The Amritsar Food Experience - by Jaideep Riar
12th March 2019

 

About the author , Jaideep Riar - An engineer of computers, a farmer, a father and a jack of many trades. Get deep into whatever I venture into. Previously fashion. Then food. Currently bread. And beer. Always beer.

 

 

Started as a list. A bit more than that now.

Many Amritsar food lists exist. This is not that kind of a list. This is but a recounting of my personal experiences at some of my favourite places. Have not mentioned any place where I haven’t eaten personally. This is by no means a ‘comprehensive’ list, so please don’t come back at me with whatabout this and why not that. It just means I have not eaten there. Or it wasn’t memorable enough to remember. Also, there are many new fangled cafes, restaurants, bars, breweries and the like all over. Even though I do visit these more often than not these days, but will limit myself to traditional Amritsari food. 
If you read this and appreciate the work I have put in, I’m sure you won’t blindly share this without atleast giving me some credit. Thanks in advance for your thoughtful crediting.

Fish:
Our fish is a very thinly coated, skin on one side singhara. Sold by weight, you can choose the part of fillet you want. Just point at it. Tell them in advance you want the piece fried whole (in Punjabi, tell them you want the fish ‘gillee’ or wet, as opposed to ‘sukki’ or dry)If they cut into small piece and fry chances are its going to go dry, hard and rubbery. Just to prove that tastes are subjective, some people prefer it that way. 

Amar Fish @Village Raja Sansi. Current Undisputed Fish Champ of Ambarsar. Reach by 7 as stocks disappear early. I have written enough about this place previously so won’t bore you. Just go if you have your own vehicle

Not related to the previous one, but Amar Fish@C Block Ranjit Avenue Market. A very good quality, more expensive than the rest option.

Pehelwan Fish @outside Hall Gate. This is one of those low ambition, low drive, bhagwan bharose old school vendor. Ever dependable for a consistent, tasty product. If staying in the Temple area, your best bet

Makhan Fish @ Basant Avenue, opposite Trilium Mall. For emergencies only. Makes his chutney so hot its inedible. And if you tell them, he will give you some mayo to counteract the hot chutney 😀 The fish is decent though. Back in the day when they operated out of a makeshift shack, he would ride into his shack on his Bullet, denim jacket et all. Had hired the shack next to his just to park the Bullet in and change into the kurta pyjama avatar. Thats the guy at the counter now. 

Makhan Fish @Majitha Road. The iconic fish only place has more chicken and paneer on the menu than fish. A drinking place downstairs and a family room upstairs. While the fish itself is not bad, but they have lost their reputation due to various reasons. Use your own discretion on this one

Meat: 
Ambarsar 💓 Meat, and our famous tawas are scattered all around the city. Go to any random one and chances are you will get a decent eat. Most places serve the dishes with the Ambarsari bo wala (smelly) kulcha, heated on the tawa. All places will have Mutton Champ, tikke, gravy meat, and keema kaleji. Some offer brain curry, gurde kapoore and kharode too. Chicken eaters will find a basic tawa chicken kind of deal. 

Mohan Singh Meat @Chowk Chabutra. My personal favourite. I can keep eating his dry chaamps all day. The very best. Brain curry is my second favourite item. Ask him to keep it chunky. Keema Kaleji, Mutton Tikke, Gurde Kapoore. Slurrrp. Take your pick. Edible chicken. Superb butter naan

Adarsh Meat @C Block Ranjit Avenue Market. Easily accessible and a very old name of the city. In the good old days, he ran his stall at Adarsh Cinema. For some, going for a movie with family meant you seat the family and rush out to Adarsh. Have a drink and some snacks. Rush back in to catch the hero kee entry. And then repeat same procedure till movie ends. Good old days when there was no frisking and cinemas all accepted BYOB. Anyway..

 

Parkash Meat, Mama Meat and a few more outlets @Maqbool Road. Not the most hygienic, but if you are hungry and in the area, or have gone for All India Famous Kulcha, then go to any. A couple of them serve tandoori rotis too
Mama Meat @D Block Ranjit Avenue. Mama from Maqbool Road, but in a neat and clean surrounding with ample parking and carobar
Flavours@Ranjit Avenue opposite Holiday Inn. Decent mutton tikke and brain which they are happy to customise
Parkash Meat near Golden Temple multi level parking. Stand at the exit of the parking and look diagonally left. Two rehdis together. If you are staying around the temple area this is your closest option for a decent meal. Tasty without anything extraordinary
 

Surjit Food Plaza@Lawrence Road. I have never been able to figure out why, but this place has its own fan following. Even when on a rehdi next to Makhan Fish, found his tikke and chicken nice but not extraordinary . Can be tried if hungry for non veg on Lawrence Road. 

Pal Dhaba @Hathi Gate. Famous for his kharodas but all items are decent. Keema Naan great too. Consistency is his main problem. Some days its very very good, on others decent. Never bad though

Chajju Dhaba@Lawrence Road. A hidden gem, in plain sight or an also ran? Run by possibly the most laid back business owner. Infuriating that despite being in possibly the best location of the City,right next to Novelty Sweets smack on Lawrence Road, he doesn’t even make the effort to put up a half visible board. When run by the original Chajju, this was a very very popular and thriving dhaba. I can vouch for his mutton curry, you are free to decide about the rest

Bittu Meat Valla@E block Ranjit Avenue Market. Just the one dish, tandoori meat. Sold by weight and accompanied by a super green chutney. In my book, a must do experience for hardcore meaters. Eat in the car if not comfortable rubbing knees with drunk strangers. The 4 tables are squeezed into space for not more than 2 😀

Shinda@Old Telephone Exchange (the last carpark if going to Kesar). Though I am not a hygienist, but thats the deal breaker for me here. The tastes are nice though nowhere close to what we have available elsewhere. But for those staying in the Temple area, a very decent option.

Pehelwan (frankly not sure about exact name)@Majitha Road. A rehdi kind of place, where I once ate a very delicious keema kaleji and a very iffy mutton tikka. Can serve as an emergency meat fix

 

The all rounder veg and non veg places
Sakhis Watz Kukin@Green Avenue Market. Looks like a small takeaway station from the outside, but walk through the gate and be surprised by a very well appointed place. Mutton Tikka Tawa, Chicken Tikka, Malai Tikka and the fabulous Meat Dishes are very good. Started as a home delivery place and have grown to be one of the most popular places among locals. Clean, hygienic food with quality ingredients. Have a good number of non desi dishes too, which are much loved by my kids PS: the owners are related to me, but don’t hold that against them !

Bukhara@C Block Ranjit Avenue Market. I just love their brain cutlets. And by far the best Fish Tikkas in town. As you would have realised, fish tikka is NOT an Ambarsari thing. But they serve 3-4 kinds with rumali rotis. Very competitive kebabs and tikkas too. Excellent gravy meat options. Ask the Chef to really kadak up the rotis. Meat portions are small, keep in mind when ordering 
 

Ekam Dhaba Near Airport offers very nice options in both non veg and veg. Huge portions, decent prices. Very useful to hang out when your flights been delayed.

Joginder & Pritam opposite Railway Station In Gate. If spicy is your thing. Then these are for you. But you can always ask them to tone it down and they will gladly oblige. I’m sure you will excuse my hazy memories of what was eaten, but saag meat, dal and paneer bhurji of all things is very clearly recalled. Very good after a big night out, to soak up the alcohol. Mostly open till about 12, but officially 11 pm. Pro tip: The wine shop next door is open really, really late. Not the front shutter. Go into the dark alley and look right at the ray of light from under the closed door. They charge a premium of 10-20₹. Just don’t argue. Buy and scoot.

Younis Dhaba @Gol Hatti Chowk inside Hall Bazar is a totally nondescript little place. Look for the Dry Fruit Corner (nice masalas available), and look just to the left. The signboards in Urdu and English. Menu keeps shuffling but very nice curries, kormas and the like. Its a hole in the wall place, frequented by members of a particular community.

 

Grilled Chicken

Grilled, and not tandoori, chicken is a very Ambarsar thing, and you would expect many many vendors. Well you are wrong. There are hardly any grilled chicken proponents, and of them only Beera stands out as a distinct and unique product
 

Beera Chicken@Majitha Road. The flag bearer of this genre. Soft, tender, minimally spiced. You will either love it or hate it. So order just the smallest portion initially and take it from there. Be prepared to find red bits of liquid around joints. Don’t panic, its not blood and your chicken isn’t raw or alive. Its just the meat juices don’t evaporate on a grill like they do in a tandoor. If you grill till no such juices, the meat will be rubber.


Mani Chicken @Circular Road, just down the road from Beera. Nothing subtle about chicken here, more enjoyed by folks who find the familiar orange colour comforting
There are couple of other places at Majitha Road, Batala Road near ahatas. I wouldn’t want you to waste precious touristy calories there

 

Amritsari Kulche
or as we call them, Kulche. Have already shared enough gyaan. Please search the forum for all you ever wanted to know about the kulcha but didn’t know whom to ask. 
 

 

Monu Kulcha Hut@Loharka Road. Have seen them grow from almost a rehdi to their current air conditioned (though they never seem to be on) form. Monu don’t care of theres 1 or 100 customers waiting. Monu kulchas away at his medium hot oven. Till Monu keeps this going, no ones going to be able to out Monu him. Be prepared to wait, this is the slowest of our slow food. The end results will speak for themselves.

Ashok Kulcha @A Block Ranjit Avenue. All you look for in a kulcha, minus the layering. Don’t get me wrong, its a very very tasty meal. And being 500 m from my house, my most visited kulcheria. Taste of his chanas, chutney and achar is unmatched. Top class ingredients at vfm.

Harbans Kulcha @PUDA Colony, Green Avenue. A very very local gem. Unsullied by tourists. Crisp, layered kulche with tasty chane. After Monu, his would be my recommendation for a great Kulcha. Unfortunately his location inside a small colony market is quite inaccessible 

Bittu Kulcha Wala @A Block Ranjit Avenue. Used to be a place just handling overflow from Ashok. Zomato etc have made his kulcha quite in demand.

Pehelwan@Lakshmanser Road. Liberal usage of ghee on the uncooked kulcha would be an understatement. Its drowned in ghee and then put in the tandoor. And then more more ghee ghee when taken out of tandoor. With cupped hands no less. For some reason, no butter is provided 😷. If ghee is your thing, you will love it.

All India Famous@Maqbool Road Chungi. An institution in its time, known far and wide for their unparalleled taste. Still a very decent eat, but theres better options available nowadays. I would suggest maybe share a kulcha just to feel the old world kulcha eaten under the shisham tree. The waiters/chefs have been unchanged since ages.

Kulcha Land@Ranjit Avenue, opp Holiday Inn. Won’t lie, but I am at a loss to even spin something positive for these guys. Great location though.Ask any cab, auto, rickshaw driver for a kulcha recommendation and chances are you will land up here.

 

Poori
Kanha@Lawrence Road. Again one of the iconic outlets, which grew from one standing only table into a 50+ seater AC place without compromising on the quality of their food. The delicious chanas, the spicy sweet aloo, the achar and the perfectly puffed peethi pooris. Whats not to like? BTW if your poori is deflated or deformed, ask them nicely and they will replace it. In winters, the gud halwa goes down well. They recently started serving pre churned lassi due to ‘customer demands’. We have dedicated lassi shops for just lassi.

Kanhaiya Lal Harbhajan Singh Sweets @ Lawrence Road. Just down the road from Kanha, near the PSB bank. Looks like a regular mithai shop, but have 2 big halls on the first floor. Essentially the same product, but here I find the chane a bit spicier. So if thats what you like, head here. Very very good.

Novelty Sweets @Lawrence Road. A regular chane poori with aloo sabzi (not the sweet kinds). Also do cholley bhature and the like, if anyones missing those

Prem Poori @Putlighar Market a very popular cart super crowded in the mornings

 

Chat/Tikki/Pakode: 

New Brijwasi Chat@C Block Ranjit Avenue. Tikkis are a must do. With a great hit of pepper and kasoori methi. If you want the tikkis extra crispy, don’t feel shy. Walk up to the guy frying them and ask him to cut them from the middle like a butterfly chicken breast. If doing bun tikki, always double tikki. Always. Golgappas are served on a tray with water in a glass. The papdi chaat and mix chaat are very good. The bhel is to be ordered as half plate. The full version is a big dinner plate loaded with a mountain of bhel.

Brijwasi@ Cooper Road is the original Brijwasi shop. Same food as above. There is another Brijwasi in Rani Ka Bagh but their food tastes different from these two. Not bad though.

Bombay Chaat@Cooper Road, under the flyover. Drive past Brijwasi, take the road under the Bhandari Bridge and pass a few furniture shops on your right to reach this humble little gem. Sev poori, Dahi Poori, Bhel and Papdi chat. Seriously good food, but you might feel the prices are a bit steep. Thats because each serving is good enough for atleast 2. Order half plate of everything and enjoy. Pigeons nesting in the brickwork of the bridge always tickle the kids pink, so do that while they get the food.

Vaishno Pakode@right next to Novelty Sweets on Lawrence Road. Very nice paneer pakodas, served with bread slices if you want to make it a meal. Many seasonal veggie options available, but if you are a methi fan then order those straight up. Superb. Kachalu Pakode here are regarded as vegetarian fish 😷

Pakoda Shops@outside Hall Gate. Search for Indo Canadian Transport. These shops are just around the corner. Around mealtimes, you will have to literally push, pull and snatch the pakodas. At other times just push will suffice. Seasonal veggies and everyones favourite aloo. Bread slices as accompaniment too if you want. Go to either one, same.

 

Bhijje Kulche/Mathhi Cholle

The bo wala (smelly) kulcha is a highly fermented, soft bread with a distinct sharp sourdough smell (a scent for Ambarsaris). Served with everything from dal to meat to nutri to chane. Bhijje (as in wet) kulche are made by immersing the kulcha into the vat of chane so that it soaks up some of the gravy. These are then removed, topped with chane, chutney, pyaaz, green mango etc. Find me a born and bred Ambarsariya not living here, and bets are this is the one food they will be nostalgic for, as its not found anywhere else in this form.
Pappi Di Hatti@Green Avenue Market is my favourite. Well spiced and sharp chane. We sometimes buy just the chanas when no sabzi at home. Must visit if in the area

ThandiKhui Vendor@Opposite entrance of Company Garden. The legendary Thandi Khui (cold well) didn’t survive, but our man has. Need to revisit, last visited as a teenager
 

Vaishno@Basant Avenue Market. Nice for a change

Hansraj Cholleya Vaale@Circular Road. Low price is their USP and thats why it sells a lot. If you prefer a blander tasting chane, the place to go

 

Jalebi/Gulab Jamun

Sharma Sweets@Lawrence Road extension. There are now 3-4 Sharma sweets. Go deep into the lane, the last Sharma on the left is the real deal. If you have diabetes, best to avoid going as these goodies are just irresistible. Thin, crisp, hot and fresh jalebis. Start with only 20₹ worth of jalebis. Because their gulab jamuns are simply the best. Soft. Really soft. Gooey goodness. And then there is their baby version of GJ. Again order 20₹ worth. They literally fall off the toothpick as you try to eat them. The Sharmas also do some seasonal mithais. Enquire what all is on offer. 100% purity and taste guaranteed.

Gurdas Ram Jalebi@Katra Ahluwalia. So popular that the place is sometimes erroneously called jalebi chowk. These jalebis are not the thin kinds. But so crisp and juicy. Irresistible. Gorge on as many you can, and then do try their gulab jamuns. Very very nice. If you want to turn this into an adventure, buy 30₹ per head jalebis, go to the main road and then continue into the lane opposite. There are shops selling doodh. Hand him the jalebis and grab a spoon. Dudh jalebi goes down real well especially in the winters

Fruit Cream

Guru Fruit Cream@Lohgadh Gate. Not too sweet. Super stuff. Also nice badam milk. Do try
Sukhram@Lawrence Road. Not easy to spot. Look for a blue board with just one guy at a small counter. With a suprisingly nice sized hall at the back
 

Arora@Majitha Road Very nice stuff

 

Kulfi/Kulfa
Mahajan Kulfi Hall Bazar. A very old and famous shop with the standard matka kulfi with dry fruits and topped with faluda etc. His chocolate barfi sells very well
 

Prem Nath and Son Kulfa@Regent Talkies chowk. Kulfa is kulfi on steroids. First some superb kulfi is cut off from a brick of the stuff. That is topped with firni, rabri, falooda and more. One of these is a meal

A1 Kulfa@Queens Road. Its kulfa, its nice. Shop keeps random opening/closing times so take your chance

Lassi

Ahuja@Beri Gate. Constantly churned out by the glassful. No so thick but very very good. They also have a kesar lassi. Do try their firni which is my favourite. People dig the masala tofu too.
 

Gian Halwai@Regent Talkies Chowk, Katra Sher Singh

Surjan Singh, next to Gian above. Many people prefer their dahi cheeni to the lassi. I once made the mistake of ordering the peda lassi where he crushes some homemade khoya pedas into the lassi. The after effects of this are nearly the same as being drunk. Droopy eyes and disorientation. Just that you can have this during the day without the stigma involved in day drinks

Aam papad
Ram Labhaya@under the tree rehdi outside BBK dAV college on Lawrence Road. IMHO, the real thing is the leather like one sold by weight. Don’t forget to ask them for the masala too. Many other imli/mango things available. They have a shop across the road too. Have heard Ujagar Singh (the spice guys near Temple) also sell some. Not sure.

 

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