You don't have to cross the border for a taste of the lip-smacking biryani or 'nahari gosht' (mutton), as some of the best cuisines of Lahore are now available at Sarhad, a food court situated 2 km from the India-Pakistan border on the Amritsar-Attari-Wagah highway with green paddy fields as the backdrop.
The food court, which was opened a month ago, on Monday, launched its 'Lahori thali', to give a taste of Lahore's best cuisines to Amritsarias and tourists who come here for watching the Retreat Ceremony at the Wagah joint border check post.
On the platter was Lahori mutton biryani, nahari gosht, panch mahal daal (pulses) and Lahori bhindi (okra), followed by the famous Karachi halwa.
"This is just the beginning, we will have a lot more in the days to follow," announced the young, enterprising 27-year-old Aman Jaspal, the owner of Sarhad, while interacting with the media.
"Food is one medium which strengthens people-to-people contact, particularly among Punjabis, who love to eat and be merry. Amritsarias and Lahorias both have a passion for good food, so we should have food festivals in the two important cities on both sides of the border," said Jaspal.
He explained that besides the business angle, the other reason for his opening a food joint close to the border was to bring Indians and Pakistanis on one table for sharing their thoughts and vision. "The governments of the two nations are sitting across the table discussing issues, so why can't the ordinary citizens involve themselves in healthy discussions which will promote peace and harmony," he observed.
Illustrating his point, Jaspal pointed to the two mini trucks parked in front of the food court.
Flowers, animals and village scenes common to both neighbours were painted on these vehicles. These trucks were painted by Pakistan's famous truck artist Haider Ali, who spent a week here last month.
Jaspal, a resident of Chandigarh, who did his graduation in Canada and post-graduation in economics in Norway, had on his return to India, seven months ago, thought of entering the India-Pakistan trade. While on his way to Lahore a couple of months ago, he saw that the amenities and infrastructure for tourists was lacking on the Indian side of the border.
"I crossed over to Lahore and discussed the prospects of opening a restaurant or 'dhaba' near the border with my young Pakistani friends who had studied with me during my days abroad. The idea clicked when one of my friends introduced me to the owner of a Pakistani chain of restaurants and on my return I consulted my parents and got the nod," he said.
The landscaping and design of the food court was the work of Nayar Ali Dada, a known Lahore architect, who had designed Lahore's Gadaffi stadium. Jaspal roped in Ashitoush Arora as his executive chef. Arora is well versed in Pakistani cuisine as he has worked with a restaurant owned by a Pakistani in Dubai and in California. Spices, condiments and flavours were all imported from Lahore for the Pakistani cuisine.
"We have a Lahori thali as well as an Amritsari thali, with the famous stuffed kulchas, daal makhani, Amritsari kukar (chicken) and Amritsari chhole. So ours is a combination of Lahori and Amritsari cuisine," said Arora while expressing satisfaction with the response at the launch of the Lahori thali.