Feasting at the Kesar Da Dhaba, Amritsar

Shaping Nan for the Tandoor

Shaping Nan for the Tandoor

I start to salivate just thinking about the “Kesar Da Dhaba” in Amritsar, Punjab. And it isn’t a 5 star restaurant. In fact it is a very humble, working man’s sort of eatery. Nonetheless, it attracts a broad spectrum of diners, from Bollywood stars to famous food writers. Very few serious eaters make it to Amritsar without enjoying a meal at the Kesar Da Dhaba. If you happen to be on one of my tours, we often end up in Amritsar at the end of my north India tours and a meal here is a huge highlight.

The state of Punjab is the bread basket of India, growing much of the country’s wheat. It is logical that their menus favor the eating of flat breads with their curries, as opposed to rice as in other areas. If you are familiar with Indian cuisine, the dishes that you associate with Indian food are most likely from the Punjab, like palak paneer or tandoori chicken. The popularity of eating in a restaurant is a relatively new phenomenon. This is partly due to the dietary requirements of the different communities and the importance of the nuclear family and eating at home.

The presence of the British in India contributed to the increase in a restaurant culture and India’s partition in 1947 was also a factor. Punjabi refugees flooded into Delhi and other cities and opened up restaurants. They immigrated across the globe as well and brought their delicious restaurants with them. There is, however, nothing like going right to the source!

 Dough for the Nan


Dough for the Nan

While eating with my small tour group, my enthusiasm earned me an invitation to visit the kitchen. I grabbed my camera and dashed across the street. The restaurant has two separate small dining rooms, one directly across the street from each other. Situated  somewhere inside the bazaar down a maze of intricate winding, narrow lanes. I always ask a cycle rickshaw driver to take us there because no matter how many times that I’ve been there, I could never easily find it!

The chefs inside the kitchen were proud and happy to oblige me a few photographs.

On the Way to the Kitchen

On the Way to the Kitchen

Cooking the Spinach

Cooking the Spinach

Chef Preparing the Thali Platters

Chef Preparing the Thali Platters

I had to restrain myself from not devouring the food when it finally arrived.

My Thali

My Thali Platter

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Take Away Counter

Directly from the street, facing into the kitchen, customers placed their take away orders.

We also enjoyed a creamy, sweet yoghurt based drink called a lassi but by the time they arrived, I had put away my camera and my attention was on this dining delight.

 Kesar Da Dhaba, Amritsar, established 1916


Kesar Da Dhaba, Amritsar, established 1916

We groaned with contentment as we climbed into our rickshaws, keenly aware that we had just had a rare culinary experience that would be cherished but nearly impossible to describe.

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About ninagrandiose

I am based in NYC but travel regularly to India and Mexico. Both of these countries feel like home. In India I scour the country in search of fabulous textiles to incorporate into my clothing designs. I sit back and let the ambiance and wonder of India seep into my consciousness so I can be inspired to write about what India is for me. I bring a limited number of people to India on exclusive and intimate tours of my favorite hangouts. In Mexico I take in the natural beauty that surrounds me and dance the night away. I constantly give thanks for all this and am pleased to share it all with you.
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8 Responses to Feasting at the Kesar Da Dhaba, Amritsar

  1. Passions says:

    Kesar da dhaba really is the best around. Their dal is just heavenly. 🙂

  2. Isn’t it so that very often the best food is served in humble places and not in some starstruck Michelin restaurant! An enjoyable post.

  3. ninagrandiose says:

    Thanks, Otto. It is always fun to eat at the Kesar Da Dhaba and being invited into the kitchen was the icing on the cake!

  4. Dalo 2013 says:

    Great series of photos and such a treasure of words and life to be found. The Kesar Da Dhaba sounds like a bit of heaven to me ~ nothing quite like naan, roti and to be honest any great bread of the world. Add in the great variety of Indian cuisine and I wish I was there now. Cheers to a great weekend.

    • ninagrandiose says:

      Thanks, Dalo for your perceptive appreciation. International bread is my weakness and north India’s bread is exquisite. Buen Provecho!

      • Dalo 2013 says:

        Me too, any bread, but having recently visited Sri Lanka ~ having freshly baked roti every morning with yellow lentils and other curries…I was in heaven.

  5. ninagrandiose says:

    Oh, yes! Sri Lankan cuisine is so tasty. I like the apams too.

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