In most Indian languages, dabba typically means box or tiffin box. In colloquial usage, it refers to food that is carried from home to school or work, to be eaten after a few hours at lunch time. The dabba is usually some kind of air-tight container that does not dry up or leak the contents and keeps it relatively fresh.
The dabba network that works in Mumbai is well-known all over the world, and is the subject of several management case studies! In Mumbai, there are dabbawallahs who collect food packed in tiffin dabbas from people’s homes and deliver it to their offices close to lunch time. However, not everybody avails of this service in the city, and people in other cities and towns have no such facilities, so it becomes necessary to pack their food in the morning and take it along when they leave their homes.
Food that is packed in the dabba has to be such that it remains good even after a few hours. So, people are always wondering what to pack! There are some time-tested dishes like rice preparations and chapattis and many people stick to this. They are afraid to experiment for the fear that the food might not be good in the afternoon. However, there are many dishes that can be packed in the tiffin dabba, ranging from pastas to pulaos and parathas too. You just need to know the trick of how to prepare and pack them.
The first criterion to select a dish for your dabba is that you should like it! Pick the kind of dishes you usually enjoy eating, so you will not mind even if it is not hot.
Some offices have fridges and microwave ovens while others do not. You need to decide on your lunch accordingly. For example, if you have a fridge you can take curds along with your parathas, otherwise green chutney will be a better choice.
Plan your dabba menu the previous evening itself, so that you can buy the required ingredients and make the necessary preparations to save time in the morning.
Here are some recipes that we have tried and tested to ensure that it stays good in the dabba for at least 5 hours.