Amritsar may be famous for the Golden Temple, but food and Amritsar are practically synonymous to each other. Locals affectionately refer to their city as the secret food capital of India.
If you’re visiting India to try different foods and sample new flavours, Amritsar spoils you with choice.
Coming to India, I knew I wanted to do a food tour at some point.
Why a food tour, specifically?
A fan of Indian food at home, I was excited to taste the rich, flavourful meals I enjoyed in Western countries in the place where they originated.
North Indian cuisine is known to be heavy in tomatoes, dairy (paneer, ghee, butter, milk, yoghurt or cream), grilled meats, wheat-based roti, naan, kulcha and piranha, and occasionally cashew and almond paste.
On any tour, you learn a spectrum of interesting things about a city or country’s history, along with things about the vendor you’re buying from, and specifics related to the food you’re trying.
Also, in my case, eating street food can be a bit daunting- being a vegetarian and someone with life threatening food allergies. When I’m in a country like India, where I know things I’m allergic to are prevalent cooking ingredients (cashews), I like having the comfort of someone to guide me.
Initially, I thought I’d embark on a food tour in Delhi.
When it came down to deciding what I wanted to do in each city, I decided it’d be a better use of my time to visit other sights in Delhi.
Other deciding factors:
- Food tours in Delhi started at 4-5x what I paid in Amritsar
- The two I reached out to told me they didn’t take solo traveler reservations, unless someone else had already booked on that date
A friend had done a food tour in Amritsar, and raved about it.
And so, I ended up booking a morning tour with Sajan from Incredible Amritsar Tour and Travels.
From the moment I booked, I knew I made the right decision- Sajan was flexible with my schedule, starting the tour two hours earlier than usual because I had a late afternoon flight. When I informed him of my allergies, he said it wouldn’t be a problem, and reassured me everything we’d try would be vegetarian.
He was also game to take me around on my own, so if you’re traveling solo, you’ll be welcomed on this tour.
Sajan was born and bred in Amritsar and has deep relationships with many of the vendors you visit.
Over the course of three hours, we strolled narrow lanes, exploring and eating our way through the backstreets of Old Amritsar.
To kick the tour off, Sajan picked me up at my hotel (and dropped me off there at the end).
As we walked to our first stop, Sajan regaled me with stories about Amritsar’s history, and added a personal touch to the tales.
Our first stop was kulcha, a regional breakfast speciality, served from a 100 year old spot. While you’ll find kulcha in other parts of India, people from Amritsar will tell you it’s not ‘real kulcha’. That, you can only find in Amritsar.
Kulcha is similar to naan in that it’s a starch, but it’s a bit thicker. Our breakfast variety was stuffed with potatoes, onions and cheese.
Next, chai from a man who has been making it over coals for over 60 years.
Coal roasted chai is something you don’t see very often in India nowadays. Needless to say, it was the best chai I had in India.
I loved this little shop, the man cooking the chai is famous in the city and beyond- he’s been filmed by travel shows and YouTubers alike.
What’s more, he was so concerned if I liked the chai. When I told them it was the best chai I’ve ever had, he and his team were genuinely delighted.
Here, we also sampled a samosa stuffed with spices, chickpeas, and vegetables sandwiched in a pomegranate roll.
I’ve had samosas before, and love them, but eating one stuffed in a roll with fresh pomegranate seeds was delightful.
The samosa was flavourful, spicy and a bit greasy in a good way, which balanced nicely with the slightly tart, juicy pomegranate seeds.
Next up, a lassi shop that’s a favourite with the locals. In business for over 80 years, this lassi shop does one thing well: traditional lassis.
Unlike every other lassi I had in India, which were usually banana, mango, or rose flavoured, this one was plain, and came with milk curd and bits of butter.
I wasn’t sure I’d be so keen on it, but it was delicious, rich in taste and cooling.
Here, and at other stops on the tour, we were taken into back rooms so I could ask the staff questions, and see how the food and drinks were made.This reason alone is why I love taking food tours- not only do you learn more than you would if you were out on your own, but there are moments like this that enhance the overall experience.
Next, an alleyway of food carts serving Nutri Kulcha, which is like lunchtime kulcha.
This kulcha wasn’t stuffed like the breakfast one we’d had, but instead, served as flat bread with soybeans and a trio of sauces.
It was good, but not my favourite bite on the tour- there was something about the soybean texture that just didn’t appeal to me.
Navigating back through the old town, we meandered through a fruit and vegetable market, but didn’t stop at any of the stalls.
Sajan explained to me that he’s carefully curated his stops- they’re businesses that’ve been around for a while, have a solid local fanbase, and reputable food safety practices.
I was glad he mentioned the last part- food safety- because it’d been a concern for me, and something I’ve heard echoed by others when it comes to trying street food in India.
I’d class almost of our eats as street food, as most came from small storefronts (not sit down restaurants), where you’d order from a window, and either eat in the street or take home.
Our next stop was adjacent to the market, a small shop with only one dish on the menu- paneer bhurji. Made from diced paneer, tomatoes, chilis, onions and butter, you eat paneer bhurji by dipping bread in it.
This was one of my favourite eats, and something I wished I’d discovered earlier in my India adventures.
Before I knew it, it was time for our last stop, jalebi. Hailed as the best in Amritsar, the jalebi we tried came from a shop that’s been frying dough for over 80 years.
Jalebi, fried dough soaked in a sweet syrup, was one of my favourite treats in India. I tried it in other cities, and this Jalebi was, with no competition, the best I had.
Wherever you have jalebi, try to get it served piping hot- it makes a big difference.
Stuffed and sad to be leaving a city I felt like I’d only scratched the very surface of, Sajan walked me back to my hotel.
On the way, he told me more about Amritsar’s history, and the significance of buildings we passed.
I’d done a fair amount of research about Amritsar before visiting, but nothing is as good as having a local explain things to you first hand.
Have you ever gone on a food tour while traveling? If you visited India, would you book a street food tour to experience?
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