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Canadian PM savours Punjabi food at dhaba

Posted on Nov 07, 10:14PM | IANS

It is not always that the prime minister of a developed country can be seen savouring traditional dishes of another country that too in the parking area of a motor and accessories market converted into a roadside eating place.

That is exactly what happened when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper came out to dine Wednesday evening at Deluxe Dhaba in Chandigarh motor parts and accessories market in Sector 28.

Harper and his entourage, comprising over 50 people, most of them in business suits and formal evening dresses, sat down on the dhaba chairs and tables laid out on the black-tarred parking area of the market. Harper and other guests remained at the dhaba for over 45 minutes.

The Canadian prime minister was greeted at the dhaba with traditional Bhangra and Gidda dancers performing to the beats of the Punjabi dhol.

The whole area around the dhaba was cordoned off by police and other security agencies from India and Canada as the VVIP savoured spicy Punjabi food. The Canadian prime minister, seated in a bullet-proof car, arrived in a motorcade.

From Punjab's favourite Butter Chicken to Lemon Chicken, Palak Paneer, Shahi Paneer, Tadka Dal to other Punjabi delicacies - it was a grand menu for the Canadian guests.

"We served them with almost all the dishes that were on our menu. Mr. Harper tasted small portions of most dishes," Deluxe Dhaba owner Manish Goel, who is otherwise a leading restaurateur owning the popular Mainland China, Swagath and Sagar Ratna restaurants here, told IANS.

During his stay at the dhaba, Harper interacted with the guests, including senior members of his entourage from Canada, officials of the Canadian embassy in New Delhi and Chandigarh, local dignitaries and others.

The guests, including Harper, topped up the dinner with a traditional Kulfi from a Kalka-based manufacturer.

"The PM and other guests enjoyed Kulfi," Goel said. Harper himself paid the bill.

"None of the guests, including the prime minister, sat inside the (air-conditioned) dhaba. They all sat outside in the open and enjoyed there," he added.

Canadian officials here said that Harper had paid a visit like this one to a traditional Chinese restaurant in down-town Beijing during his visit there last year.

But Harper's visit to the dhaba here had its own small controversy.

Harper was earlier supposed to eat at Pal Dhaba, another traditional Punjabi eatery, just down the road in the same market. The owners of Pal Dhaba had been preparing for the visit for over a month after they were first sounded about it. Police had even performed security drills at Pal Dhaba in the last two days and kept the area around it cordoned off through Wednesday.

However, the dhaba venue was changed at the last minute to Deluxe Dhaba, where arrangements for the visit were made during the day itself.

Canadian security officials had earlier "cancelled" the prime minister's dhaba visit, saying that the visit information got "leaked out" through the media. However, the visit was again put on course Tuesday.