A Day In Amritsar | Kesar Da Dhaba

Golden Temple - Amritsar
Golden Temple – Amritsar

Read about my first ever meal at Kesar Da Dhaba, a 102 years old legendary eatery in Amritsar.

I must have snoozed the alarm for the tenth time, when finally my Bhua (my father’s sister) switched on the bright lights in the room. She tried to wake up, Saurabh and me, but what was the point of her gentle calling, when a blaring alarm couldn’t wake us up from the slumber. Perhaps, we shouldn’t have played cards till 1:30 AM the previous night. I guess we got too competitive. After much reluctance, we (my cousins – {Bittoo, Gaurav} and I) somehow managed to crawl out of our cozy beds to leave for Amritsar. Instead of the initial plan of leaving at 7 AM, we left around 9:30 AM from Jalandhar (Read: About my meal at Rangla Punjab, Jalandhar).

The sight of golden wheat fields against a beautiful sun made this bus journey simply gorgeous. In full bloom, ready to be cut (Baisakhi was just round the corner), I didn’t get tired of looking outside the window. Besides the pretty fields, the other thing that caught my attention was the Punjabi script. With my limited comprehension of the script, I tried reading various billboards, which ranged from the current heartthrob Diljit Dosanjh selling Coke and Bar-One, to the ones about studying for IELTS. Also, thanks to the quality roads, even a Punjab Roadways bus journey was smooth. After a 3 hours journey we entered Amritsar through the huge golden gate.

I was mighty impressed with the way Amritsar’s Golden Temple Market Area had been revamped. The symmetry that ran through the entire stretch, looked beautiful. The earthy brown, deep red and yellow colours with traditional Punjabi design on the walls looked ‘spectacular’. As much as I loved the beautification of this area, I wasn’t very pleased that it was so crowded. Well, I can only blame myself for choosing to go there on a Sunday. Anyhow, after our darshan, we finally took the rickshaw to go to Kesar Da Dhaba, a place renowned for its delicious vegetarian delicacies.

As expected, it was bustling with holiday travellers. We were extremely hungry and the aroma inside the dhaba was just further fueled the fire. I couldn’t wait to dig into the buttery parathas. Luckily, a lovely family decided to share their table with us. In fact, they even helped us place our order and offered food from their plates as well. They most certainly showed the generosity that Punjabis are known for.

We placed our order for Lassi, Aloo Paranthas, Bharta, Palak Paneer and Daal. To be honest, the service was slow and it testes our patience. There were far too many people. Thankfully our delicious, cool, thick, sweet lassi arrived on time, which certainly helped with the hunger pangs, atleast for a while. I am not a sweet lassi fan, however I liked this one. (Read: About my favourite sweet lassi in Jaipur)

Finally, huge plates consisting of our paranthas and sabzis arrived with two empty bowls. Such was the portion of the dishes that they gave extra bowls to share food.

I loved the Palak Paneer, prepared in ghee with tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, garam masala, salt and of course, spinach. They first boil the spinach and then grind it before adding tadka to it. The dish is served with delicious buttery aloo stuffed parantha seasoned with spices like red chili and sookhi methi, the paranthas aren’t too fat and had the prefect crunch on top.

And during our last trip to Amritsar, we’d loved Baingan Bharta at Bharawan Da Dhaba, so this time we had to order it again. Kesar’s Baingan Bharta was also very delicious. It had a deep smokey flavour, with the right amount of tang from tomatoes. Cooked in ghee, this was thicker in consistency and more homelike than Bharawan.

And now the absolute favorite treat for my tastebuds – the delightful Daal. Slow cooked overnight and butter-laden, this daal is a MUST HAVE at Kesar. Unlike the Daal Makhni we get in Delhi, this one isn’t thick. With a heavy tadka of onion-ginger-garlic, garam masala, the curry gets most of its flavour from the lentil itself. Sans any tomatoes, this has a very earthy, deep flavour and can be enjoyed with any naan on offer.

We ended our heavenly meal with a chilled, sweet Matka Kulfi. My cousins and I just simply loved it. I am not a Kulfi fan, as Indian sweets made with Khoya do not interest me. However, this one seemed light on Khoya and more like a Saffron Ice cream with pistachios. And finally, wish we skipped the underwhelming Phirni that tasted more like a Kheer covered in synthetic vanilla flavour. (Read: About my favourite Phirni in Lukcnow)

Once the meal was over, all we wanted was a cozy bed to doze off. But, unfortunately, not all your prayers can be answered. We made our way back to Jalandhar. Another Punjab Roadways journey, but this time, none of us spoke to each other. Despite constant honking, maddening traffic and some crazy bumps (thanks to the Schumacher-esque driving), we slept through most of the journey. And, if I remember correctly, we skipped dinner that night. That was the effect of this supremely indulgent food. In the end, if you ask me that whether I would like to spend 6 hours on a bus for just a meal at Kesar Da Dhaba again? I would say, bring it on!

In a nutshell:

Location: Chowk Passian, Near Telephone Exchange, Amritsar, Punjab, 143001. One can reach here on foot or rickshaw. You can’t get your car or any other cab inside.

Atmosphere: An old style humble Dhaba style eatery with clean, basic atmospherics.

Service: We went on a Sunday, during a long weekend, hence it was too crowded. The service was slow and perhaps they need to device a system to allot tables to their patrons. Or else strangers stand near you while you eat your food.

Food: The food is rich, indulgent and extremely delicious. Loved everything I ate, except Phirni. Regardless of you being a vegetarian or non-vegetarian you’d love the food here.

Must Haves: Daal, Palak Paneer, Baingan Bharta, Aloo Parantha, Matka Kulfi



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