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Kerala Food Journey- Kollam, Kottayam and Cochin

Kollam

YouTube Video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PX9R2W6JmlU&t=4s

We began our food journey in Kollam, with Fehalwan Hotel. Fehalwans are professional wrestlers. In north India, they are colloquially called Pehalwans. The walls of Fehalwan hotel are adorned with the pictures of Md. Kunju, dating back to his wrestling days.  It is said that Md Kunju used to bring professional wrestlers to the city and and the ground behind the restaurant was a hub for wrestling matches.

There are private cubicles in the hotel, where one can relish the food with their dear ones. Visiting during the morning hours when breakfast was on in full frenzy, we tried Appam with spicy fish curry. Another popular favourite amongst the locals at Fehalwan Hotel is the Mutton Biryani. Served only during the lunch hours, this delicacy gets over in a matter of hours, as crowds throng to get a taste of the same.

Not too far from Fehalwan is a vegetarian restaurant named Guruprasad. We decided to give the Vegetable Biryani a try here. The biryani is served with Raita, Papad and pickles, and garnished with fried bread crumbs which give it a crunchy, munchy flavour. Lucky for us, we managed to try the local dessert in Kerala, the renowned, Jaggery Payasam, as it was a Sunday.

For lunch, we were recommended to try Ramees restaurant. At Ramees, we had Chicken Firecracker, Mutton Roast and Ari Pathri. The boneless chicken was marinated in local spices and wrapped in pandan leaves, and deep fried. It was truly delicious. An equivalent of Rumali Roti in North India, Ari Pathiri, the thinly made rice flour breads are cooked and dipped in coconut milk to make them softer.

After a sumptuous lunch, we decided to visit the beaches of Kerala, to explore the snack options available there. We entered a hub of stalls serving chana tossed with red chilies and spices, coconut water, roasted peanuts and mango slices and amla pieces dipped in salt water (Uppil ettah th ). The mango, pineapple, cucumber slices are eaten with red chilly chutney.

However, our highlight of the Kerala food journey was Ezuthaniyil Tea Shop in Keralapuram. A shop with no name plate and a hut like structure, that is immensely popular for its mutton curry, mutton roast and cake nuggets. Established in 1948 by Meera Sahib, the place is flocked by crowds from far distances for mutton curry and special cakes. The raw spices are freshly ground and used to prepare the spice mix to add to the mutton curry. The onions that are used to cook the curry are small madras onions, which bring in their own unique flavour. We devoured it with the flaky and perfect Malabari Parottas. The special cakes, which are also a revered delicacy, are prepared using refined flour, duck eggs and sugar.

Kottayam

In Kottayam, we decided to visit the Karimpumkala Restaurant, known for its sea food. The restaurant is located at Pallom on M.C.Road. We tried the regular fish curry meal with karimeen polichathu, which is a black pearl fish marinated in different spices wrapped in banana leaves and deep fried.

From Kottayam, we headed to Kumrakom, a beautiful place famous for its bird sanctuary and houseboats. We visited Kumarakom toddy parlor. There are separate compartments where one can sip toddy, the local mildly alcoholic beverage made from coconut palm trees. The dishes that accompany toddy are typically spicy and fried dishes.

Hopping on and off the local buses from Kumarakom to Cherthala and then to Thoppampady, we reached the tourist destination Fort Cochin

Fort Cochin

YouTube Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_I_-HsbENas

Fort Cochin is a thing of magnificence, and a popular tourist destination. In order to experience the local culture, we booked a homestay and hired a bike to explore the city. At Fort Cochin, the sight of Chinese fishing nets being used to catch the fish greets you, and one can ride the jetty to cross the sea, parking their cars and bikes on the jetty itself. On the beach, the concept of ‘you buy and we cook’ is extremely popular – you can buy the fish as per your taste preferences and ask the small eateries to cook using the local spices.

We started our day with Kayees Restaurant in Mattancherry known for its Mutton Biryani. This lightly flavored Biryani with no colours and onions is cooked using Dum style. We took the jetty ride to Ernakulum city to Mullapanthal Toddy Parlor. The toddy parlor has both individual rooms and a common area. The parlor is flocked by people from different age groups. Perhaps, Kerala is the only place where the restaurants serve both beef and pork under one roof. We tried the pork fry. Slightly on the spicy side, it goes well with the toddy. Another interesting Chakhna (snacks served with alcoholic drinks ) served with the toddy here is Chamandi – a paste like consistency with the main ingredients being red chilies, garlic, onion and coconut oil. It is served with tapioca.

While returning, we stopped at Sri Muruga café at Poonathara near Thripunithara. The café is decorated with bananas hanging from the roof. Sri Muruga is famous for Pazham Pori with Beef Curry. Pazham Pori, a common snack available all across Kerala is made up of ripened banana wrapped in the batter of all purpose flour and deep fried. Most of the Malyalees eat it with a cup of tea or as a snack. We also experienced the unconventional and unique taste of spicy beef curry with sweet banana fry.

For our dinner, we headed to Dhe Puttu, a restaurant run by Malyalee actor Dileep. Unlike the controversies faced by the actor, the food here was nothing but a delight. In fact, it was the most expensive meal we had in Kerala. On the recommendation of the server, we ordered Red snapper fish and multi layered puttu named Ezhusundhara Rathrikal. The multi layered puttu had prawns, chicken and pork in it. It was truly delicious. The snapper was first deep fried and then a layer of onion masala was spread over it.

The last meal in Ernakulum was at Puttu Kada. The eatery is located at Pallikadavu, Kumbalam near St. Mary’s church. Out of all the places we tried in Kerala, this was the most interesting to dine at. The operating hours of the restaurant are from 8 pm till the stock lasts, usually till 2 am. The eatery, initially started for fishermen has slowly become popular amongst the locals as well. The menu is quite simple – beef curry, mutton curry, chicken curry, fried chicken, boiled duck eggs and puttu. A simplistic place with only a few tables and benches as the main architecture, here the food speaks for itself. We tried the chicken curry with puttu and were impressed with the preparations. The chicken was cooked with lot of onions and special spices. It was a great end to our Cochin food journey.

Before leaving for Calicut, the breakfast at Ifthar restaurant was of typical Malabar dishes. Both the banana based dishes Kayikritha, Pazam Kuzachath are fried using ripened bananas and mixed with eggs, sugar, cardamom powder, and dry fruits.

All in all, it was a truly a journey equivalent to culinary heaven.

 

 

 

Anubhav Sapra
Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Trivandrum Food Journey

 

Trivandrum/Thiruvanthapuram Food Journey

By Anubhav Sapra

YouTube Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABCkNfCU5UE&t=2s

 

Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram is an old city located on the west coast of the state of Kerala. This grand city is the capital as well as the largest urban metropolis of Kerala.

In Trivandrum, we started with Mani Mess, a vegetarian restaurant in Manakkadu, near Sreevaraham temple. Since its inception, 37 years ago, this restaurant is run by Krishnamoorthy and his sister Thankam. As you enter the restaurant, there is a waiting area lined up with chairs for seating. Tokens are issued and the guests are asked to sit and wait for their table. The popularity of the restaurant can be gauged from the fact that the customers are generally asked, albeit politely, to finish their meals in fifteen minutes. Just like all other places in Kerala, this too is adorned with a sign outside saying ‘Meals Ready’ (or in some cases ‘Biryani Ready’, which is promptly removed the moment the offering gets over.

Their standard lip-smacking meal comprises of rice, Sambhar, Thoran (stir fry vegetables ), Avial (vegetables and shredded coconut), Pachadi, Achaar (pickles), Olan (pumpkin and grams cooked in a gravy of coconut milk) Rasam (soup made with tamarind, pepper and other spices), More (spiced buttermilk) , Parippuvada (lentil fritters) and Papad. The meal is served with red coloured padumugam powder and lukewarm water. The homely food along with a variety of delicacies in one plate is sure to tickle your taste buds.

After a perfect start to our foodie expedition, in the state of spices-Kerala,our next stop was Kochanan Sahib’s restaurant, a peculiar place without a nameplate. Standing tall since 1964, Kochanan Sahib is located at Karamana Junction near ICICI bank’s ATM. This place serves the best mutton curry, mutton roast and mutton biryani in Trivandrum. The mutton roast was cooked in thick gravy to be eaten with Parottas. The meals are served on the traditional banana leaf. Alongside is the typical Kerala accompaniments with the Biryani, onion Raita and lemon pickles.

For evening tea, we went to a popular tea shop nearby, Chaithanya Tea Shop, located in Sasthamangalam. This little tea-snack shop has a large variety of delicacies to die for- cakes, Pazham Puri, Bhaji and many others. We had a cup of tea with banana fry commonly known as Pazham Puri.  Horlicks and Bournvita have also gained immense popularity as a beverage here, and in all of Kerala.

Zam Zam restaurant, opposite MLA hostel in Palayam was our quick stop for Al Faham (Arabian grilled chicken) and Shawaya (whole grilled chicken).

As you head forward, Buhari hotel in Attakulhangara is another renowned food joint known for their mutton chops, mutton roast and mutton brain roast. The restaurant was started in 1956 and caters to its customers till midnight. The chops were cooked in thick gravy with lightly flavored spices and served with crispy parottas. Buhari Hotel also runs a delicious juice and shakes parlour, which has turned out to be a popular hangout place for youngsters. One can relish khammam and Sharjah milk shakes here. The tender coconut malai is crushed in coconut water and mixed with dry fruits- almond, figs, cashews with frozen milk to give it a thick consistency, making it an immensely refreshing drink. Another popular joint for shakes is Chithra shakes near Law college junction. Their herbal drinks are a must-try!

The hotel manager guided us to a local eatery named Hotel Krishna, a bit far away from the main city at Kattachalkuzhi in Balarampuram, close to Coconut Research Centre. The restaurant started by Krishan Kutty, 22 years back is now managed by his son Shahji. The place is known for its Chicken Perattu and Chicken Thoran. As you enter the shop, you notice a group of ladies cutting and chopping ‘Nadan’ chicken; which is equivalent to desi or country chicken. It is further marinated in local spices. The pieces are then fried in coconut oil with local flavours and spice mixes. A dry preparation, the chicken is served with meals that has tapioca, rice or puttu.

After having our fill at Hotel Krishna, we moved on to Hotel Rehmaniya (Kethel’s) in Chalai market road. The restaurant since its inception in 1949 is known for a single signature dish- fried chicken. The small sized chicken pieces are fried in coconut oil along with red chillies. The seeds of dried red chillies add a crunchy taste and texture to the chicken making it lip smackingly delicious. Fried chicken is served with Chapathi and the left over chicken pieces are converted into curry and lemon pickles. They also serve fresh lime water with the meals.

The two day food-journey in Trivandrum ended at Kovalam beach with the classic beach snack- Uppil Ettath – mango and gooseberry slices in salt water and green chillies. A joyous day, indeed!

 

Anubhav Sapra
Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Ghewar Trail in Sonepat

Ghewar Trail in Sonepat

By Anubhav Sapra

It started with a query on the Delhi Food Walks Facebook page and Instagram  – “Where do you get the best ghewar in Delhi?”  Most of the respondents answered unanimously Chaina Ram in Fatehpuri chowk as the best ghewar. The second most popular recommendation, however piqued our interest with the answer being Sonepat. After a brief interaction with ghewar lovers on social media listing out all the known places in Sonepat for Ghewar,  I headed on a ghewar trail last Sunday from Delhi to Sonepat. A good friend of mine, Naman helped me in exploring the places in Sonepat.

Ghewar is a traditional monsoon sweet dish, popular in Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh. The basic ingredients are all purpose flour, sugar, milk and ghee. First you will need to make a thin smooth batter using refined flour and milk. Next you slowly pour the batter into a ‘kadhai’ or a wok of boiling ghee or Vanaspati, all the while separating the fried batter to the side of the cooking utensil. Once fried, it is dipped in sugar syrup or it can simply be poured on top and drained with the help of a wire mesh.

 There are different varieties of ghewar-  kesar ghewar ( flavoured with saffron ), milk ghewar ( the batter is made using milk ), malai or mawa ghewar ( a layer of mawa/rabri is added over the top  of the ghewar and garnished with dry fruits ) white ghewar ( simple ghewar – the batter is made with water with no milk in it). The sizes and shapes also vary– some of them are heart shaped while other could be round or squared; simply achieved by using different moulds and the sizes could vary from small to the huge ‘fit for a king’ kind.

Ghewar, Shaant sweets, snoept
Shaant sweets, Sonepat

The Ghewar trail in Sonepat started with Shaant sweets corner. The shop is located inside a lane on Geeta Bhawan chowk. I tried a medium sized Kesar- Mawa Ghewar garnished with raisins, pistachios and chironji. This one was a mouthful of sugar, sugar and sugar. The ‘mithas’ or sweetness was literally dripping out of the ghewar.

Next I moved to the Sonepat bus stand where a number of ghewar shops are lined next to each other. Some of the shops were selling jeans and ghewar at the same place. Such is the popularity of Ghewar in Sonepat. Most of the shops have enormous ghewars there. The rooftops were like ghewar factories producing ghewars by the kilos (probably tonnes). The whole place was working in an assembly line like production- On one corner, a man was pouring the batter of ghewar in a big khadai filled with boiling ghee. The next in line was dipping the ghewar in sugar syrup- ready to be sold to customers. I tried a small bite from the king size ghewar. It was again too sweet to me. The quality and price is less compared to other ghewar shops keeping in mind the moving customer from different district and the shops close proximity to bus stand. We stopped midway at Triloki halwai. Here the barfi is what caught my fancy instead of the ghewar we were really out to taste, but hey Sonepat is a hub for mithai.

R K Sweets, Sonepat
R K Sweets, Sonepat

Next, we went to the one shop recommended by everyone – R K Sweets in Subhash Chowk. The shop started with selling pakodas but have now diversified into Ghewar. Although they still have a pakodas stall outside the main shop but R K sweets has now become synonymous with ghewar in Sonepat. To compare the taste, we sticked to malai ghewar here as well. It tasted heavenly- not too syrupy plus the quality of the batter and the consistency was really good and again the same toppings except chironji.

Sunder Misthan
Sunder Mishthan, Sonepat

We thought that our search for the best Ghewar in Sonipat ended with this but we had picked one more place; Sunder mishtan bhandar in bara bazar. Tucked in the busy lane of Sonipat, the place is known for its quality sweets. At the entrance, one man is seen frying the ghewar, while another is adding the sugar syrup and mawa over it and then finally sprinking a generous helping of dry fruits – mainly chironji, almonds and pistachios. This was the best ghewar I had in Sonepat- one, it was fresh. Two, it was not too sweet, the sugar was completely drained out of it. Three, it was crisp and soft at the same time-that shows that it was fried just perfectly. Four, the quality of mawa was excellent, slightly grainy – adding a nice texture to the ghewar. Five, the almonds, chironji and pistachios were a better quality than the previous shops.

 

After a day of doing what I love best and stuffed to the throat, I returned home happily, finally; carrying loads of Ghewar with the belief that Sonepat should be hailed as a Ghewar district of Haryana.

 

 

Anubhav Sapra
Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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Eating My Way Through Amritsar: Day 3

This article was first published in Huffpost. Link to the blogpost- http://www.huffingtonpost.in/anubhav-sapra/eating-my-way-through-amritsar-day-3_a_23044828/

Eating My Way Through Amritsar: Day 3

Ending on a high note.

By Anubhav Sapra, Founder, Delhi Food Walks

 

Punjabi food, like its culture, is very hard to ignore especially in Amritsar, the golden heart of the land of butter and celebration. The flavours are just like its people, loud and in your face but in a very good way. We went on a food adventure spanning over three days in the land of the gurus and stuffed our faces with the most beautiful, delicious and rich dishes we could find on the streets of Amritsar. Read about day 1 here and day 2 here.

Day 3

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is something we have all been taught. And so we took it literally with some authentic Amritsari kulchas. We started with Kulwant Kulcha. The place is ideal for those who like their kulcha really flaky, crisp and lightly spiced. Then there is All India Famous Kulcha Wala, which has been in business since 1989. The shop is owned by Sucha Singh ji and is managed by his son Ponty Singh. The kulcha dough is rolled into seven layers and then stuffed with aloo and paneer filling and half cooked. When someone places the order, the cook handling the tandoor applies water on one side and sticks it in the tandoor. Like Kulwant’s this kulcha was flaky, crisp and subtly spiced. They also have another outlet called Kulchaland which has a more restaurant-like setup. But for me, Ashok Kulche Wala rules the Amritsari Kulcha chart with perfect spicing putting its offerings a cut above the rest (I’ve already described it in some detail here). One can walk in to his open kitchen and see the steps involved in making a perfect kulcha. This is what I liked best about Amritsar. The people here are open hearted and there are no secrets—one can easily walk in to any restaurant’s kitchen. Amritsaris love feeding people and the owners themselves are involved in cooking.

The people here are open hearted and there are no secrets—one can easily walk in to any restaurant’s kitchen.

ANUBHAV SAPRA

Next up was Surjit Food Plaza at Nehru Shopping Complex, Lawrence Road. An interesting thing about Amritsar’s food joints is that though some look quite modern and fancy, the food they serve is authentic and traditional. From the outside, Surjit looks like the kind of place I can’t usually afford, but the food has not lost its Amritsari soul. I asked for tawa chicken pulao, which I could see being prepped from behind a big glass wall by none other than the owner, Amarjit Singh. He mixed ghee as well as butter into the chicken and then added boiled rice into the mixture. The tawa chicken pulao is garnished with ginger and coriander. The flavourful rice balances the soft pieces of chicken.They have served their food to who’s who of India. They even have a picture album which one can ask for to see the pictures of celebrities dining at the restaurant. But what caught my attention was the modest beginnings of the restaurant. Starting from a small khopcha, it is full-fledged restaurant today with modern facilities.

ANUBHAV SAPRA

A foodie friend, Girish, sends me screenshots of food joints on WhatsApp all the time, often giving me valuable leads. While I was in Amritsar, he sent a screenshot of Giani Tea Stall, established in 1955. The place is famous for its breakfast dishes, especially kachoris, but since I couldn’t make it in time for a morning meal I had to satisfy myself with an omelette and special spiced tea. The tea maker, Ajay, who hails from Pathankot has been working at Giani’s for 15 years. I tried the spiced tea with saffron, cardamom and almonds (₹35 per cup). Next time, when I visit I will make it a point to start my day with his kachoris.

ANUBHAV SAPRA

On the recommendation of another recommendation, we went to Pal Dhaba near Hathi Gate for lunch. We tried magaz, kharode and mutton tikka. The dishes were similar to what we had at Prakash (see here) but super delicious. The kharode, in particular, amazed me. Unlike the soupy Delhi variety, it was thick and unctuous. The pieces of goat feet are boiled in water and then added to a stock-based gravy later. It’s delicious with tandoori rotis. On the table next to us, a group of people from Delhi were having mutton tikka with buttery white sesame naan. I couldn’t resist ordering the same dish. The mutton tikka is again cooked in spices and served in thick gravy. The naan is so delicious that it can be savoured alone without any sauce or curry.

ANUBHAV SAPRA
ANUBHAV SAPRA

This was exactly what we were exactly waiting for—a high note with which to end our amazing food journey. Needless to say we’ll be going back for more.

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Anubhav Sapra
Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.
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From Kulchas to Chaamps To Aam Papad: Eating My Way Through Amritsar

THE BLOG

From Kulchas to Chaamps To Aam Papad: Eating My Way Through Amritsar

Day 2.

This article was first published in Huffpost. Here is the link – https://tinyurl.com/y9c9cgx5

ANUBHAV SAPRA

Punjabi food, like its culture, is very hard to ignore especially in Amritsar, the golden heart of the land of butter and celebration. The flavours are just like its people, loud and in your face but in a very good way. We went on a food adventure spanning over three days in the land of the gurus and stuffed our faces with the most beautiful, delicious and rich dishes we could find on the streets of Amritsar. Read about day 1 here.

Day 2

On the second day of our food expedition, we woke up to the aroma of deep fried imarti. It was the day of Baisakhi, which marks the start of the Sikh New Year along with the formation of the Khalsa Panth. And sweets are a hallmark of the celebration.

ANUBHAV SAPRA

Pooris for breakfast

Breakfast meant sampling wares from two Amritsar mainstays, starting with Kanhaiya Lal on Lawrence Road, where we sampled a fried poori made of maida and atta (in a 70:30 proportion) stuffed with a little dal pitthi. The poori is served with sweet and tangy aloo lounji, chane ki sabzi, another savoury aloo sabzi and carrot pickles. I also tried another interesting dish called satpura—a puffed pastry (with seven layers) filled with dal ki pitthi, and served with lounji and chane. Incidentally, a similar dish called the Japani samosa is available in Old Delhi’s Manohar Dhaba. The difference is that this “samosa” is filled with mashed potatoes and served with chane and lauki achaar.

Amritsar changed my conception of the ‘nutri kulcha’ and showed me what the Delhi version was missing.

We then moved on to Kanha Sweets that serves pooris that are quite similar to Kanhaiya Lal’s—the only thing missing is the savoury aloo sabzi. Kanha Sweets also sell aam pickle, stuffed matthi and besan matthi (this last is a boon for those with a gluten allergy).

A note on aam papad

Among the most enticing of all the places I visited was Lubhaya Ram, famous for aam papad. They have two outlets—the first one is a proper shop with jars and packed boxes of aam papad and the other one is a cart, right next to the DAV girls’ college.

The owner of the shop, a big-time foodie has all the information on the best eating joints in Amritsar. The way he makes the aam papad platter is a sight to see—small pieces of all the different varieties of aam papad and anar goli are placed on a plate and then given a squeeze of lemon. Next comes a sprinkling of a 12-spice mix, white salt and black salt. The taste is simply out of the world—sweet and tangy at the same time. You can see why Amritsar needs this tasty digestive bit in a corner after you have sampled the heavy deliciousness of Kanhaiya Lal.

The breadbasket of India

Amritsar is sometimes called the Breadbasket of India. I tried kulcha at three places in the city—Ashok Kulche Wala at Ranjit Avenue, All India Famous Kulcha Wala at Chungi, and Kulwant Kulcha Wala near Golden Temple.

But first let me explain how an Amritsari kulcha is unique.

The first rule is that each layer of the dough is spread with ghee. The second is that the kulcha is always stuffed with spices ranging from pomegranate seeds to raw coriander seeds. The layered dough is filled with a mixture of aloo or paneer, or anything else and then put in the tandoor, where it gets crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. A generous helping of butter is applied over the kulchas, which are devoured with chana, spring onion and amchur chutney. The chutney is a mix of tamarind, green mangoes, spring onion and spices. Out of the three kulcha places.

The uniqueness of the chicken at Beera is in the softness rather than the crispiness that’s sought after elsewhere in north India.

I found Ashok’s to be the best kulcha in terms of authenticity and taste.

At Ashok, for the mix kulcha, mashed potatoes are combined with cauliflower mix, paneer mix, coriander seeds, fenugreek leaves, black pepper and other spices. Then are added yogurt, ghee, red chilies and salt. This combination is stuffed in the kulcha, which is placed in the oven to cook. Once it emerges, it is slathered with butter and is ready to be savoured.

At All India Famous Kulcha, the pre-made mixture is simply stuffed in the dough and cooked in the tandoor. While all India and Kulwant served crisper kulchas, Ashok’s spices elevated the dish. Ashok has been in business for 36 years. The shop is open from 9 am to 2:30 pm.

ANUBHAV SAPRA

Next on our agenda was the bija kulcha (the word bija in Punjabi means wet). Iqbal our food guide in the city took us to a place called Pappi di Hatti. The yeast kulchas (bo kulchas) are dipped in chickpeas topped with chopped onion, juliennes of ginger, green chutney, and amla pickles. The kulcha soaks the gravy of chickpeas and becomes soft and flavourful. The wooden containers in which the chickpeas are kept are 15 years old.

ANUBHAV SAPRA

Being a Delhiite, I have tasted cuisines from all over India in this multicultural city. Thus, I’d already sampled a “nutri kulcha” at Shalimar Bagh in Delhi when I decided to see how Amritsar’s version compared. Amritsar changed my conception of the dish and showed me what the Delhi version was missing. In Delhi, it was a normal kulcha with butter and soya granules mixed with spices. Here in Amritsar, the nutri was tawa-fried with capsicum and onions in spinach gravy. A fried piece of paneer was crushed over the nutri and the entire concoction was served with butter. It tasted heavenly. I had nutri also with bhaturas, a unique and delish combination.

Desi hot dog

Having tried the famed chaat in Varanasi, Lucknow and Delhi, I was not that excited to try the chaat in Amritsar. However, Brijwasi is everyone’s favourite go-to go chaat place. The family that migrated from Mathura still serves chaat and other dishes without onion and garlic. They have an interesting desi-style hot dog—the footlong bun is fried in vanaspati and then smeared with methi chutney or saunth on one side and green chutney on the other. A single piece of crushed tikki makes the filling. Interestingly at Brijwasi, they don’t add sweet or green chutney on the papri or bhalle unless expressly asked to do so.

ANUBHAV SAPRA

Soul food

Since I was there on the day of Baisakhi, the harvest festival of Punjab, even the long queues at the gates of the Golden Temple couldn’t deter me from seeking the blessings for an auspicious year.

The roti-making machine is said to make 6000-9000 rotis in an hour. Men and women put ghee over the rotis to keep them soft.

Another big draw is the langar, an important part of Sikh tradition, where anyone can walk in and eat the simple and soulful food. It is a community kitchen where the followers sit in a row and are fed by volunteers who come in to do “seva”. As you enter, on the left hand side is the roti-making machine which they say makes 6000-9000 rotis in an hour. Men and women put ghee over the rotis to keep them soft. On the right hand side is the dishwashing unit—volunteers washing the soiled plates and spoons. At the rear is the main cooking area, where the food is cooked. I have never seen such a big cauldron in my life. There is no chef—the food is cooked by volunteers and sewadars. And what comes out is delicious dal that one can taste nowhere else. On special occasions, kheer and halwa is made for the followers. This institution is responsible for feeding hundred of homeless people in the city.

Chaamps and chicken

Now, one of the food explorers in our group was a vegetarian. So, before moving to the popular Beera Chicken, we stopped at Hathi Gate at Lovely Chaamp. The chaamps, made up of maida and soya are given different shapes, marinated in different spices and then grilled over charcoal. The spices are similar to those that are used in meat preparation. The most interesting out of all the soya champs was the completely veg fish champ—a fish-shaped patty made of soya and spices that are used in making Amritsari champ. (In Delhi, we have our own versions for vegetarians—deep-fried kurkure champs and Afghani ones with white creamy sauce). I loved the way creativity is inculcated in food. The Amritsari folks do not compromise on the taste and meaty texture even in vegetarian food.

Next up was Beera Chicken on Majeetha Road, where several customers ordered their food from inside their car and ate there too—Delhi-style! The shop has a sitting section too, though. Balbir, the owner, manages the restaurant, while his son takes care of the grill counter.

The chicken is first marinated in secret spices, half cooked and finally grilled straight over a griddle. One can also ask for tandoori chicken—the same chicken is cooked in a clay tandoor.

The uniqueness of the chicken is in the softness rather than the crispiness that’s sought after elsewhere in north India. It tasted heavenly. The other recommended dish at Beera is keema naan. Minced mutton is stuffed in the dough and cooked inside the tandoor. Loads of delicious butter is spread over it. While I am usually a little more careful about my butter consumption, in Punjab you gotta do as the Punjabis do. The naan is served with chutney, onions and a mutton curry that is so delicious that I slurped it straight from the bowl.

We ended our second day with Prakash which was a big disappointment. I tried magaj (brain curry), chaamp and mutton tikka. Apart from the champ (minced meat deep-fried in ghee) the other two dishes were nothing to write home about. When we visited the shop construction for a bar section was in full swing. Maybe it was just a bad day for them or maybe they have moved away from their roots—who knows?

Unable to eat a morsel more, we ended the night with digestive tablets, hoping for a grand day three to end our food expedition on a high note.

Anubhav Sapra
Anubhav Sapra is an avid foodie! He is a Founder but proudly calls himself a Foodie-in-chief at Delhi Food Walks. He is also a street-food and Indian regional cuisine connoisseur and loves to write about street-food.