CHANDIGARH: Former Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley regarded Amritsar as the food capital of India and used to say it was food that constantly brought him back to the holy city, especially the inimitable Amritsari kulchas.
Recalling Jaitley's visits to his shop, Pawandeep Singh, owner of Kulcha Land in Amritsar, says, "When Jaitley was young, he used to come to our grandfather’s shop after the partition, say my elders. During the 2014 elections, he twice came to our shop and relished the Amritsari kulchas and lassi. He also recalled the love and affection he got from the people of the holy city when his family shifted from Lahore and during his election campaign and whenever he visited Amritsar."
A senior leader of the Punjab unit of the BJP Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna recalls, "I had a personal relationship with him and visited him in Delhi too when he was unwell. Part of Jaitley's family had moved from Lahore, while his maternal relatives belonged to Amritsar. He had many relatives in Amritsar and many old memories too. He knew each and every nook and corner of the city and all the shops where good food is available. He spoke fluent Punjabi at home. Whenever anyone from Punjab visited him in Delhi for any work, it used to be done immediately. His wife Sangeeta Jaitley was born in Amritsar."
In a Facebook post titled "The Campaign Diary - 30th April, 2014", he elaborated on his love for Amritsari food. Jaitley wrote, "Today is Polling Day in Amritsar. Having spent past six weeks in Amritsar campaign in this heat, it will be time for me now to move to other states where elections are still being held. An integral and enjoyable part of the stay in Amritsar is obviously the food in this city. I have always regarded Amritsar as the Food Capital of India."
"The Kulchas and chanas of Amritsar have now created a national impact. Every top caterer in most parts of India has the Amritsari dhaba counter as an integral part of his menu. The Kulchas in Amritsar served with chanas with an option of having onion Chutney is now available in almost every eatery in the city. The kulcha Chana is a preferred menu for breakfast, lunch or even dinner."
"Breakfast in Amritsar is still the stuffed Parantha or the Poori Chhole. The city has a tradition where households still prefer to outsource the poori chhole from the famous Halwais rather than cook it at home. Most parts in the old city have their own special Halwais. But the most famous one in the city is
now ‘Kanahiya’ at Lawrence Road. The chanas are mixed with potatoes for the curry preparation. This breakfast is highly recommended but should be taken rarely because of its high caloric value," he added.
He further wrote, "The Amritsari Lassi is available at most of these Halwai shops. But ‘Ahuja’ and ‘Gyan’ have acquired a special reputation. Either of them will provide an excellent treatment for insomnia. ‘Kesar’ still continues to dominate the vegetarian preparations. It enjoys a reputation for being
the most famous dhaba in the city. ‘Bharawan’ with its chain of dhabas, under the name of ‘Bharawan’ or ‘Brothers’, is also recommended for vegetarian food for the tourists and the locals.’’
"For the non-vegetarians, it is ‘Surjit’ all the way. His Tandoori chicken, Amritsari fish and mutton champs (cooked like Old English cutlets) are highly delicious. The ‘Makhan’ fish has been a gourmet’s delight. What I have not tried so far but has been recommended to me is ‘Beera’ known also for its high-quality chicken," he stated.
Jaitley wrote, "The morning tea at the ‘Giani’ Tea Stall initiates the entire gossip which circulates in the entire city. This was my alternative to the Lodhi Garden Tea. I foresee a situation where some of these outstanding places will acquire a brand value across the country."