Where to eat in Amritsar

Amritsar is a city for food. You cannot walk two paces without seeing some street food which looks incredibly good. And if you stop to taste, your palate will confirm the impression of your eyes. It might seem that it would be hard to choose where to eat in Amritsar. But there was no question in our minds. Our first stop for food would be the langar in the Golden Temple. This is reputed to serve food to 50000 people on a normal day, twice that number on some days. The numbers have decreased during the pandemic. Volunteers not only cook, but also clean, and there has been no instance reported of contamination.

Langar is one the central concepts of Sikhism. Charitable donations of food may be common across India, under every known political system, but the langar is different. Guru Nanak developed the idea of continuously running kitchens, where food is donated by the community, the work is done entirely by volunteers, and which is open to absolutely anyone. This last idea was innovative, and expressed the central value of the religion. Such a kitchen, the langar, can be found in every gurudwara, and it has run continuously in the Golden Temple, since the founding of the Harmandir Sahib. The ingredients are donated or bought with donated money. The building and its maintenace also depends on donations. The cooking, cleaning, serving, run mainly through the work of volunteers. What automation there is (sieving machines for flour, a chapati making machine which is used on specially crowded days) has been donated.

We walked barefoot into the langar, heads covered, and were handed a metal plate and bowl by a volunteer. We were directed to an upstairs hall, to which we were admitted after a very short wait. We filed in with pilgrims, sat at the first empty place that we found. There is some concession to the pandemic, with groups keeping some space from others. My knees creaked as we sat down on the mats on the ground, and I knew it would be difficult to get up at the end of the meal. We were served two rotis immediately. You are meant to receive things with both hands. If you forget, you are reminded about it with a smile. Dal and a curry of paneer and peas were ladled on to the plate. I held up the bowl for the rice kheer and it was filled without comment, but I saw that around me people took the kheer on the plate, and filled the bowl with water.

The food surprised me, while remaining true to everything I’d heard. There were no spices, but the food was as exquisitely tasty as it is reputed to be. The dal, especially, was something special; the half day long cook brings out the flavours of the lentils so that you don’t mind the absence of onions or spices. The kheer was also remarkable: mildly sweet but with the slow boiled milk infused with the aroma of rice. This was Punjabi khana rendered down to its essentials: fresh ingredients, slow cooking.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

22 comments

      1. Oh dear! I’ve never had a ‘terrible’ experience with HK food personally; quite the reverse in fact. I don’t recall ‘ghee overload’ on any of the numerous HK meals I’ve eaten. I’ve never heard anything bad about their food before (before today that is😎

        Liked by 1 person

  1. We were there last year in January. Our hotel was very near 5he Golden temple. The food and everything was a wonderful experience. We had looked up some popular eating places nearby. Kulchas and Lassi and other good food. The Golden temple will always be a special place.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There is a rather arty town — Crestone — up in the mountains a bit (where I got my easel) that had a good Indian restaurant, but no longer. It’s a beautiful and very interesting town. Though it’s an old mining town, it’s not typical. A former undersecretary of the UN (re?) established it as a spiritual center and brought in religious leaders from many eastern sects to establish Crestone as a spiritual center. Among other things it has a thriving Zen Buddhist retreat center and three different Hindu Ashrams — though I don’t know what Covid has done to anything up there. BUT it’s an hour from my house and kind of far to go for dinner… I have a cookbook, but I’m lazy…

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crestone,_Colorado#Spiritual_centers

        Liked by 1 person

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