As you would have guessed by now, Harpreet and I will eagerly travel for food. Quite a few of our friends know that we will jump in the car and get to Murthal to have paranthas or hop on the metro to go eat at chawri bazaar, similarly there have been times I have flown to Hong Kong to eat at Chili Fagara, but inside Amritsar there are hidden places, hidden inside alleys and the old city, they serve wonderful treats, they may not look the best, but the food makes it worth it. Some of these places you can only walk and get to them, some you need to take a rickshaw, and some are accessible by Car, if you get there on time.
21st March 2015: It was our Second Day in Amritsar, and we were starting late. We wanted to spend some time relaxing after all this was a holiday and not really rush about early in the morning – that was reserved for the following two days. Though we had promised ourselves that this time around we will not go to any of our regular places, and try some new ones, the temptation of Kanha’s Puri, Chole and Aaloo ki laungi was something we just could not resist. It was a Saturday so we knew that he will be open late, but were not sure if we will still get something in time. A few minutes drive from our Hotel we were at Kanha, two plates of Puri’s ordered, and we receieved the Chole (Chick Pea), Aaloo Laungi (Potatoes cooked with Fenugreek and Jaggery as a Side Dish), Kaanji Gajar’s and Onions.. and the wait for the lovely cloud like poori’s began. Each plate comes with 2 Pooris, and unlimited serving of Chole, Laungi and Achaar.
Each plate is for Rs. 60 and this is the best money you can spend, though you need to get here on time. Kanha is one of the famous outlets so finding it is not difficult, but in case you want to locate it yourself, you drive down Lawrence road towards the DAV College and park there, right opposite across the street is Kanha Sweets, a lane next to it leads to their dining hall where they serve you these delectable poori’s.
Urban Legend says that back in the day if you got your own Desi Ghee from home, you got a discount, we have never seen any one do this or anyone get a discount. To speed up the process they double fry their poori’s at times this leads to a crispy version and at times you get a pillowy soft one.
What goes best with a Poori and Chole is a great glass of lassi, but Harpreet was in the mood for her favorite Pista milk from Novelty. He makes both a Sugar Free and a Sugared version and it tastes lovely. So we decided to walk from Kanha to the other end of Lawrence Road to get this. Colored yellow using saffron, the milk is a bit thin for my liking, but comes loaded with pista (pistachio) and almonds in it. At Rs. 55 this is a great refresher, and Harpreet ensures she has several glasses while she is in Amritsar. For me it was time to hunt down Sharma ji, who makes flattened Gulab Jamun’s. This meant another walk upto Kanha, not only where our car was parked, but also to walk into Nai Sarak to look for Sharma ji. The Flattened Gulab Jamuns are not very different from the ones you would have had, these are small in size and made flat. The flat shape ensures a softer texture on the inside, which is at times a bit raw. I am told that this is intentional. They also make a small version of Gulab Jamun, that I did not have the space to try any more. At Rs. 20 a plate this is a steal, and a must do if you like sweet things.
Brunch done, it was time for some relaxation and catching up with work back at the office. Sadly this time around the Internet speeds were pathetic, we were stuck on Edge both on Airtel and on Vodafone, and even the Internet in our Hotel was not working, this meant catching up on reading and doing some phone calls, till we were hungry again or game to go out.
The evening saw us drive down to Haathi Gate, and park our car there… we took a rickshaw inside to go look for Tara, he is also called Bau and from what we had heard he makes a great paneer burjhi. Though paneer bhurji is no special, but we wanted to go check it out. The shop is right next to the old telephone exchange, but you can tell the rickshaw wala that you want to go to vadda-manja (big bed). The Biggest bed you may have seen and if we were to believe the locals, they said that the bed is over 100 years old and at one time nearly a 100 people sat on it. This is where the locals sit to have a chat, they invited Harpreet and Me also to sit down and talk to them. The Rickshaw ride had torn my pant off a bit, but I was in the mood for the Bhurji. Some chit chat later we walked down to Tara and ordered a single plate. This is a plate of Paneer Bhurji, slightly different from the way we make it at home, loaded with butter, served with 4 slices of bread, onions and chutneys on the side. From the taste the bhurji had both ginger and garlic in the base, and used a gravy that gave it a slightly runny texture. Good quality paneer meant this was one of the tasty paneer bhurji’s we had had in a long time, and worth all the effort to get there. At Rs. 100 a plate this seemed to be one of the more expensive street side offerings, but if you are in the game to check out a few things, see the worlds’ largest bed, and also get something to eat.. This is where you need to be. Also enjoy some art-deco buildings in this part of the old city, though these are run down now, but if you visualize you can imagine how beautiful these buildings looked in the early 20th century when they were made.
For our dinner we wanted to head out to the Wagah Border. We had heard of this new place called Sarhad that had come up just a kilometer short of the border. It is a joint collaboration between a Pakistani friend and an Indian friend so the people said, and I was in mood to get some great across the border food. A 50 minute drive from Haathi Gate brought us to Sarhad, from the outside it looked very pretty, it featured the world’s largest mural in cement relief and the building looked pretty. It was clear that it had taken inspiration from various design elements. Sadly there was not a soul to be seen, and the staff was clearly not interested in serving. We spoke to a staff member and he mentioned that they are busy between 1 PM to 6PM when people come to attend the Wagah Ceremony, and now at 7PM either they were all tired or this was the way things were there. We had driven all this distance so wanted to give it a shot. The Setting looked pretty. We were also informed that there are some nice Pakistani Suits available at Sarhad, which did not seem the case – they had suits – don’t get me wrong, but they looked like as if they were hanging there for a couple of years, dust gathering on them and no one keen to sell.
We chose to sit down in the open, only to be bothered by mosquitoes, and shifted inside. The Air Condtioners were off, the Mosquito killer was off, but we wanted food. I ordered a portion of Balti Meat, A Bakharkhani Roti, and Harpreet Ordered a Vegetarian Biryani, that came with a side of raita. The Food took about 15 minutes to arrive, and well all I can say is that this was not worth the drive. The Bakharkhani roti was nice and was nicely stuffed with almonds, cashews and raisins, but the stuffing was not properly done. The Gravy was too heavy only to give me a drowsy feeling on our way back. The Biryani at best avoided. We also ordered for the Murree Brewery Non Alcoholic Beer from Pakistan, this was a lemon flavoured malt drink, which was nice.. the can is priced at Rs. 26 in Pakistan, but was Rs. 200 plus taxes here.. well we said cheaper than flying to Pakistan to have it. We wrapped up our dinner with an Khalifa bakery Nan-Khatai with Ice Cream – This was one of the best Nan Khatai’s I have had in a long long time. It came with a full nan khatai, and a broken one, and some strawberry ice cream with chocolate sauce drizzled on it, but I will say it again – this was the best nan khatai I have had… and I now know what to ask for when someone says can I get you something from across the border. Our meal cost us Rs. 1475 and it was the most expensive meal on our trip. Totally not worth it, other than the Murree Beer and the Khalifa Nan Khatai, this place is at best avoided.
Post our dinner we wanted to go back to the Golden Temple, sadly I was drowsy, was this the effect of eating too much or too heavy or something else.. we chose to take a break and catch some sleep.
Our Day 2 Circuit, included the following Places
1. Kanha Sweets for Poori Chole on Lawrence road
2. Sugarfree Pista Milk at Novelty on Lawrence Road
3. Sharma ji’s flattened Gulab Jamuns on Nai Sarak, off Lawrence Road
4. Bau / Tarey di Bhurji, Next to Old Telephone Exchange in Haathi Gate
5. Sarhad – at Wagah Border