Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amritsar Visit 3 - The Glorious Food

The food in Amritsar is fantastic.

You must have seen so many shows, both domestic as well as foreign, singing praises about the food in Amritsar. Let me assure you that they are telling the truth. It is not hype, it is not puffery and it is not an exaggeration. The food is really good. Not only is it good but it is as cheap as chips.

The first meal we had was lunch at Kanha Sweets. I had written about this earlier. We have eaten there in the past. This is located at Lawrence Road. The sweet shop is at the front right on the main road. Alongside the shop is a narrow lane leading to a `dining hall’. As you walk down the lane to the `dining hall’ you pass a garage or a `gala’ where there is a vat of oil in which massive 8 inch diameter Pooris are being fried. These are `Pittie Pooris’ i.e. stuffed, - there is a very thin layer, so thin that you blink and you miss it - of red chilli powder. Kanha Sweets serves only one, Poori, Chole [Garbanzo Beans curry] and a sweet sour potato vegetable in the restaurant. This is served on a compartmentalised `Thaali’. A standard serving is 1 Poori and unlimited servings of Chole and potato vegetable called Launji. Of course you can get additional Poori but, you pay Rs 30 extra. This is served as breakfast until 3 pm. Delicious. As a dessert our friend the Doctor Businesswoman from London requested that we share a `Gajjar Ka Halwa’. A portion was ordered. From what I could see the `Gajjar Ka Halwa’ has no `khoa’ or dried milk in it. There was just sugar and ghee. The `Gajjar Ka Halwa’ was sweet, as expected, and hot. Like most Indian sweets, one dimensional.

After the reasonably heavy and late lunch at Kanha Sweets dinner would have to be lighter. After slaking our thirst at the very pleasant and deserted bar in the Hyatt where we were staying, we headed out to Majitha Road to Makhan Fish & Chicken Corner. We had not been to this before. You must remember that, generally speaking, the area around the Golden Temple is vegetarian. You have to move slightly away from this central area to find non vegetarian food. The three really famous names for non vegetarian food you will read about are Makhan Fish & Chicken Corner, Beera Chicken and Surjeet Food Plaza.

Makhan Fish & Chicken Corner is a two level restaurant. The front has an open kitchen with tables at the back. On the upper level is the family room which is also air conditioned. We went up. A menu was produced and on the table we got the obligatory onion slices, lime, pickle and an odd white sauce. On enquiry I was told it was Mayonnaise. Interesting. Did not touch it. We were unanimous in our decision to order no curries. So we got ourselves a half Chicken Tandoori, and half Chicken Tikka, a fried Amritsari Fish and a Tandoori Fish. To accompany this were 3 rotis and a bowl of Boondi Raita, which HRH The Queen of Kutch is very fond of. Do not ask why. Royalty has its quirks.       


Fried Fish. Note no red colour anywhere

1/2 Tandoori Chicken

1/2 Chicken Tikka

Tandoori Fish Tikka

The food was good beyond belief. Despite the fact that it was a seriously cold night with the temperature hovering at 5C the food came up seriously hot, mouth burning hot. The fish was delicious, moist and covered with a thin batter. The Chicken was even better. This was as good as what we get at the Peshawri at the ITC in Mumbai. This was really good chicken. You will see that despite this being Tandoori Chicken, it does not have the lurid red colour we are so used to. This was seriously good food. And to top it all, it cost us a paltry Rs. 1600/- When you get to Amritsar, you must eat here.

Partly fried fish

The next day lunch was the Guru Ka Langar at the Golden Temple. The food is good. Certainly not restaurant standard, but it is simple, light and tasty and served hot. The food is made with care. The most fascinating was the man wielding an automated water dispenser cart. He was so pleased with my taking photos of his cart that he asked me to take a photo of him.

Post lunch we had a glass of Lassi at Ahuja Milk Bhandar. As I have said earlier, lassi is just 3 ingredients, yogurt, sugar and a dollop of cream. Lassi can be elevated to only a certain extent. But visiting Ahuja Milk Bhandar gave us a chance to buy their Ghee which is good. It has a distinctive aroma that takes me back when I was a child. The Amul and Gowardhan ghees simply do not have this.

Once again after consuming our share of intoxicants we headed out to dinner. Dinner that night was at the legendary Kesar Da Dhabha. This is in the area around the Golden Temple. There are no cars or auto rickshaws allowed into this area. The simplest way to reach it is go by car to the Lohgarh Gate and walk along the narrow path. This is quite simple. It is a 6 -9 minute walk. By the time we got to Kesar Da Dhabha it was about 8.45. The place was flying. The owner called a waiter entrusted us to him and we were whisked off to the dining room across the main restaurant. Soon a table got free and we were seated. Unfortunately there was no Sarson Ka Saag [Mustard Greens], it was sold out. We set about ordering. The Daal Fry which is the signature dish, Baingan Ka Bharta [a sort of curried Imam Biyaldi], Shahi Paneer [Cottage Cheese], Mixed Vegtable and a Palak vegetable [Spinach]. We also got 3 different breads, Lacha Paratha, Alu Paratha and Amritsari Kulcha. Dessert was a Firni. The food was simply outstanding. We wolfed it down. We ate so greedily that I did not take a photo of the Palak that we ordered. The only mildly disappointing dish was the Paneer. This is something I remember from our last meal there too. For some reason, despite the fact that Paneer is their local food, the Paneer at Kesar Da Dhabha is underwhelming. The quality of the food here is simply stupendous. All of us were most impressed by the Baingan Ka Bharta. This was exceptional. It does feel silly writing superlative after superlative when describing the food. It was that good. Oh yes. Tips are allowed!!!

Baingan Bharta

Shahi Paneer

The fanous Daal Fry at Kesar Da Dhabha

Mixed Vegetable


The next day was our flight back. The flight was at 2.20 in the afternoon. That gave us time for our last meal. A sort of brunch at Kulcha Land. They have 3 types – Amritsari, Masala and Aloo. The Kulchas are cooked in a Tandoor and not on a pan. Thus they taste different from what we normally have. The Kulchas are served with Chole which is complementary. Once again, I am amazed at the quality of the food. Having tucked into this we were ready for our flight back.

In conclusion, you must visit Amritsar. An ideal length is 2 nights, but if you want to visit the Wagah border and experience the travesty there I suggest 3 nights. As far as food is concerned, Makhan Fish & Chicken Corner and Kesar Da Dhabha are un-missable. You have to eat there. Then you have the other usual suspects, all excellent:

Surjeet Food Plaza
Kanha Sweets
Beera Chicken
Gurudas Ram Jalebiwalla
Ahuja Lassi

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