Amritsar is a city whose history is engraved in every Indian's heart. Fondly called Ambarsar, the city gets its name from the Amrit Sarovar built by Guru Ram Das in a village called Tung, and it literally translates to the ‘Oasis of Elixir’.
A well-known fact about this North Indian city is that it is an ‘oasis’ for food as well. So much so that if you ask a north Indian what they love about Amritsar and you’ll probably hear “the Golden Temple and the kulchas or chole" in the same breath.
The serene city's love affair with food has beckoned many a traveller onto its historic soils. Fair warning - with the enticing fragrances flooding every corner of the city, it's impossible to know which direction to move in… But that's why you have us!
We asked the biggest foodies for their 'must-try' restaurants and dishes in Amritsar. And here's what they had to say…
A short drive from the holy waters of the Golden temple is Lawrence Road, a street dotted with delectable restaurants offering the city’s most famous dishes. When there, here’s where to head:
1. Kesar Dhaba - it would be almost blasphemous to begin any Amritsar food guide without mentioning its oldest restaurant first! Having opened its doors to guests over a hundred years back, this restaurant has served a long list of dignitaries and celebrities with its delicious Punjabi food. Though everything here is tasty, we believe that the palak paneer is an absolute must-have.
2. Kanhaiya Lal Harbhajan Singh - one of the city’s most authentic Punjabi Dhaba, Kanhaiya Lal, is famous for serving the most indulgent poori-aloo in the city.
3. Novelty Sweets and Restaurant - This restaurant offers you flavours of the world but is most loved for its desi katlama with chole. Katlama is a deep-fried flaky bread (more like a layered puff pastry). The chole is traditionally prepared- angy and spicy chickpeas. A close second to this dish is the paneer pakoras at Novelty. But we honestly recommend trying both!
4. Makhan Fish - serving delectable non-vegetarian food since 1962, this Amritsari restaurant is known for its decadent Amritsari fish. The restaurant has since 2015 been revamped into a three-star hotel that offers boarding and lodging for the city's visitors.
5. Beera Chicken House - no points for guessing this restaurant's speciality! Jokes apart, you can find Amritsar's most succulent chicken tikka here. We have it on good accord that the roast and tandoori chicken are absolutely divine.
6. Sukhram Ice cream - this dessert center is known for serving up the tastiest fresh fruit, ice cream and sodas! Though we bet that the children would opt for the Fanta-ice cream soda; the adults can indulge in a fruit cream here.
7. Munim Di Hatti - This confectionery is known to dish out the most delicious Gur ka Halwa to all its guests! But we believe that its rasmalai is equally tasty.
8. Lubhaya Ram Aam Papad Wala - We recommend this purely in public interest because once your relatives find out that you're headed to Amritsar, you won't be able to return without a box from this shop for everyone back home. The aam papad (dried mango candy) that you get here is the best, perhaps in the world, but we’ll let you be the judge of that. The shop has opened outlets all over the country, but its original store continues to thrive in the bustling food street of Amritsar.
That's all for Lawrence Road, but delicacies that simply cannot be missed are scattered all over the city. These include the two dhabas that are on all travel itineraries, near the city’s Town Hall (in Katra Ahluwalia):
1. Brothers Dhaba is a restaurant known to make the most authentic and indulgent Punjabi food from locally sourced ingredients. Here, the daal makhani and palak paneer are absolutely yum.
2. Bharawan Da Dhaba - in operation since 1912, this gastronomical paradise makes Sarson ka saag that your taste buds are unlikely to forget!
A short distance away from the Town Hall tucked away in Maqbool Road, is:
1. All India Famous Amritsari Kulcha serve exactly what their name suggests - the best Amritsari kulchas in the country. Though their stuffed kulchas has everyone raving, we strongly recommend trying their Cur Chur naan. Its flaky goodness will ensure your return to the food oasis in the future, we promise.
There is one other place that a food enthusiast must visit when in Amritsar, but alas, it is neither a restaurant nor a Dhaba; it is a small store where you will find all kinds of 'ready to fry' chips:
1. Ujagar Singh is the city's most adored shop for waria and papads, and anyone who visits Amritsar visits this shop to stock up on these delectables for their homes.
And with that, we complete our food lover’s guide to Amritsar! If you’re planning a visit to the city, remember to make it a 4 to 5 days trip so that you can try every place on this list. Also, we suggest that you start visiting a gym or taking long walks from the second you think of travelling to Amritsar because if there's one word we could use to describe this city, it would be "indulgent". A well-known fact about Punjabi food, especially in Amritsar) is that it is prepared using desi ghee, which makes it so delicious, but it really isn't kind to the waistline.
Have you visited Amritsar before? Tell us if your favourite restaurant made our list or not!