Tiffin carriers, also known as dabba, are a type of lunch box used in Asia for tiffin meals. They moved from India to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, where they are now commonplace. They’re also popular in Hungary, where they’re mostly used to take restaurant meals to be consumed at home. Soup, a main dish, and a slice of cake are usually included in the Hungarian version. In Germany, a gadget called Henkelmann is quite similar. It’s generally shaped like a military mess kit and is round or oval in shape. The Henkelmann was highly popular until the 1960s, but it is now only used by a small percentage of Germans.
In Mumbai, India, a complicated and efficient delivery system delivers hot lunches packed in dabbas to city office employees from their outlying homes or from a caterer on a daily basis. It employs dabbawalas, or delivery people. They usually have two or three layers, although more intricate variants might have up to four. The lowest layer, which is sometimes larger than the others, is where rice is generally stored. A tiny catch on either side of the handle is unlocked to open Tiffin carriers. Tiffin carriers are typically built of steel and occasionally aluminium, although European companies have also produced enamel and plastic variants.
Dabba provides a healthy, modern take on Indian-Mediterranean cuisine, combining spices, ingredients, cooking techniques, and recipes from all around the world in fresh and exciting ways. In a profoundly delightful act of culinary variety, our technique, which has been dubbed “ethnic confusion,” puts different cultures together peacefully in one dish, under one roof. Welcome to the world of delicious wisdom. (in Indian cookery) a round metal box used to transport hot food, either from home or from a restaurant, to a person’s place of work.
Since 1890, a Mumbai Army of 5,000 Dabbawalas has been feeding the hunger of almost 200,000 Mumbaikars with home-cooked food that is lugged between home and workplace on a daily basis. Our staff has been a part of this filthy metropolis-of-dreams for almost a century. About 125 years ago, a Parsi banker desired home-cooked meals in his office and entrusted the task to the first Dabbawala. The concept was well received, and demand for Dabba delivery skyrocketed.
Initially, it was all done on a casual and individual basis, but visionary Mahadeo Havaji Bachche recognised an opportunity and began the lunch delivery business in its current team-delivery structure with 100 Dabbawalas. Dabba delivery, i.e. bringing home cooked meals from your house/mess to your workplace, is our main service. From Virar to Churchgate, and from Ambernath to Dadar, we operate across Mumbai. It’s not as simple as it seems. Despite the challenges of time and weather, our day concludes with emotional fulfilment and enjoyment because we adhere to the idea of “Anna daan is maha daan” (food donation is the finest ).
Dabba delivery became more popular as the city developed. Our forefathers’ coding method is still in use in the twenty-first century. Initially, basic colour coding was used, but now that Mumbai has a widespread metro system with three local train routes, our coding has developed to include alpha numeric characters.
When the word ‘tiffin’ is used, two distinct conversations are likely to ensue: one about the Mumbai Dabbawala and its founding father Mahadeo Havaji Bachche, and the other about how the notion of tiffin came to be – which is easily attributed to the British. “Tiffin originated in the 19th century,” according to David Burton’s book The Raj At Table. Burton’s idea is correct to a significant extent.
In and around the 1880s, Gora Sahib started a custom of eating a lighter snack after the (deliberately) short lunch to withstand the hot heat in India. And tiffin as a lunch carrier became popular as well. The tiffin, on the other hand, was the meal that the working Indians couldn’t eat at home. The tiffin carrier made its way throughout the world thanks to the Indians and the British, notably the renowned Raffles Hotel in Singapore, which opened in 1887 and utilised tiffin carriers to serve the desi dinner of Raj-style curries, kebabs, and rice.
While the tiffin carrier evolved – brass gave way to stainless steel, and the Railways added a section for cooled water when they adopted the dabba for serving meals inside the train – one thing remained constant: the way food was placed in the pails: dry food at the bottom, curries in the middle, and sukha sabzi on the top. Apart from the fact that such a buildup kept the food safe and warm, it was also the reason why food couriers never spilled food when sprinting to their destination.