‘Authentic desi food in Doha’: The story of Punjab Restaurant

Serving Pakistani comfort food to generations of diners, Punjab Restaurant remains unchanged despite the city's dizzying growth.

chef's hands sprinkling parsley on a pan of chicken karahi
Here, you'll have an amazing Pakistani meal prepared by cooks who know what they're doing [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Here, you'll have an amazing Pakistani meal prepared by cooks who know what they’re doing [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Doha, Qatar - There is a rapidly growing neighbourhood in Doha called Msheireb, where new developments are springing up. They are designed with accessibility and modernity in mind but still pay homage to Qatari culture. For years, a squat little building has stood little changed as Doha has evolved around it, its cheerful green sign proclaiming that you have arrived at Punjab Restaurant.

Between the time that Punjab served us an epic meal and the writing of this article, the restaurant has moved a few buildings over, its original space now being rebuilt into something else. Such is the pace of development in Doha, which makes the traditional charm of places like Punjab that much more appealing.

The restaurant is the kind of no-nonsense place that tells you right away that you are about to have an amazing Pakistani meal prepared by cooks who know what they are doing. It was founded 40 years ago and has given exactly zero nods to “keeping up with the times” because the people who run it know they have a winning formula.

A view of the exterior of the old Punjab Restaurant at night, with a green sign running across the squat building
For years, a squat little building stood steadfast as life changed around it [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Like many of the restaurants in Doha’s older neighbourhoods, there are two dining areas, a men’s section and an upstairs dining area for families or mixed groups, which has its own entrance. Women can eat in either area, but men who are not accompanied by women are not allowed to eat in the family section.

Walking in, you can see the kitchen on the right behind big glass panels that offer a glimpse of the chefs working around roaring flames and enormous karahis (wok-like pans used in South Asian cooking). Hidden from immediate view is a tandoor oven tended by two men energetically slapping bread onto its walls and using long hooks to pull it off as it bakes.

Source: Al Jazeera