Amritsari cuisine by renowned chef Vikas Khanna
“Bring Amritsar home with 5 easy-to-prepare dishes!”
It is a universally acknowledged fact that Amritsar is a foodie’s haven. No reference to Punjab can be complete without Amritsari food and its ghee-laden goodness. Here are a few recipes for you to try and surprise your loved ones. Bring Amritsar to your kitchen with these five recipes from renowned chef Vikas Khanna –
Aromatic rice with crushed sun-dried lentil cake
Vari-making is a big industry in Amritsar. They are cooked with split black lentils (urad dal) and spices such as whole peppercorns and crushed red chillies. The recipe varies slightly from household to household. I love the earthy flavours of Biji’s recipe, when these varies were combined with soft and aromatic rice.
1 cup / 250 gm Rice, soaked for 1 hour
1 whole Sun-dried lentil cake (Amritsari vari or wadi)
2 tbsp / 30 ml Vegetable oil
1” piece Ginger (adrak), cut into juliennes
1 Onion, medium-sized, finely sliced
. tsp / 3. gm, or to taste Salt
- Heat the oil in a wok (kadhai) over medium flame; add the vari and fry turning it over, till it is evenly crisp and golden. Remove onto a plate, cool to room temperature and using your fingers, crush it into small bits.
- Heat the wok again and when the oil is hot, add the ginger and onion and saute till onion is golden.
- Mix in salt and crushed vari with 2 cups of hot water.
- Using a fork, mix in the rice and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally till the level of the water is just below that of rice and rice is just underdone. Cover the pan, insert a griddle under it and reduce the flame to low. Cook till the rice is just done and fluff with a fork.
- Serve hot with pickle.
Spiced chick peas
This is one of my favourite recipes. Enjoy this dish with bread, phulkas or steamed rice.
cups Chick peas (kabuli channa) or garbanzo beans, soaked overnight, boiled till tender
1 tbsp / 15 gm Clarified butter (ghee)
3 Garlic (lasan) cloves, large, minced
. tsp / 2. gm Fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
1 tsp / 5 gm Cumin (jeera) seeds
1 tsp / 5 gm Garam masala powder
. tsp Turmeric (haldi) powder
. tsp / 2. gm Red chilli powder
. tsp / 2. gm Dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
1 tsp / 5 gm Dried pomegranate seed (anar dana) powder
. tsp / 2. gm, or to taste Salt
- Heat the clarified butter in a saucepan over medium flame; add the garlic and saute till it softens.
- Add the fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds; saute for 3-5 seconds, then mix in garam masala powder and chick peas (with the water in which they are boiled).
- Mix in the turmeric powder, red chilli powder, dried fenugreek leaves and pomegranate powder; cook, stirring occasionally, till the mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Add salt, cook for another minute and remove from flame.
- Serve hot with pithiwali puri (see p. 188 for recipe).
NOTE: 2. cups chick peas means 2. cups after soaking and boiling. Hence put
1 cup dried chick peas or garbanzo beans to soak overnight with a pinch of soda bicarbonate.
Bo wale Kulche
Soft, fluffy flat bread
When we were young, my father owned a small video cassette library in Basant Avenue. In theafternoons, my brother and I would go to the store to give our father some respite. WhileNishant seriously concentrated on running the library in my father’s absence, my only reason for going there was to eat the bo wale kulche which were available right opposite our library.The peculiar smell of the kulcha is due to the double fermentation of the dough.
. cup / 185 gm Whole milk, warm
. cup / 185 gm Water, warm
tsp / 8 gm Sugar
tsp / 8 gm Dry yeast
2 cups / 500 gm All-purpose flour (maida)
. tsp Baking powder
. tsp / 2. gm, or to taste Salt
4 tbsp / 60 gm Plain yoghurt (dahi), whisked
2 tbsp / 30 ml Vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing hands)
- In a glass or ceramic mixing bowl, combine the milk and water with sugar and stir till the sugar dissolves.
- Add the yeast, cover and keep in a warm place for 8-10 minutes to allow the yeast to froth.
- Meanwhile, combine the flour with baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre.
- Add the oil to the yoghurt and whisk well. Add this mixture to the well in the bowl of flour. Also add the yeast mixture (reserving 2 tbsp of yeast mixture).
- Grease your hands and using your fingertips, incorporate the liquids into the flour mixture. Knead the dough properly to make smooth, pliable dough. Cover the dough with a moist muslin cloth and keep in a warm place for 2-3 hours to ferment.
- Once the dough is rested and has doubled in volume, knead it lightly. Knead in the remaining yeast mixture properly, cover with a damp muslin cloth and keep in a warm place to ferment for another 3 hours.
- Once the dough has re-fermented (it should be smelling quite strongly of overfermentation), knead it lightly and divide into large lemon-sized portions.
- To shape the kulchas, roll each portion into a ball and press it into a flat patty. Place the patty on a lightly dusted surface and using your palms, press the patty,
turning it at a slight angle every time you press, till you get a round or oval kulcha
(flat bread) about 6” in diameter. (You could also use a rolling pin to evenly roll out
the kulchas.) Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Heat a griddle over high flame and when hot, reduce the flame to medium. Place a kulcha on the griddle and when small bubbles appear on the lower side, turn the kulcha over using tongs. Cook for about a minute till the kulcha turns a light golden brown on the lower side. Then turn over again and cook for another 30 seconds or so till light golden brown on the other side too. Remove from flame and repeat for remaining kulchas.
- Serve hot with channe
Kada Prasad (Harmandir Sahib)
Wheat flour pudding cooked in clarified butter
My love for food partly stems from my love for Harmandir Sahib’s langar and kada prasad. Even hours after eating the prasad, my hands would still smell of it. Of the many aromas I connect with, this one is perhaps the strongest and closest to my heart.
1 cup / 250 gm Whole wheat (atta) flour
1 cup / 250 gm Sugar
3 cups / 750 ml Water
1 cup / 250 gm Clarified butter (ghee)
. tsp Green cardamom (choti elaichi) powder
1 tbsp / 15 gm Almonds (badam), slivered (optional)
- Combine the sugar with water in a heavy saucepan and place over medium flame. Cook stirring at regular intervals till the sugar dissolves and syrup comes to a boil. Switch off the flame and keep the syrup warm.
- Heat the clarified butter in a large, heavy pan over medium-low flame; add the flour and cook, stirring continuously, till the flour turns golden and the raw flavour disappears. Take care to ensure that the flour does not stick to the base of the pan.
- When the flour is golden and smells ‘nutty’, carefully whisk in the prepared syrup, taking care to avoid lumps. Mix in all the syrup and continue cooking, stirring continuously, till the mixture thickens to the consistency of thick pudding.
- Mix in the cardamom powder and almonds and serve hot.
Fried fish flavoured with carom seeds
I’ve lost count of the number of variations I’ve had of this in Indian restaurants in the West. It is almost mandatory to have it on the menu. Traditionally, singhara fish is used to make this dish, but you can also use any thick fillet fish.
For the first marinade:
1 kg Singhara or sole fish fillets, washed, pat-dried
3 tbsp / 45 ml Vinegar (sirka)
. tsp / 2. gm Salt
For the second marinade:
2 tbsp / 30 gm Ginger (adrak) paste
2 tbsp / 30 gm Garlic (lasan) paste
1 tsp / 5 gm Carom (ajwain) seeds
. tsp / 2. gm Garam masala powder
1 tsp / 5 gm Turmeric (haldi) powder
4 tbsp / 60 gm Gram flour (besan)
Salt to taste
2 Eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
1 tsp / 5 gm Chaat masala
- In a mixing bowl, toss the fish well with vinegar and salt and marinate for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, drain away any moisture that may have accumulated and pat the fish dry. Score slits in each fillet.
- In another mixing bowl, whisk together the ginger paste, garlic paste, carom seeds, garam masala powder, turmeric powder, gram flour, salt and eggs. Add this mixture to the once-marinated fish and mix very well. Marinate for another 20 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a wok (kadhai) over medium flame; carefully slide in the marinated fish, one piece at a time. Fry the fish till golden and crisp. Remove and drain the excess oil on absorbent paper.
- Sprinkle the fried fish over with chaat masala and serve hot.
Read more on Amritsar, its history and culture along with recipes from Vikas Khanna in his book – Amritsar, Flavours of the Golden City