Tried & Tasted: This is the best place in Delhi to have the Amritsari kulcha-chholey
Kulcha Junction on Hanuman Road in the Capital is the closest you’ll come to tasting the Amritsari kulcha in Delhi.Updated: Aug 27, 2017 13:48 IST
I have a maxim that I try and follow. When you can’t travel, read food books. Can’t make it to Kolkata right now? Then read The Calcutta Cookbook instead. Telangana-Andhra Pradesh trip not working out yet? Just read Hyderabadi Cuisine. Kerala trip has been deferred? Spend time with The Suriani Kitchen.
Whenever my Amritsar plans fizzle out, I pick up this book called the Dhabas of Amritsar, written by Yashbir Sharma. And I eat – albeit from a distance, and in my mind – the food that the Golden Temple city is known for.
You can’t go to Amritsar and not have their lassi or their fish. There is another dish that the city lends its name to, and that’s Amritsari kulcha and chholey.
Amritsari kulcha is not the kind of kulcha that you get in almost every nook and corner of Delhi. For one, it’s cooked in a tandoor. Two, it is stuffed. And three, it is smeared with butter. The flour is kneaded with a bit of curd and baking soda, which makes it rise when it is being baked.
And, thankfully, this is a dish that is being sold in some outlets in Delhi now.
One such place, in the Hanuman Road Market, is called Kulcha Junction. This is at one end of Hanuman Road, close to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. They have all kinds of kulchas there – with fillings of capsicum, garlic, potatoes, cottage cheese, cauliflower and fenugreek leaves, when in season.
I had a masala kulcha this time, with a stuffing of onions. The kulcha was topped with black pepper, green chillies, carom seeds (ajwain) and green coriander leaves. And, of course, it came with a little dollop of butter on top, which I happily smeared over the kulcha.
The kulcheys were served with a helping of Amritsari chholey, rather light and runny. And there was a thin chutney, prepared with tamarind and chopped onions.
An Amritsari kulcha is almost like a stuffed roti cooked in a tandoor. What makes it different, corporate ITC chef Manjit Gill tells me, is really the slow cooking technique. In many parts of Punjab, the tandoor is a clay one, and that adds its own taste to the kulcha.
“The kulcha is flaky and crisp,” he stresses. “And the chholey is always light and minimalistic.”
Die-hard Amritsari kulcha fans insist that you can’t replicate the original taste outside the city. It is the water of Amritsar that gives the kulchas their distinctive taste. Chef Gill believes that the offspring in any case are seldom like the mother cuisine.
But I must say I am happy when I find enterprising people crossing borders and taking cuisines to and fro. It may not be the real McCoy, but it does make you happy to know that if you can’t go to Amritsar, Amritsar can come to you.
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First Published: Aug 27, 2017 13:46 IST