Amritsar has been long established as the city of pilgrimage and trade. The area around the Golden temple is the oldest part of the city which makes it a great spot for photography and getting lost. This honeycomb of gullies ,houses many amazing gastronomic treats and interesting people that have upheld Amritsar’s” eating out” tradition for generations.
Whether it’s the dhabas that were setup as Indian fast food solutions for the traveler or the small corner shops in the gullies of Amritsar that were a source of culinary novelty at the family dinner table , Amritsar has always celebrated its food and boasted of its punjabiyat.In this land of celebration, right behind the Golden temple is a small shop with no name ,yet the sea of colorful turbans swarming the old ten by ten structure and the 100 metre queue at the kadhai is a biilboard bigger than any other!!
After waiting for sometime in the queue I got to a visible distance of the kadhai and saw a very old man “slapping” the kadhai incessantly; when he stopped, a sea of golden flaky dough envelopes floated on top and like somebody pushed the play button, everybody got animated and started yelling out a number, I guess the guy behind me was the winner.. “24 satpuras for me” he said.
Satpura is a catchy name I must admit and on talking to Pammi ji, the owner of the shop, when he was a little free to talk of course, he mentioned that the recipe has been with his family for 4 generations now and the person at the kadhai “Bhagat ji” was frying them for 65 years .it just ends here for the satpura he says, my son is the” subway” kid who thinks deep frying food is a sin and Satpura doesn’t have a future.
It doesn’t bother Pammi though, who treasures this recipe that a Chittagong cook gave his great great grandfather and has given his family and his unnamed shop , reputation and wealth. “I will give free satpuras to all of Amritsar at my son’s wedding he says, and I’ll fry them all”, Bhagat ji, who’s 85 now jokingly adds. Pammi says the old recipe had seven poories layered and folded over seven times and that’s where the name comes from .Now the making, though still without machines is a lot more laborious with 12 feet dough sheets beaten and layered on wooden planks and cut and stuffed with a potato-pea filling…..a ritual that starts at 7 am and that Pammi has been supervising for 45 years, ever since he dropped out.
The real kick in the dish is the sweet n sour potato curry that is served with the Satpura, and that works as a chutney as well. The next time you visit the Golden Temple, exit from the west gates and look for a sea of turbans and say hi to Bhagat ji and Pammi….Oh! and don’t forget to ask for extra subzi because it makes Pammi ji happy to know that there’s still a big multitude of people who love the Satpura.
Next week we look at a 20 something “Chef’s rockstar” who runs one of the biggest sweet shops in Kolkata…