I tried really hard to make the title catchy, but clearly, that didn’t work. It can only go uphill from here, right? Anyway, let’s get to the point. Many months ago, some of my friends and I went to Amritsar in Punjab with the sole (or should I say soul? No?) purpose of eating. Well, we did visit the famous Golden Temple and the infamous Jallianwallah Bagh, but that’s beside the point. I’d like to dedicate this article to the three wonderful people with whom I took this trip – Vikrant, our guide-cum-driver, without whose Lancer and love this trip would not have been possible; Dikshita, the anal-retentive planner, because of whose obsessive planning and diligent room-booking, this trip went without a glitch; and Aditi, with whom I did the “travel” part of travelling and with whom I shared a room and the back seat and a love for bindis. You guys were the best! Much love to you.
From far left: Me, Aditi, Vikrant, and Dikshita.
The point, of this article is that if you leave four gluttons in a car with a wad of cash, at least three of them would’ve gained some weight by the end of it. Anyway, because we covered a fair few number of places (emphasis not on few) during the course of the almost four days that we were in Amritsar, the “vivid gastronomical experience” is going to be covered in two posts. Find Part 1 here. Also, yes, I do remember that I posted part 1 of this many, many months ago, but because I’m an ace procrastinator and because I was kind of busy these past few months, this long overdue post comes out today.
After stuffing our faces with phirni (or rice pudding, as I previously mentioned), we had to go back and sleep, because, well, that’s exactly what happens when one consumes so much food. One feels sleepy. But of course, we started off again at around 8, because there was no time to waste, and much food to try. Also because Vikrant got us soya chaap (which is essentially like vegetarian tandoori chicken), and food kind of gets you moving. At least, it got us moving, disappointing as it was. You see, this particular soya chaap was Vikrant’s favourite, and we’d heard him talk about it. A LOT. But even he had to admit that it wasn’t very good that day.
Soya Chaap from Santosh Chaap
Anyway, we moved on to Adarsh Tikki after this, and like any person who has the remotest idea what tikki is (basically a crispy fried cutlet, usually made out of potatoes. Tikkis are famous; McDonald’s India has the McAloo tikki burger), we expected…tikki. What we got, however, was basically a bastardised version of mutton curry. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but it wasn’t tikki. It was served with hot, buttery kulchas, and despite my initial shock at what it was (0r wasn’t), I rather enjoyed it.
“Tikki” at Adarsh Tikki
One of the things Amritsar is known for is its fish. It isn’t a coastal area, granted, but Amritsar is known for its fish as much as it is for its kulchas. And so, we proceeded to Amritsar’s finest, Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner for some Amritsari fish. And again, we were a little disappointed. It was…different, and not what we expected. This is not to say that it was bad, just that it didn’t exceed, or even meet our expectations. I would still recommend it, though.
Fish at Amritsari Fish and Chicken Corner
Because we were still hungry, the gluttons that we are, we went back to Sardar Dhaba for their delectable keema naan, and then stopped for dessert. We had the most adorable little gulab jamuns (deep-fried, milk-based balls drenched in sugar syrup) and crispy, delicious jalebi (deep-fried spirals made of flour, and drenched in sugar syrup) at Sharma Sweets. The gulab jamuns had absorbed just enough syrup and actually melted in the mouth. The jalebis were crisp, yet juicy only in the way well-made jalebis are. I should mention here that theses sweets contained enough ghee to drown a small nation. And thus ended day two of our food trail.
Gulab Jamun and Jalebi from Sharma Sweets
We had a late breakfast (brunch, more like) the next day, a Sunday. We went to Kulcha Land for Amritsari kulchas. What, pray, are Amritsari kulchas, you may ask. Well, I could answer that question by calling them little bits of heaven, but a more appropriate answer might be “Indian bread stuffed with a mixture of spiced potatoes, and sometimes, other vegetables”. Okay, I’ve lived in Punjab for over four years. I’ve had my fair share of Amritsari kulchas. What I didn’t know was that I’d been eating them wrong for over four years. You see, traditionally, the kulchas are served with chole (spicy chickpea curry) and sort of hot and sour chutney poured over chopped raw onions. There’s also a ton of butter that goes with it, but that’s irrelevant here. What I didn’t know was that you’re supposed to pour the chutney over the chole first. And what do you know, it tastes better like that. I should take a moment here to thank Vikrant Malhan for teaching me to eat Amritsari kulcha the right way.
Amritsari Kulcha at Kulcha Land
You know what makes breakfast better? Gola. Gola is desi ice lolly – basically, flavoured syrup poured on shaved ice and served on a stick. And if made correctly, it is one of the most amazing things ever. I have had golas, and only golas for lunch before. Every Indian’s favourite flavour of gola is kaala khatta (which is a sour, thick syrup) served with a drizzle of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. (It’s funny how fancy the humble kaala khatta sounds when you’re describing it like so.) So yeah, we had golas at Ram Karan’s, which Vikrant claims is very famous, but it wasn’t anything special. They were good, sure, but I’ve had better golas, to be honest.
One of the many Ram Karan gola stands
My kaala khatta gola
Our next meal was chicken pakora. Pakodas are battered and fried fritters, usually made of onions, hey, what’s good for the onion is good for the chicken. The four of us finished a whole kilo of chicken pakora between us. Served with green chutney and lemon wedges, it was pretty damn great. And filling. Let’s not forget filling.
We went to get chaat afterwards, but because we were late, we only got to try what was left over. We tried papri chaat (crispy, fried dough served with boiled potatoes and chick peas, with curd and tamarind chutney on top) at this one place whose name I cannot remember, and it just made me sad. Maybe we went there at the wrong time, but that had to be the most miserable excuse for papri chaat ever. And I’ve had the pleasure (not) of tasting papri chaat in my college canteen.
And that’s it. That’s all I have to say about Amritsar. We left early next morning, hearts content and stomachs full. Vikrant’s mother made us aloo paranthas for the way back, and they were heavenly. There must’ve been a couple of items I ate in Amritsar I did not like, but there were many more that made it to my ‘favourites’ list. The keema naan, most importantly. There isn’t much I wouldn’t do to have that damn naan again.
‘Til next time!