The best street eats in Am­rit­sar.

Some say Am­rit­sar is In­dia’s culi­nary cap­i­tal. Try the street food here, and you just might agree.

DestinAsian - - DEPARTMENTS - BY SANJAY SURANA

Of­ten hailed as the bread­bas­ket of

In­dia, the fer­tile north­west­ern state of Punjab is known for its rich, hearty cui­sine that mines an abun­dance of grains and dairy. Per­haps no city is more revered in Punjab—and in all of In­dia—for its lo­cal fare than Am­rit­sar, where much of the food is pre­pared and sold in the al­leys around Sikhism’s holi­est shrine, the Golden Tem­ple. From crisp kulcha flat­breads to tum­blers of thirst-quench­ing lassi, here’s a se­lec­tion of the town’s most di­vine street-side bites.

HOT POCK­ETS A typ­i­cal Pun­jabi break­fast, chole puri (a.k.a. chole batura) pairs chick­peas in gravy with glis­ten­ing puffs of deep-fried flat­bread. At Kan­haiya Lal Harb­ha­jan Singh on Lawrence Road, the puri is pre­pared by the street in a car­tire-sized karahi wok. Head up­stairs to the faded din­ing hall, where you can tuck into puri so crispy that it crack­les when pulled apart, a chole that yields notes of cumin and cloves, and a side of potato cooked with tamarind and jag­gery. Also worth seek­ing out is Novelty Sweets ( cor

ner of Lawrence Rd. and Mall Rd.), in­side a halffin­ished shop­ping mall just a five-minute stroll to the south. Am­rit­saris swear by its chole puri and for good rea­son—the dish is more lay­ered than at Kan­haiya Lal, its puri flecked with chili pow­der in­side and the potato en­riched by peas and nuggets of cashew.

LASSI IS MORE Two spots in the old walled city sur­round­ing the Golden Tem­ple ex­cel in this cooling yo­gurt drink. Since 1921, Gian di Lassi ( Golden Tem­ple Out Rd., op­po­site Re­gent Cinema) has been churn­ing out creamy lassi laced with rose essence and topped with a dol­lop of but­ter. Such is the shop’s pop­u­lar­ity that it goes through 500 kilo­grams of yo­gurt on a hot day. Over on B.K. Dutt Gate, the mak­ing of lassi at Ahuja

Sweets is a hyp­notic sight, with the pre­parer the­atri­cally pour­ing and stir­ring in­gre­di­ents into a dented spher­i­cal mix­ing urn. The re­sult is a creamy, frothy, and in­dul­gent con­coc­tion.

CRUNCH TIME For six decades, the Budha Mal

pakora stall has served up its ac­claimed veg­etable frit­ters next to the old city wall’s Hakima Gate. Eight years ago its own­ers opened a proper shop, but they didn’t move far—you’ll now find

them on the west side of the gate. The deftly fried pakora of cau­li­flower flo­rets, cu­cum­bers, and onions are suc­cu­lent, crispy, and im­pos­si­ble to re­sist with a chut­ney fea­tur­ing chili pow­der and lime juice.

MIX­ING IT UP Re­sem­bling Mex­i­can scram­bled eggs, pa­neer bhurji is a fiery, but­tery pick-me-up that com­bines pa­neer cheese, onions, toma­toes, chili, and other spices. At Bau Pa­neer Bhurji near the Old Tele­phone Ex­change in Hathi Gate, this ad­dic­tive dish is served with a sub­lime mint chut­ney and slices of plain white bread. The space can barely fit more than half a dozen peo­ple, so try to avoid the mid­day cruch.

BREW MASTERS Tea ven­dors can be found day and night on street cor­ners all over the city, but none have the fol­low­ing of Giani Tea Stall. Lit­tle more than a cov­ered plat­form raised a few steps above Cooper Road, it’s a fre­quent stop for Am­rit­sar’s tur­baned po­lice of­fi­cers. The masala chai is creamy, sweet, and fra­grant with the per­fume of tea leaves and car­damom. VEG OUT Just steps from Giani in a lit­tle al­ley next to the train tracks, In­der­puri Bho­j­nalaya ( 196 Cooper Rd.) doles out vel­vety, earthy sar

son ka saag (spiced mus­tard greens), a Pun­jabi spe­cialty best paired with the fill­ing corn bread known as makki ki roti. Preface the main dish with some grat­i­fy­ing dahi bhalla (lentil dumplings in yo­gurt), which fea­ture a top­ping of sweet-sour tamarind sauce. BREAK­ING BREAD No culi­nary tour of Am­rit­sar is com­plete with­out a taste of its kulcha, a leav­ened flat­bread. For an au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, seek out the can­teen-style Monu Kulcha Hut on Lo­harka Road in the res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood of Ran­jit Vi­har. Monu churns out 2,000 kulchas on a busy day, serv­ing each one with sev­eral scoops of chole and a side of chili with lime and chopped onion. The kulchas are works of art—as crispy, flaky, and del­i­cate as a mille­feuille pas­try, but with the salty kick of a pat of but­ter on top. SWEET TREATS Walk­ing in the nar­row streets just off Golden Tem­ple Road by day, you’ll likely pass Gur­das Ram Jalebi Wala with­out notic­ing it. But after dark, the area around this cor­ner stall fills with lo­cals han­ker­ing for a sug­ary treat. The coil-like jalebis are sur­pris­ingly ten­der and crunchy, un­like most com­mer­cial va­ri­eties that have a gummy tex­ture. But the real star is the melt-in-the-mouth gu­lab ja­mun— round, milk solids–based con­fec­tions that are warm, creamy, and bathed in su­gar syrup.

Above, from left: Am­rit­sar’s old city is cen­tered on the Golden Tem­ple, the holi­est shrine in Sikhism; lentil dumplings in yo­gurt at In­der­puri Bho­j­nalaya.

From top: Out­side the 96-year-old in­sti­tu­tion Gian Di Lassi; pour­ing chai at Giani Tea Stall on Cooper Road.

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