First we eat, then we do everything else. – M.F.K. Fisher.
This is definitely true in the case of Punjabis who are true gourmets. To them food is everything, and no one can savor the fatty delicacies in all its true splendor like a Punjabi does! The culinary capital of India- Amritsar is a proof of this fact. The home to the iconic Golden Temple is also home to the best food in the world. Everything in this city revolves around food- be it socializing, prayer or festivals. Kulchas, lassi, jalebi, you name it and it will be found in Amritsar.
1. Langar Ka Prasad
When in Amritsar, start out with the Golden Temple. The best time to visit is during the morning when the Guru Granth Sahib is brought to the inner sanctum. After offering your prayers, head over to the langar, the largest free kitchen in the world! The volunteers here cook and serve a simple meal of dal, roti, sabzi and kheer to lakhs of devotees each day. Even if you don’t have the time for langar, don’t leave the Kara Prasad on your way out. You will have to jostle among a large crowd for this ghee-laden delicacy but a bite of it will prove to be totally worth it!
2. All India Famous Amritsari Kulcha
Amritsar is synonymous with Kulchas, the maida bread baked in a tandoor. Located beside the Golden Temple and the Wagah Border, the All India Famous is a place to have the butter drenched, potato and cauliflower stuffed kulcha. Touted by some to be a foodie’s pilgrimage spot, this place has been serving just kulchas over the many years of its existence. You can have kulchas for all your meals of the day here and each of it will be an experience incomparable to the other. They serve kulcha alongside chana masala, sliced onions and tamarind chutney. It is a perfect place for breakfast or lunch since they tend to run out of kulchas by 2 pm!!
3. Kulcha Land
Kulcha Land located at Ranjit Avenue might confuse you with its name, but the kulchas here are as authentic as they get. When you visit this place you won’t need a menu card, because all they serve here is different varieties of kulchas. They have been serving fresh-off-the-tandoor kulchas since before the partition. Don’t be surprised if you find a Tempo Traveller full of tourists unloading at Kulcha Land! The crispy kulchas are simply mouth-watering and washing it down with lassi will simply make your day.
4. Friends Dhaba
For all the people who prefer a meatier version of Kulcha, Friends Dhaba located at the Queens Road is the place to rush off to. They serve Keema Naam with gravy and, of course, dollops of butter. The keema kulcha has a crispy exterior and a spicy keema mix. (I can already feel my mouth watering!) These kulchas simply disappear in your mouth, yes it’s that tasty. Don’t forget to slather it with butter before dipping it in gravy, and have a near spiritual experience.
5. Surjit Food Plaza
Serving some of Amritsar’s best kababs, Surjit Food Plaza has been in existence on the Lawrence Road for ever seventy years. It has recently been turned into a fancy restaurant with proper seating and air-conditioning, and a menu that served even Chinese staple dishes like sweet corn soup! What’s really popular though is the melt-in-your-mouth Shammi Kabab and Mutton Tikka. What makes them so unique is the totally different style of cooking. The tikkas are first cooked in tandoor, then sautéed with ghee on the tawa and has a secret masala handed down over the generations.
6. Beera Chicken House
The Beera Chicken House, located at Majitha Road will totally change your concept about tandoori chicken. It is not the traditional red or charred tandoori chicken most of us grow up with, rather it is a whole chicken, marinated in spices and roasted to perfection. Their recipe for tandoori chicken has been in existence since 1972! Imagine! Just around the corner from this place is the Makhan Fish & Chicken Corner, home to the tastiest fish tikkas. These fish are taken from the Beas river and fried lightly in a batter.
7. Pal Da Dhaba
A small, easy to miss shop at the Hathi Gate has turned into one of the local favourites for its Kharode ka Shorba. In other words, lamb trotter soup! Not something that you will easily get used to, but for those people who love a good Paya, this place is a must visit. It is run by the proprietor himself, who is also the chef here. The dish is laden with garam masala, chillies and lentil leaves. It is best paired with kheema paratha, so soft that it will break even before you eat it!
8. Kesar Da Dhaba
For all the vegetarians out there, Kaser Da Dhaba located at Chowk Passian and a 10-minute walk from the Golden Temple is nothing short of an epicure’s paradise. They serve the best maa ki daal in the city. Also, gorge on the delicious lachcha paratha, palak paneer and the smoky baigan bharta. If this wasn’t enough, or simply because you want to eat something sweet, don’t leave without tasting their phirni. This creamy delicacy is served in earthen pots and will definitely leave you asking for more.
9. Ahuja Milk Bhandar
Spending a day in Amritsar, you cannot imagine going without at least one glass of lassi. It will be a disservice to the gastronomic place, the land where people swear by ghee and lassi. The Ahuja Milk Bhandar, located at Dhab Katikan is one of many such places to try out this sweet heaven right in your mouth. Reach out for a tall glass of lassi so thick that you will need a spoon to scoop it out. The secret ingredient used here is a natural essence that even the most experienced patrons fail to decipher.
10. Hall Bazaar
Head off to this place to experience the incomparable fruit cream and kulfa. Fruit cream is basically a shaved, ice like concoction of fruit, cream and dry fruit. Now you ask what is kulfa?? It is an Amritsari version of kulfi, which is a sort of an ice-cream, topped with noodles like falooda. Both these dishes are served in such huge quantities that you can hardly have the whole of it!
Well, Amritsar is definitely incomparable when it comes to food. If you don’t weigh more when you leave Amritsar than when you came in, you haven’t done it right!