Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Khana Khazana at Amritsar - The Kulcha Capital of the country

Foodies are everywhere and they love to explore places where they can satisfy their food habits. But when it comes to street food, many are apprehensive. However, on my recent visit to Amritsar, I not only found out that such beliefs are simply untrue but also got a chance to savor the authentic and unforgettable taste of the Punjabi culture. The main bazaar near the golden temple in Amritsar is filled with mind boggling arrays of local items and also known for its age old dhabas. These dhabas serve delicious vegetarian food without much affecting the content of the purse. Being a strict vegetarian, I was hardly starved of choices and couldn’t have asked for more. 

Punjab is known for its bhangra and during this visit I realized where do they get all the energy from. Needless to say, most of the items are prepared in desi ghee. The Missi Roti and Palak Paneer can inspire anyone’s avaricious instincts for sure. And the crispy kulchas and paranthas, the unforgettable taste of chole bhatura and the delicious raita can easily tempt you to break free from a strict fitness regimen. 

The Golden temple attracts more visitors than even the Taj Mahal. And in the narrow lanes around the temple, we came across a Lassi centre and right across there was another shop selling aloo pinnis and papad’s. After gulping a couple of glasses of Kesar and Mango Lassi, we attacked the pinnis and the papads. Junk food never tasted so good, I told myself. A little later, we reached the Gian Halwai shop famous for its lassi and phirni. After couple of plates of the amazing phirni later, we poured in a couple of glasses of lassi full of froth in our nearly filled stomachs yet again, pretty sure that we were done for lunch.

In the last hour of daylight, we returned for the dinner quite convinced that amazing food filled our stomachs but not our heart. This time we walked into the famous Kesar da dhaba which is frequented by top Bollywood personalities and have also been recommended by many travel magazines. Apart from other offerings we also called for a thali which had plain paranthas, dal fry, sabzi and raita and ate to our hearts content. Later, the gajar ka halwa was an icing on the cake. 

After a good night’s sleep, the craving for Amritsari food had returned next morning. We had a flight to catch that afternoon but we returned yet again, for a lovely brunch. This time we decided to ear at another famous eatery - Bharawan da dhaba which has been serving amazing food since decades. The options were beyond imagination. The warmly hospitable staff brought Missi roti, butter naan, paneer sabzi, baingan ka bhartha and kheer fairly quickly, which soon disappeared at the same speed as well. The irresistible food would have made even discerning connoisseur’s lick their fingers. 

The locals love the Jallebis and Gulab Jamuns and one can see the scattered evidence of this obsession with the presence of sweet shops at every nook and corner. There are many hotels which offer international cuisines as well and which attracts a fair share of the tourists coming to this sacred city. McDonald’s has recently announced that it would start its only vegetarian outlet near the Golden Temple soon and the government too is planning to dedicate a khau galli especially for food. 

Before my visit, I was told by a friend that in Amritsar no one stays hungry because the poor and needy tend to eat at the langar in the golden temple and the locals do not cook food in their kitchens rather get it from the ubiquitous dhabas. Hence, with the eating experience at Amritsar we were quite convinced that Amritsar can be the only Kulcha capital of our country.

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