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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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Shiv Food Point

Amritsari Kulcha

By Anubhav Sapra

It is good to be connected with your old colleagues. Some of them are foodies and may also guide you to new places. I received a call from one of my ex-colleagues, Azad, few days back. He told me about Amritsari Kulcha Joint in Rani Bagh which was started by his colleague’s father. It was Baisakhi and I thought celebrating it with Amritsari kulcha would be a pretty great idea. I called him back for the directions and landed up in the afternoon to savour the Amritsari kulcha. This time, I took my mother along with me.

The name of this place is Shiv Food Point, and it has two outlets in Delhi. The addresses are – shop no.12, Shiv Mandir Market, Sant Nagar Road, Rani Bagh; contact numbers – 9891874446 and 9310199945, and shop no. G-1, Vardhman Crystal Plaza, LSC, CD Block, Pitampura; contact numbers – 9953399357 and 9953399367.

The place is owned by Rajesh Sharma who had a chemical business in Rani Bagh. Due to the government’s new pollution control policy, he had to close down his chemical business. Hailing from Amritsar and a food lover, he started Amritsari Kulcha Joint three and a half years back in Rani Bagh, and later renamed it to Shiv Food Point as it is close to Shiv Mandir in Rani Bagh. Although I am a regular at Kulcha King, Sarojini Nagar, the quest to find out the real Amritsari Kulcha never ends.

IMG_20150414_122508 Rajesh ji described the making of Amritsari kulcha from the first step of kneading the dough to baking it in tandoor. The dough is made by kneading white flour with milk and ghee. Ajwain, jeera, dhaniya, kasuri methi, kali mirch are added to the dough, more so, in layers. Then the dough is cut with the help of a knife in small pieces, later stuffed with cauliflower or paneer. The same is flattened using both the hands. Ghee is applied to one side and later baked in the tandoor. The owner also explained how ghee makes the kulchas crispier inside and out. They offer a variety of stuffings – Amritsari aloo kulcha (Rs. 80 for 2 pieces); gobhi, aloo pyaaz, and aloo pyaz gobhi mix (Rs. 90 for 2 pieces), veg keema (Rs. 100 for 2 pieces), paneer (Rs. 110 for 2 pieces).

The kulchas are served with chana, spring onions submerged in tangy tamarind chutney, and raita. Chana are cooked without ghee, garlic, and tomatoes. However, even without these, chana had a nice flavour. The masalas used in kneading the dough for kulchas are used in cooking the chana as well. The same is cooked over low flame on the tandoor. The tandoor plays a pretty important role in retaining the flavours, I am sure. The tamarind chutney served with spring onions also had a nice tangy taste. Raita was cold and fresh.

All the kulchas were excellent in taste, and were slightly thick, yet crispy. They were laden with oodles of butter. I did not like the taste of butter, though. I am a big Amul fan. If you are a Amul fan too, do not forget to ask for it. I called my ex-colleague back to thank him for the wonderful recommendation. But, as I said, the quest never ends.

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Kulcha King

Kulcha King

By Anubhav Sapra

Sarojini Nagar is synonymous with Khandani Pakode Wala for me. Come winters, and people will queue up in front of the shop to relish hot and crispy pakodas with green chutney. Opposite to Pakode Wala, there is another food joint – Kulcha King, famous for its Amritsari kulcha and chhole. The address is Shop no. 144, Ring Road Market, Sarojini Nagar.

The eatery has been set up by Avtar Singh Bagga, who originally hails from Pind Bagga, Tehsil Ajnala in Amritsar. Avtar Singh started his career with a small transport business. Due to the risky nature of the work and few accidents, he closed it down and started dealing in foreign currency. This work too did not continue for long and finally, Kulcha King yielded profitable dividends by satiating the taste buds of Delhiites.

His son, Harjeet Pal Singh(contact no.: 8882335222), is a fine arts graduate from Punjab University and currently, runs this food joint. After 5 p.m., Harjeet works on his own sketching and painting. In fact, he has also designed the new website of his food joint: www.kulchakingfood.com .

The man with a charming personality, who serves the kulchas at the table and refills the hollow containers of the plates with chutney and chhole is Ravinder Bun, famously known as Kukku (contact no.: 9643676146). He has a huge fan following, and students from nearby colleges just come at Kulcha King to interact with him.

20141102_161059There are three varieties of kulcha at Kulcha King – mix kulcha (Rs. 70 for a plate), stuffed with aloo, gobhi, methi, pyaaz, adrak and dhania; mix kulcha (Rs. 80 for a plate), stuffed with gobhi, methi, pyaaz, adrak, dhania, with topping of ajwain and kali mirch; and paneer kulcha (Rs. 100 for a plate), stuffed with paneer, dhania, hari mirch and masalas. Each and every plate of kulcha is served with tamarind chutney, a mixture of spring onions, black salt, red onions, and cumin powder, and pindi chhole. The chhole has a subtle flavor of spices, not too spicy and oily. The chhole is cooked with masalas, and without adding any onions.

20141102_153831I had the crispy mix kulcha smeared with Amul yellow butter. The fillings were good and very less maida was used in making the kulcha. I dipped a small bite of kulcha in chhole and chutney and relished the taste like a king.

In the evenings, between 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., they serve some delectable dishes as snacks– Afghani soya, achari chaap, malai chaap and hariyali chaap and gravy- chaap tikka, paneer bhurji, soya keema, and soya kaleji. With this visit, I got another reason to visit Sarojini Nagar in the evenings.

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Delicacies at CRPF Mela

 

Delicacies at CRPF Mela

By Anubhav Sapra

CRPF, the world’s largest armed police force and the proud sentinel of India’s internal security is all set to commemorate its Diamond Jubilee Year with the CRPF Mela 2014 from the 17th to the 19th of October. The three day extravaganza, organized by the CRPF family Welfare Association (CWA) is held at SDG headquarters, ISTM Grounds, Old JNU campus, New Delhi from 9 a.m. onwards. Reflective of real unity in diversity, the CRPF Mela presents scores of cultural shows, foot-tapping concerts, a delightful food festival which includes food stalls highlighting regional cuisine and a lot more.

The three day event is a confluence of craft and culture and will be based on three themes: family welfare, women empowerment, and youth well-being apart from the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the force.

Mrs. Suneeta Trivedi, President CWA said, “The annual CRPF Mela held on a central and zonal level alternatively, opens a window of opportunity to showcase CWA’s activities. It offers a platform for our homegrown talents and products to display their skills and rightful value. It also connects separated families and soldiers under one roof and gives them the scope to unwind and rejuvenate themselves before they resume their duties.”

The programme will feature CRPF’s 75 year long journey in the form of a short film. CWA members will be honoured and CRPF personnel will be recognized for their bravery and valour.

The CRPF family Welfare Association, a soul associate of the Force establishes firm support for the Force through the welfare and social domain. It works towards domestic empowerment, skill generation in the field of art and craft for families of the force and providing recreational avenues for the soldiers. The CRPF Mela is a conglomerated product of these efforts.

20141017_161730Now coming to food, one can indulge themselves in a wide array of delicious Kashmiri, Gujarati, Punjabi, South Indian, and Rajasthani delicacies at the regional food stalls. Having a sweet tooth, I started my food journey with GC Durgapur food stall and tasted some of the best sweets of West Bengal, my favourite sweet being a burfi with the stuffing of aam papad. In the same food court, Aye 1 Café, Safdarjung enclave has a food stall selling – Awadhi style biryani, roganjosh, chicken curry, and chicken satay. The satay is a must try. It was soft and juicy, covered with a layer of peanut sauce and coconut milk.

20141017_170207I was delighted to meet Prabhu Dayal, the supervisor of the J&K stall. He graciously introduced me to the J&K cuisine. I started with my all time favorite dish – Badarwa rajma and chawal. The beans were bright red in colour and delicious in taste. I also had Goshtaba, Yakhni, roganjosh, Rista, pulao and a delicacy of the streets of Jammu and Kashmir – Kalari Kulcha. Kalari is traditionally a ripened cheese product indigenous to Jammu and Kashmir. It is a very dense cheese that is usually fried in its own fat and salted prior to being eaten. After frying, it ends with a brownish crispy layer outside and soft, creamy, gooey cheese inside.  The taste is similar to melted mozzarella cheese. Kalari, onion rings, and tomato slices are filled between the two kulchas with a topping of anardana ki chutney and served hot. The taste of Kalari Kulcha was heavenly. This is another must try in the CRPF Mela.

20141017_170917Next, I visited GC Jalandhar food stall which has a nice welcoming name – “Bibiyan da Chulha”. The beautiful interior has been designed by Team Jalandhar GC led by DIG Mr. Sunil Thorb and Deputy Commandant Parvinder Kaur. The CRPF Jawans, in traditional Punjabi dress are serving food with warmth. I had Amritsari Kulcha with chole, Amritsari fish, chicken tikka, tandoori chicken, keema naan, sarson da saag te make di roti. The dishes must try in Punjab food court is fish and Amritsari Kulcha.

The other food stalls are of Rajasthani, Gujarati, South Indian and Uttar Pradesh. I could not try much at these stalls. However, I am sure the food would be decent.

My food journey ended with a cup of coffee at RAF 1 BN. Apart from the food stalls, folk dances, puppet shows and magic shows promise to add colour, vibrancy and fanfare to the event. So plan a visit to the CRPF Mela this weekend to taste the regional delicacies and experience the culture of different states at one place.

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Amritsari Kulcha

October 6, 2014

Amritsari Kulcha

By Anubhav Sapra

There is always something emotional about your first job, your first salary. And then comes a day when one has to take a stand to move on. I left my job few days back after working for an NGO for 4 years. I had to think for days to arrive at this decision to move on and follow my heart’s call.

On the last day at work, I decided to introduce my colleague to the partner organizations with whom I used to coordinate with. After starting from Saket in the morning, we reached another voluntarily-run organization in East of Kailash. The meeting got finished around lunch time. We rushed to a nearby community centre and started exploring the eateries out there. I have always followed a maxim, that if there is a crowd, the food has to be good.

We reached a place where young men in formal attire were having their lunch. I smiled, and told my colleague – this is the place where we are going to eat our lunch. He was a bit disappointed as he wanted to eat comfortably in a restaurant. However, I persuaded him to try the food there and he hesitantly ordered a plate of Amritsari kulcha and chole from a cart, which turned out to be absolutely delicious.

The cart is owned by Ashu Monga (Mobile number 880074901). He hails from Firozpur in Punjab and has been selling Amritsari Kulcha for the last 4 years in the Community Centre, opposite Building no.20 in East of Kailash. He is there from 10 am to 3:30 pm. A plate of two Amritsari kulchas with chole cost Rs 30.

20140930_131239The kulchas were soft and fluffy with the topping of tomato and paneer. I have never before eaten a similar kind of kulcha of this standard anywhere in Delhi. I requested Ashu to share the secret behind the softness of the Kulchas. He happily shared the secret – these kulchas are made up of wheat and semolina and not white flour, and secondly, they come straight every morning from Ballu Bakery in Firozpur, Punjab.  He adds a spoon of chutney over the chole and garnishes it with onion rings and serves these kulchas with green chilly pickles.

I returned to my office with my colleague feeling satiated and thinking about the right decision of leaving the job to pursue my vocation of running Delhi Food Walks full-time.