A vist to The Golden Temple Amritsar had been on my “Must Visit List” for quite many years now,amongst various other destinations in India.We have recently relocated to India for awhile and the hubs and me have been bitten by the weekend travel bug.More specifically the long weekend travel bug,almost as though it is now imperative to have a travel plan in order albeit a short one.This is precicesly what did just last weekend.
The Golden Temple Amritsar (also known as the Harimandir Sahib) is not only a prime religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. Everybody, irrespective of cast, creed or race can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment without any hindrance. It also represents the distinct identity, glory and heritage of the Sikhs.
HOW TO GET TO AMRITSAR:
- We choose to fly to Delhi and then flew to Amritsar after having spent a couple of days in Delhi.
- There are direct flights from Mumbai-Amritsar as well.
- You may choose to even try travelling by train or bus from Delhi.
ACCOMODATION:We went by a friend’s recommendation and stayed at Ramada,Amritsar.It was a very comfortable stay.Well appointed rooms,clean and good service.The stay included a complimentary breakfast with a traditional menu and a a reasonable continental fare too.The hotel is centrally located and just a ten minute rickshaw drive to the Temple.Best of all it is walking distance to a lot of the eateries and food stuff store.You may even choose from Trip advisors pick of 10 best hotels if you wish:
SOME TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND WHILE VISTING THE TEMPLE:
The Harmandir Sahib is open to all persons regardless of their religion, colour, creed or gender. The only restrictions on the Harmandir Sahib’s visitors concern their behaviour when entering and while visiting:
- Maintaining Purity:
- Upon entering the premises, removing one’s shoes (leaving them off for the duration of one’s visit) and washing one’s feet in the small pool of water provided;
- Not drinking alcohol, eating meat, or smoking cigarettes or other drugs while in the shrine
- Dress Code:
- Wearing a head covering (a sign of respect).Ideally women should carry a scarf and men a handkerchief to cover their head. Alternatively you may buy the head gear from vendors outside the temple.
- How to act:
- When listening to Gurbani,, one must also sit on the ground while in the Darbar Sahib as a sign of deference to both the Guru Granth Sahib and God.
- The Harimandir Sahib runs a free kitchen, serving 100,000 people on average daily. The meal consists Indian Roti,some lentils and rice.While this is free,it is always nice to leave a small donation that is used towards running of this kitchen.This kitchen is solely run by volunteers.
MUST EATS IN AMRITSAR:
- KESAR DA DHABA:This is probably Amritsar’s oldest family run restaurants serving up delicious Amritsari delicacies like the the famous Stuffed Lachha Parantha’s ,Channa’s and Dal fry.One has the option of either ordering a full Thali which consists of two paranthas,dal fry, channa,salad and a raita or you may choose to order a la carte.We went along with a plate of the Paneer stuffed Kulchas, Palak paneer and some Channa.Just one word for this food.Finger linking good.And yes of course one could not leave this place without sampling the ever so famous Phirni( Rice pudding flavoured with saffron).This was a soul satiating meal,yes calorie ridden but worth every calorie consumed. This iconic place is a must visit whilst in Amritsar.I of course could not resist the temptation of wandering off into the kitchen to see how these delicious Kulchas and Lachha paranthas were being made.
Paneer Stuffed Lachha Parantha with Dal
Phirni: Ground Rice Pudding
So what really is a Lachha Paratha?
Well a Parantha is essentially Indian flat bread made from either wheatflhour or All purpose flour.In the case of the Lachha parantha is further layered and stuff with either mashed potatoes or cottage cheese. There are several ways of making this one is by covering the thinly rolled out pastry with oil, folding back and forth like a paper fan and coiling the resulting strip into a round shape before rolling flat, baking on the tava and shallow frying. Another method is to cut a circle of dough from the centre to its circumference along its radius, oiling the dough and starting at the cut edge rolling so as to form a cone which is then squashed into a disc shape and rolled out. The method of oiling and repeatedly folding the dough as in western puff pastry also exists, and this is combined with folding patterns that give traditional geometrical shapes to the finished parathas.
Do see some of the images below that will give you a fair idea of the way these paranthas are rolled out.
2.Lassi:This cooling and refreshing drink made from Yogurt and water can be had from pactically any of the restaurants or dairies in Amritsar.The choice is between a sweet or salted one.I prefer the sweet one. These come in large portions,so one can either share this on have this much before or after a meal as it does fill you up quite a bit.
3.Gurudas Jalebiwala:We discovered this quaint vendor while walking down the streets of Amritsar one morning.I was actually looking for some sweets to bring back for the family in Mumbai,when the hubs had an insane craving to eat some hot Jalebis that were freshly being made by this street side shop.Jalebis are made from sweetened and fermented batter which is deep fried in circular shapes and then soaked in sugar syrup.The best part of our food trail was that one could just order a small portion that could be shared.This way we got to savour many delightful treats in Amritsar.The perfect way around a city is to eat your way through it and that’s exactly what we did in just two days of being there.
PIPING HOT JALEBIS
4.Bhai Kulwant Singh: Now if there is one thing that keeps Amritsar ticking is the small hole in the wall places that serve up some brilliant food.Well it would be a pity to leave Amritsar without devouring the famous Amritsar Kulcha and Chole said the hubs.So we settle for this small un assuming little roadside eatery that was packed to the brim even at 11 am in the morning.We both have a plate each of the stuffed Kulcha which is served with some spicy hot Chole (chickpeas) and a side of some chopped onions and pickle.Just perfect for a mid morning brunch as we were leaving that afternoon.I very much recommend this place and it’s fairly close to the Golden temple as well.After all it’s places such as these that have stood the test of time and warrant authentic local flavours.
Amritsari Kulcha with Chole
Two other very popular places in Amritsar are Beera Chicken corner and Makhan Fish which is known for its Amritsari Fish.These were highly recommended by friends,unfortunately we did not have time to visit these.
5.Food stuff to bring back from Amritsar: Now if you are like me,the only souvenirs I enjoy taking back home are food ingredients that are typical to the place I visit.I had heard about Amritsari Wadiyan( Dried dumplings made from lentils) Papads and all the fabulous fresh north Indian Masala’s.So we decided to head to a store close to the hotel that seemed to stock all the local flavours.We were quite fortunate to find The Dry Fruit Corner store just outside our hotel.This place stocks some very authentic local flavours and the best ever quality of dry fruits as well.The walnuts and almonds in particular are great quality.My loot is quite evident from the image below…Some Amritsari Rajma (red kidney beans) along with the Rajma Masala and some Paratha masala and of course the ever famous Wariyan,which i cooked up as soon as as I got hoe.The detailed recipe included too.What’s even better is this store delivers their food products for a minimum charge too.Infact my next package has just arrived and I can’t wait to cook up the Rajma too.
STORE: Amritsar Dry Fruit Corner
Goal Hatti Chowk,Hall Bazar Amritsar
- 2-3 Wadiyan
- 3 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 1 medium Onion (chopped finely)
- 2 Tomatoes (pureed)
- 1 medium Potato (Diced)
- 1 green Chilli (chopped)
- 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
- 4 tablespoons Yogurt (whisked)
- Chopped coriander for garnish
- Heat 1 tablespoon Oil in a a pan and roughly brake up the Wadiyan and fry them for about 5 minutes or until slightly reddish.Keep aside.(I prefer to shallow fry these,you may deep fry if you like too)
- Now heat the remaining oil in a pressure cooker. Temper with some cumin seeds.
- Now add the chopped onions and fry till medium brown.Then add the ginger garlic paste and fry further till brown.Add the turmeric and coriander powder.
- Then add the pureed tomatoes and cook for about 7-8 minutes till oil separates.
- Now add the fried Wadiyan and chopped potatoes.
- Pressure cook for about 7 minutes.
- When the steam is released open the cooker and whisk in 4 tablespoons of yogurt and mix well.
- Garnish with freshly chopped coriander.