Beyond Murthal – For Paranthas and more

Murthal has been on food scene of Delhi/NCR for quite some time. The Tandoori paranthe served in the area being part of legends and folklore now. For those unaware, its a place near Sonepat, around 40-60 km drive North of Delhi on NH1. The variation in distance depend on where you actually start from in Delhi/NCR. 

Parantha with homemade white from Sukhdev

And going against the popular choice and trend, I have never been a fan of any of the Dhabas famous in the area. I always found the paranthas to be overrated and feel that much better tandoori paranthas can be had at any random highway dhaba in Punjab or any-other highway dhaba in North India for that matter.

 

Paranthas at Gulshan

For me, it was always a place for people who have not had the ‘real’ stuff, and that stand still holds true after numerous visits to those Dhabas for various reasons. In past few months have tried Ahuja No.1, Sukhdev as well as Gulshan.

 

 

Out of the thee only Ahuja No. 1 managed to get any points from me and that too only in Aloo-pyaz paranthas, rest of the fancier sounding paranthas are best avoided. Sukhdev’s Puri-subzi in breakfast was quite nice, also loved their Halwa and Jalebi. Gulshan did not give me any reason to come back to them. 

Halwa at Sukhdev
Jalebi at Sukhdev
Jalebi at Sukhdev
Kheer at Sukhdev
Puri at Sukhdev
Puri with Chhole at Sukhdev

Murthal being home to some religious site, all Dhabas that operate there are pure vegetarian. You can always see almost a million vehicles parked there. Their USP being stuffed Tandoori paranthas which they serve with generous and sometimes copious (I don’t mind either :P) amount of white butter. Also the dal they serve is not like your usual kali urad ki dal, but is a mix of different dals and comes out greenish in color. I also like the dahi that they serve there, which is thick and tasty.

 

Rajma at Gulshan
White butter and Dahi at Gulshan
Jalebi at Gulshan

But then this post was about going beyond Murthal and trying to discover something other than the mundane (yes! Murthal is mundane for me now). And please do not suggest Haveli.

Taking the first step on this trip to Amritsar, we decided to find a Dhaba where actually trucks were parked rather than all the tourist cars and taxis. And we did stop at a no-name Dhaba few kilometers before Sonepat. At first glance it did not seem much, however the sight of several gruff looking truckers eating there gave me some hope.
On being asked what everyone eats, the waiter suggested dal, which we gladly ordered and was an obvious choice. Besides that we ordered Aloo Pyaz ke paranthe and Sev ki doodh waali subzi. Here I must tell you that I have had that subzi somewhere in Madhya Pradesh, however never in Delhi or surrounding areas. The food was decent enough with parantha costing Rs.30 per piece which seemed expensive for a moment. But then thinking about it, dhabas at Murthal which is not too far from there, charge Rs.30-40 for a single parantha too. 

Dal at the Random Dhaba
Sev ki Doodh waali Subzi

 

Paranthe at the Random Dhaba

 

Salad

 

Ready to Eat

However the real surprise came when we decided to stop at Gulshan Dhaba in Murthal to have another parantha each, as we thought they would be better than this random Dhaba. But to our surprise and disappointment, Dal and Paranthas at Gulshan refused to go down our throats as every morsel was reminding us of the previous Dhaba we ate at, reminding me of my reasons for not liking Murthal and why I always avoided that place in past as well.

Murthal offers a lot for a a family, a decent drive from Delhi, plenty of parking, plenty of options, basically an ideal place for a family long drive. Everything said and done, the food.. well.. its strictly average, and somethings lower than average as well. So whenever someone talks passionately about Paranthas at Murthal, I cannot help but think – Dude! you need to travel and explore more. Go Beyond Murthal.PS : Pictures have been clicked on multiple visits, at multiple outlets and under varied lighting conditions. Do not confuse the quality of picture with quality of food.

Giani Tea Shop – Old School Chai – Amritsar – Food Trippin’

Watching western movies and realizing how strong the cafe and bar culture overseas is, I always try to find places in India which serve tea and provide avenue for locals to ‘hangout’ and enjoy a quick bite. There are not many which I have found yet, however Giani Tea Shop of Amritsar seems to be one such place.The place is on a busy Amritsari road, gets as Old School, Desi and Rustic as it can get. Probably not the cleanest or most well managed place where you would let your foot in, but then some of us are suckers for old world charm and Giani offers that by the truck loads.

 

My first experience with them was when Dr. Aman Kahlon and Jaideep Riar took us there for tea, and as they say fortune favors the brave, at that time of the day the old man of the shop himself was at the helm of the things. And when I say at the helm, I do not mean managing the joint, but the man himself was sitting on the bhatti and making chai.
Special Chai, you can see bits of Pista on top.
A quick word from Aman Paaji to the owner, 5 minutes of waiting, and what we had on our table was probably the best Chai I have ever tasted in my life (and my 4 foodie companions from Delhi also claimed the same). This particular chai was made in Milk only, however still was dark enough to tell us how well it was brewed. Giani ji himself goes to the old part of the town and selects Chai Patti (tea leaves) of few types from tea merchants there and makes his own unique blend. Most of the times when you have tea outside you appreciate a combination of masala, ginger, elaichi, long or dalchini in the chai, however in this cuppa we could appreciate the actual flavors of the tea leaf blend.
Besides that it had some froth over it and was topped with a sprinkling of crushed pista, which was something very unique and new for me and my companions. Not sure if the pista comes from some traditional style of serving tea or Punjabi fixation of making everything rich and grand, but it went surprisingly well with that chai.
Coming to the food on offer, we tried their Omelet with bread, half fried eggs (sunny side up) and Gulab Jamun. Omelet was quite delicious, you cannot go wrong with half fried eggs and Gulab Jamuns were one of the better ones if not the best that we have had. That said, the chutney concoction that they offer with those dishes is what makes them stand out.
Bread Omelet
Their Chutney ‘mix’.
Half fried Eggs (Sunny side up)
We went to the shop again next day and unfortunately it was one of the ‘boys’ making the tea and the owner’s son was sitting at the cash counter barking orders to them boys. We ordered the same tea, which though tasted great by all standards, still lacked the punch of day before. I hope our judgment was not hazed by our knowledge of the fact that his tea was made by a different person. Will have to make more visits in future to establish that fact.
How to eat the half fried eggs, as illustrated by Aman Paaji. Go layer by layer.
Another illustration of how to eat your Half fry.
Then comes the second hand knowledge about the shop from Aman Paaji, who told us that people who come to nearby Ram Bagh, which is the most popular spot in Amritsar for morning walks, make a stop at Giani’s Tea Shop for their Chai, snacks and Gup-Shup sessions with friends. The claim collaborated by Madhup Bhutani who was one of our companions from Delhi, who happened to visit the shop a bit earlier in the morning. He tells us that the busy road in the daytime is actually deserted from traffic in the morning, and is taken over by people hanging out and enjoying their morning cup of tea.
To end it, I would say Giani Tea Shop is definitely and probably the only tea shop that I look forward to visiting again and can recommend it to anyone who appreciates their Chai, the old school way.Location : Queens Road, just before Bhandari Bridge

Where to eat Amritsari Kulcha in Amritsar? – Food Trippin’

The Eatlo gang  lead by Aman and Jaideep Paaji that raided all the Kulcha joints in this post.
As
legendary as Amritsari Kulcha is, it is something that we Dilliwalas
hardly understand. Not many of us know the real taste, texture or even
the idea of one. People confuse it with Stuffed Naan or Parantha all the
time, when the fact is that those two type of breads are completely
different from genuine Amritsari Kulcha.

 

Amritsari
Kulcha’s dough is made in a special way, with layers and then stuffed
with Aloo, Gobhi, Paneer etc. It is flaky, crispy and is served with
Chhole and Khatti chutney waale pyaz. Traditionally no raita or dal is
served with them, which is a common practice in Delhi these days.

 

And
generally speaking most of us have had so many bad versions for those
Kulchas that when we actually land in Amritsar, we eagerly lap up
whatever comes our way and consider it the best the city has to offer.
However with my recent interactions with Jaideep Riar and Aman Kahlon
from Amritsar, I realised that most of the places that get recommended
on Eatlo were the places frequented by tourists (read non-residents or
visitors to the city) and not many Ambarsaris actually go there to get
their fill of kulchas.

 

So
on this trip, we surrendered ourselves to Aman and Jaideep paaji, and
requested them to take charge of our Kulcha expedition and education.
And being the gracious punjabis they are, they helped us in sampling 4
of the top Kulcha makers that Amritsar has to offer.

 

1.
All India Famous – The one we tasted last year and the place from where
we started our expedition this year. This place was Nirvana for me,
this place served the best Amritsari Kulcha I had ever tasted. Amazing
by Delhi and rest of Indian standards for sure, but now I have tasted
better. Much better.

 

Location – Chungi crossing, Maqbool Road
Amritsari Kulche at All India Famous Kulche Wala – Maqbool Road

 

Mix of Chutney and onions – Some also call it ‘Khatta’

 

2.
Harbans Lal Kulche Waala – This is located in a small local market,
which looked kind of deserted to me or maybe we were there quite early
in the day. But then ‘Bansa’ as Harbans is popularly known amongst
locals had no shortage of patrons. And one bite into his kulcha, we knew
why. His Kulcha was considerably thinner, crispier and tastier than the
one we had at All India Famous.

 

Location – Old Market of Anand Avenue
Harbans Lal Kulche Wale – they do have a separate sitting area.
All I see is the swagger of a Amritsari Kulcha
Amtrisari Kulcha at Harbans Lal Kulche Wala

 

Amtrisari Kulcha at Harbans Lal Kulche Wala
3.
Ashoka kulche Waala – Now here Aman Paaji only made us sample a Kulcha
which was off the Menu and is called Paintee waala Kulcha (Rs.35
Kulcha). The Kulcha was stuffed with Gobhi, Aloo, Paneer, Tamatar etc
and though it was delicious, did not feel or taste like a Kulcha. It
reminded me of Chur Chur Naan that we get in Delhi. Aman told us that
today he (Ashokha) got over excited and over-stuff the kulcha. Probably
would try it again when I am there. The Chhole that he serves were much
better than any other outlet that I have tasted.

 

Location : A-Block, Ranjit Avenue (near Park)
Paintee waala special off the menu Kulcha

Regular Amritsari Kulche at Ashoka, notice the difference in shape compared to others.
Amritsari Kulche ready to be served

Most delicious chhole of all the ones we tasted that day.

 

4.
Monu Kulcha Corner – Now this seemed to be a long drive for us, atleast
by the Amritsari standards but then I cannot be a good judge of
distance as I had no clue where I was, or where I was being taken. We
were there on a Saturday and while driving Jaideep Paaji told me that
last Sunday he went to Monu for Kulchas and he was 57th in queue to be
served. Yup, Monu had 56 other orders to cater too, before he could have
served Jaideep Paaji. And once we had our Kulchas infront of us, we
knew why someone who was so off the grid, someone literally out of the
city limits was doing so well for himself. His Kulcha was the crispiest
and tastiest amongst all we had tasted that day. Though the chhole at
Ashoka were a tad better, but then the Kulcha itself made up for
everything.

 

Aman
paaji tells me that Monu used be operate from a place called Chitta
Katra in the walled city and was quite famous there. However now he has
got his own shop and the new location also gives him a better paying
clientele.

 

Location : Take a turn on Loharka Road from NH3, go for 1.5 km approximately and Monu would on your Left hand side.
Amritsari Kulcha at Monu Kulche wala – The Best of the lot.

Amritsari Kulcha at Monu Kulche wala – The Best of the lot.
Amritsari kuchas of a different type

Getting ready to roll

 

Rate list in Punjabi
at Monu Kulche waala

 

Now
I am sure that we have managed to touch only tip of the iceberg when it
comes to Kulchas in Amritsar. However considering that tip was actually
the top shown to us by Dr. Aman Kahlon and Jaideep Riar, both of whom
are local to Amritsar and super foodies in their own right and the fact
that these joints are not on tourist trail and they cater to actual
Ambarsaris, I feel pretty safe in saying that the above mentioned
Kulcha joints are best that Amritsar has to offer.PS : Working on pictures I realized that the rate list at Monu Kulche Wala is written in Gurmukhi (Punjabi) and no English or Hindi translation is there. Do we need more proof that there is nothing about this shop that is geared to cater to tourists or non locals ?? 😛Connect with me on Twitter : @SH_AGer

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