, such a shame that so much of the food through the SouthWest wasn’t tasty. I hadn’t heard of a dhaba before and never expected Texas to have so many… definitely something to bear in mind as I love a Butter Chicken myself! 🙂 Sim x

    Hoping over from #MMBC

  2. Esmé Slabbert

    Well what a trip and thanks for the recipe. I will have to check it out
    I visited you via BUSY MONDAY 581
    I linked up this week with = 83+85.
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