I had always heard that Amritsar was the food capital of India, and the quality of the food really is second to none. Ending a month-long trip in India with a day of eating famous street food, exploring markets and soaking up the energy of the temple grounds in the evening was an amazing way to end a much-needed break. The city is known for its rich, buttery and dairy packed dishes, kulcha bread and fish. The whole city is packed with famous restaurants and street food vendors. Amritsar is also famous for the Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib. The Golden Temple is a Sikh temple, famous globally both for its beauty and for the hospitality of the volunteers who work tirelessly to prepare ‘langar’ within the temple grounds. Langar is the Sikh tradition of offering free, hot meals to everyone who visits a Sikh temple. At the Golden Temple there has been a 24/7 langar service since 1481! Volunteers cook for between 60,000 to 100,000 visitors every day of the year, and it is a lifeline for many.
After an eight hour coach ride from the mountains to Amritsar, we arrived at 10am then made our way to our guest house - before heading straight out again for food! We were pretty hungry and cups of chai just weren’t cutting it any longer! The city was hot (41 degrees!) and busy. We headed to our first spot, meandering through lanes upon lanes of fabric shops and bobbing heads of multi-coloured turbans. Amritsar felt different to any other city we had visited. It’s somewhere I'd love to go back to and explore when I have more time on my hands for sure.
Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale
Our first stop was Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale. A famous restaurant that spills out onto the street close to the Golden temple known for its kulcha and lassi. Kulcha is an Indian flatbread, similar to naan, that comes served with a huge slab of butter melted on the top. Too good!
We tried paneer kulcha, where the flatbread is stuffed with creamy paneer, spices, and topped with crunchy toasted coriander seeds. The bread was served with a delicious chole (chickpea curry), a spiced salad with cooked onion and potato in a kind of broth. Dipping the bread in the chole with a scoop of onion salad was the bomb. The kulcha was crispy, flakey and drenched in butter on the outside, whilst soft and buttery on the inside. So much butter! We opted for the not so hot option, which was great as we could taste all the different toasted spices.
Next we had the mixed kulcha, stuffed with potato, cauliflower, paneer and dal pithi (dal with flour dumplings). This kulcha tasted rich, and strangely like goat's cheese. We washed them down with not one but two lassis, which were sweet, tangy and smooth! I definitely drank way too many lassis throughout the day.
Lassi is a cultured yogurt drink, known throughout India. It has a cooling effect on the body, and is great for gut health because of the beneficial bacteria. Lassi comes in many flavours: plain, salted, mango, rose… At Bhai Kulwant we had the plain, sweet lassi and a rose lassi. Both were incredible!
The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib)
After an indulgent breakfast of kulcha and lassi we went to check out the Golden Temple - in the daytime. Bearing in mind that it was 41 degrees at this point we probably shouldn’t have been outside. But, the surrounding grounds of the temple were stunning, and after we checked in our shoes and covered our heads we were shown inside by a lovely couple who were visiting from Birmingham. I was pretty blown away by the temple’s interior. It really is incredible and the atmosphere inside was so calm. We looped around the outside and decided to go back for a rest and escape the heat. April in India is too much!
Beera Chicken House
Later on in the afternoon we took a rickshaw to Beera Chicken House. Unfortunately there was no butter chicken left so we opted for a half roast chicken and keema naan. The roast chicken was amazing,tender and juicy with subtle spices! Very welcome after eating a lot of spicy food the day before.
The keema naan was so good! It’s a naan stuffed with minced lamb flavoured with chopped onion, tomato and spices. The side dish of gravy was amazing, flavoured with cumin, garam masala, chilli, coriander, ginger and garlic and finished with butter and cream. Delicious. By this point we were pretty full and feeling sick from too much bread and lassi, but we were having an amazing time and moved on to our last spot.
Makhan Fish Corner
Makhan Fish Corner is of course famous for its Amritsari fried fish! This was a pretty fancy place and their fried fish was probably the most expensive - and smallest - dish we ate the whole month! However it didn’t disappoint.
Amritsari fish is a popular restaurant and street food appetiser. Freshwaterfish is marinated in curd (or yogurt) along with ginger, garlic, salt, turmeric, methi, ajwain, chilli powder, lemon, garam masala and amchur. After being marinated it is fried in a huge vat of oil and served up with pickled red onion and more gravy.
The Golden Temple at Night
After lunch we met our rickshaw driver Sandhu and headed back to the Golden Temple. Evening time at the temple was pretty spectacular, and the temperature had cooled down a lot. I couldn’t wait to see the temple lit up and experience langar in the food hall at the temple. The temple is in the middle of a pond within the grounds, and at night glows gold. There were floods of visitors dressed in colourful clothing sitting around the edges of the pool, just taking in the view.
It really is an experience to be in the langar hall, with the loud crashing of thousands of metal dishes being handed out, washed and cleaned for use again. There was a sea of women sitting on the floor prepping cauliflowers and onions for the rows upon rows of people visiting the temple seeking a simple but delicious meal.
By this point we were very full, but it had to be done! We went through to the hall and sat down where volunteers came along one by one handing out rotis, rice, dal, and sweet rice pudding or kheer, which was my favourite part of the meal. After food we met a Sikh guy who helped us take our trays for cleaning and took us to get some chai before we went and walked around the complex.
We loved exploring Amritsar. The locals were really friendly, the food was amazing and I was so happy to have ticked the Golden Temple off my bucket list of things to do. After seeing the Golden Temple in the evening we went back for a good sleep before getting up early for another long train ride to Delhi, and the inevitable flight home….
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