Backpacking epicurean’s take on Amritsar

Food history is as important as a baroque church. Governments should recognize cultural heritage and protect traditional foods.  A cheese is as worthy of preserving as a sixteenth-century building.
Carlo Petrini

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A kid caught in action at the Golden temple

Amritsar, The unaccredited culinary capital of India has been making quiet a noise in the culinary circuit. Anywhere you read, the name would just crawl through your conscious or subconscious mind, as if the whole world was about to sink and even if  you have a remote connection with anything edible you must visit the place once to say the least.

I had a tight 24 hours window with no car and designates and this is what I could pull out in a day of extravagant exploration. It goes without saying, all this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of humble Doctor Aman Kahlon who inspite of his busy schedule gave me all his possible time, helped me to get across places and maximize my potential. This is the best possible itinerary i could draw for a single day’s exploration in a new city.

Monu Kulcha Hut: This place is a heavy weight contender when it comes to crisp Amritsar style tandoori kulcha, reached the place at 9 am which is pretty much breakfast time as per Indian standard, still I had to wait for 40 minutes, as the fresh vegetables were mixed and the filling was made, although that’s not the time it takes to make a filling but after just 1 morsel I could clearly say it was well worth the wait.

mix kulcha
The oh so good kulcha from Monu Kulcha hut

Gurdas Ram: Just 2 minutes walking distance from Golden Temple is Gurdas Ram Jalebi wala, which is half a century old shop well known for Jalebi, why? I have no clue yet, because there was nothing starry about it except for the fact that it was fried in ghee and that’s that.

Jalebi
the not so ummm jalebi from Gurdas Ram

Pehelwan Kulche wale: Amritsar is synonymous to kulcha, if you do not know. So here I was with just another spot which does kulcha. This place does a kulcha that is less crispy but has more stuffing as compared to monu and the chola he serves is real Amritsari style with no tadka and just plain simple boiled.

Mix kulcha
Mix kulcha from pehelwan – great stuffing with Amritsari chole and mooli-pyaaz kachoomar

Kesar Da Dhaba: This is one of those places that makes sound, good or bad it’s gonna exist. A lot of people detest this place for its commercial aspect while another lot absolutely bows down in respect.

I was told to order the Dal, palak paneer and Bharta with a lachha and not a kulcha  and I guess that was the trick. A lot of people come here with larger than life expectations and when the kulcha is not up to the mark they write-off the place. I Think the dal was mesmerizing in every sense, palak paneer was rich with hours of slow cooking and not just dripping oil. Unfortunately the bharta was over by the time I reached cause it almost 4. I even tried a lassi and so called phirni which was nothing but kheer and they were completely pass-worthy.

Kesar da dhaba
Clockwise from left – palak paneer, lacha paratha in a thali and the divine daal from Kesar da dhaba

Ahuja: This place also has a big name when it comes to lassi which comes topped with desi makkhan (white-butter) and boy this place does not disappoint, but it would be a blunder if you come here and do not try the rasmalai. To put it in my words, I haven’t had such great rasmalai in all my existence which has almost cream like milk and ultra-soft sponges with hint of kesar. He even sells plain and cumin laced tofu which is soft and quiet good.

Ahuja
Lassi topped with desi makkhan and the best damn rasmalai 

Sabri Bhatura Shop: This was one meal in all day yet which was unique in every sense, this places serves something that goes by name of Nutri kulcha but it’s not a kulcha stuffed with nutri nuggets or soy.

They serve a simple boiled kucha with a dark lacy gravy which is made with nutri nuggets. The whole combination is so soft that it simply slides down to your gut without a push.

nutri kulcha
Nutri Kulcha – this one melts in mouth and fuses with your brain cells

Amar Fish: The best part should have a lasting impact and this sure had me drooling all this long. The amritsari fish fry at amar; It took me a while to figure out the exact pocket it was located in and had barely any place to sit but the fish is a dreamboat that’s gonna rock for the days to come. Comes with fried ginger which was unique and is a nice combination, a must try for anyone in and around Amritsar.

fish fry with adrak fry
Fried fish Amritsari style with fried ginger, mooli, chutney and riata

A-One Kulfa: My last stop for the day this place looks skimpy on the face of it but whips up a kulfi on a base of Kalakand topped with falooda and rabri. I couldn’t imagine such a combination and well whoever did, did a quiet good job here.

Kulfa
Kulfa – the mother of rabri falooda

This was all the food I consumed in a day, hard to imagine? Do confide in the idea that it was shared between 2 to 3 people every-time and I am not a dinosaur yet.  If I were to rate these places from the best to not that good list, here it would be in a chronological order, considering the best item I had vis-a-vis the best from other spot, so you don’t have a problem cherry picking next time you want to slide a meal or two inside a tight schedule.

  • Monu Kulcha haat for Panner or aloo kulcha
  • Amar fish for amritsari style fish fry
  • Ahuja for Rasmalai
  • Kesar da dhaba for Daal
  • Sabri for Nutri Kulcha
  • Pehelwan for mix kulcha
  • A-One for Kulfa
  • Gurdas Ram for Jalebi

In all honesty i can sum up by saying; Any place has so much to offer on a culinary and cultural front because they go hand-in-hand that it can’t be explored in a day, this is just the whiff of what I could gather and I would have to make a few good visits, be with locals and talk to them more, to understand how and why of anything that appears in front of me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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