Food fiends ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY explore Amritsar’s streets to pick out top five local favourites
Amritsar’s cuisine is linked to the very foundation of the city when the first eateries mushroomed around the Golden Temple and the sweet-water tank called amrit sar (pool of nectar). A vital link between Delhi and Lahore, Amritsar soon became North India’s largest trading town. The abundance of milk, spices, dry fruits and food grains helped evolve a rich, robust cuisine. Thick lassis, golden-brown kulchas, tender fish pakodas and tangy chickpeas; the city sired many legendary dishes. And locals love their little haunts – Kanhaiya Sweets at Phullonwala Chowk serving aloo-puri and halwa-pinni, Tare di hatti’s paneer bhurji, masala omelette and soya keema and Gurdas Ram Jalebiyan-wale’s scrumptious jalebis at Katra Ahluwalia. Local cooks visiting other cities on catering assignments never forget to carry that key ingredient – Amritsar’s ambrosial sweet water, so light it can digest even the heaviest meal. Here’s a quick guide to the city’s definitive street fare…
Amritsari naan or kulcha is essentially a tandoori paratha stuffed with potato and served with dollops of butter, pickle and lonji (a chutney made of potato, onion, tamarind and mint). The most popular haunts are Suchha da kulcha (Maqbool Road, Purani Chungi), Ashok da Kulcha (Ranjit Avenue, A Block Market) and Darshan Kulcha wala (Near Jamadar ki Haveli, Guru Bazaar).
Punjab, the proverbial land of five rivers, is blessed with streams replete with dariya di machhi (freshwater fish). Deboned, dunked in mildly spiced gramflour batter and fried to a golden yellow, Amritsari machhi is a delicate dish – crisp on the outside and succulent within. Besides the fish, try tandoori chicken and other non-veg delights at Surjit Food Plaza (Nehru Complex) or Beera Chicken on Majitha Road.
Unlike the brown pindi chhole from Rawalpindi that uses anar dana (pomegranate seed), Amritsari chhole derives its tang from onion and tomato. For the best chhole, mah ki dal (black dal) and veg fare head to Kesar ka Dhaba (Chowk Pasiyan), Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba or Bharawan da Dhaba (Town Hall).
Amritsari Papad-Warian & aam papad
The city’s many ‘Papad-Warian’ shops offer a variety of papads, badiyan (sun-dried savouries) and aam-papad (slices of mango preserve). Shop at Harjinder Singh’s ‘Famous Amritsari Papad Warian’ near BBK DAV College on Lawrence Road. Puni Lal next door sells aam-papad, churan and supari while on the opposite side Lubhaya Ram & Sons beckons with its quirky arboreal address ‘peepal ke ped ke neeche’ and 15 types of aam-papad.
Makhkhan te pede di lassi
Though Punjab is synonymous with lassis, Amritsar’s ‘makhkhan te pede di lassi’ is a signature drink. Enriched with pedas of white butter, topped with a crust of malai and served in tall tumblers, the thick sweet buttermilk is the ultimate thirst quencher. Ahuja Milk Bhandaar (Lohagadh Gate) and Gyan di lassi (Near Regent Cinema, DAV College) are legendary.
Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This article appeared in the October 2013 issue of JetWings magazine.