Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Haridwar : Gastronomical Search In The Spiritual Hub!

Haridwar is such a holy city. The Ganges enters on the plains in Haridwar only, after gushing all the way from Gangotri, in the Himalayas from where it originates. Indeed a gateway to Chota Char Dham, the important Hindu pilgrimage places, the city is always thronged by sadhus, pilgrims, devotees, tourists and travelers. Almost all the roads are dotted with some or the other ashram or dharmshalas. Crowded and hot, every other shop selling the Pooja-Samagri (essentials for performing pooja, in and out of Haridwar) and the same shop playing Anuradha Paudwal’s (absolutely) unforgettable melody “Ganga Maiyya mein jab tak ke paani rahe, mere sajnaa teri zindagaani rahe” from the movie Suhaag Raat (1968) . Quite an unusual plot for a foodie like me! But as per the Hindu mythology, it is believed that Haridwar is the place where few drops of elixir were spilled after the Sagar Manthan, might I would find some places to really relish for…!

Ganga Aarti @ Har Ki Pauri
After attending the ‘evening aarti’ of Ganga at Har ki Pauri, it was the time to go for some serious food hunting or better described as ‘Pet Pooja’ in Hindi. A genuine foodie comes with a thorough research, be it a village or a metro. So going by the research I had done, I had few names in my mind. The brand ‘Chotiwala’ seems to be very popular in Haridwar. The first restaurant started in Rishikesh and the brand now being ravaged by many in Haridwar. The problem with finding a good restaurant in North India is the unstoppable plagiarism. Almost every restaurant bearing the same name of the legend claims to be the original (The Board has adjectives like ‘Asli Mashhoor’). I had spotted at least 6-7 ‘Chotiwalas’ in Haridwar claiming to be the original.

The rickshaw pullers in Haridwar seem to have a certain affection with Chotiwala. I approached one to ask if he could take me to ‘Chotiwala’ and he claimed that he will take me to the ‘asli’ (the original) Chotiwala restaurant. This particular one is located at the start of the Upper Road which is thronged by numerous restaurants and appears to be a food den of Haridwar. A small tip – if you wish to save few bucks and build up a good appetite then I would suggest you walk through the bylanes behind Har Ki Pauri to reach the Upper Road.

Finally, I reached the Upper Road and was facing the famous Chotiwala restaurant. I entered and sat at a table. And suddenly realized that I was the only soul in the ‘customer’ category. Such a famous restaurant and nobody was willing to eat? Was I very early by Haridwar standards for dinner? I was handed over with a menu card and…What a big disappointment! Nothing ethnic, nothing traditional…all the stuff you get in any restaurant anywhere in India was printed on the menu card. That was it. I kept the menu card on the table and stormed out of the restaurant. Dejected, but still I didn’t want to go empty handed (I mean empty stomach)

Another name which was on the agenda was ‘Hoshiyarpuri’! Mind you, Punjab and Punjabis will never fail you on gastronomic affairs. Situated on the same road at a distance, Hoshiyarpuri has been in existence for 75 years and still has patrons following from the current generation. I worked a good appetite by walking to the restaurant. I have earlier mentioned that compact menu cards are such a delight to start with. Few items, but very well prepared and satisfaction guaranteed… I am talking about food. It is a tribute to the restaurant if the customer sticks to the originality and I did the same (since I didn’t have much time to spend and I was alone.. :)) I ordered an Aloo Paratha (Flat bread stuffed with mashed potato with spices and condiments) and a big glass (stainless steel…Punjabis drink their lassi in stainless steel glass…mind you!) of creamy lassi! Basic stuff but was outstanding. I have already found a Gold Standard of Lassi in Ahuja Lassi at Amritsar but I can also vouch for Hoshiyarpuri’s thick, creamy lassi any day.

I got another opportunity to visit Hoshiyarpuri with my friend Ashish Sharma, who is a red blooded Punjabi and doesn’t compromise on taste. We binged on missi rotis, lachcha parathas, kadhai paneer and daal makhani and of course, the big stainless steel glasses of cold, thick, creamy lassi. The vegetables were docile on spices but went well with missi roti. Honestly, I have lost interest in all other lachcha parathas after having it at the legendary, Kesar da Dhaba in Amritsar. So I will suggest choosing between aloo parathas or missi roti amongst the breads and subzi of your choice. However, don’t miss the Lassi…!

Hoshiyarpuri Hotel, Upper Road, Haridwar
Taste – 8/10  Ambiance – 7/10  Service – 8/10  VFM – 8/10

But Punjabi dinner is not something Haridwar should be proud of! Being in Uttarakhand which was an erstwhile part of Uttar Pradesh should have its originality in the food stuff. I had read about it before coming here and spotted it on the way to Hoshiyarpuri Hotel. As I mentioned that if you wish to build an appetite before partaking food then you must take a stroll in the bylanes of Haridwar behind Har ki Pauri. The eclectic smell of food being prepared and the sight of different delicacies along with a hearty walk builds your appetite for a typical Haridwar breakfast.

Two restaurants bang opposite on either side of narrow road – Panditji Pooriwale and Hariram Pooriwale. I entered Panditji’s restaurant since I saw it first...J. Again another restaurant with a very compact menu card…didn’t take much time for me to order. In the first course, I ordered Khasta kachoris served with ‘Aloo Ki Sabzi’ in a spicy gravy as depicted in the pic. Let me clarify that all the items there were DEEPLY friend in desi ghee (or the clarified butter) so just don’t go by sheer quantity offered to you. Two morsels…you’ll start feeling full. The Khasta Kachoris are thick puffed breads with spicy filling into it. Goes very well with aloo ki sabzi. I got the taste of what was on the platter.
Khasta kachoris

After finishing the khasta kachoris, I ordered for Poori Subzi. The waiter gave a strange look to me. Probably he was not expecting that. He came back with four pooris (again thin puffed breads deeply fried in clarified butter), dry potato subzi and the very interesting Kaddu ki Subzi (red pumpkin preparation). I just enjoyed eating pooris with the sweet and tangy Kaddu Ki Subzi. This special subzi reminded me of ‘Launji’ which is a part of typical Amritsari breakfast. I didn’t believe that red pumpkin can be rendered so tasty in the ‘subzi’ form.

The meal is never complete without sweet dish. And I have a sweet tooth. Go Charlie go! And there was this ‘Chandrakala’ on my table. Chandrakala appears to be a pretty cousin of our regular balushahi and tastes very similar. Needless to say that within no time, it was finished.
I was happy with the breakfast which in calorific value would have sustained me for next 10-15 days!
Pooris with Aloo and Kaddu ki Sabzi

Panditji Pooriwale, Near Har ki Pauri, Haridwar
Taste – 7/10 Ambiance – 6/10 Service – 6/10 VFM – 7/10

Haridwar is also famous for its chaat which is sold on the hand pulled carts across the roads of Haridwar. You can choose either boiled or just sprouted brown chick peas for your chaat. Then a mish mash of various veggies and spices will render you the ‘chanaa chaat’. I didn’t find it so tasty and was slightly harsh for my tongue and already loaded guts J

Haridwar is of course not so famous for its food for the demand for food here is very basic. There are free langars (where food is freely distributed), small shops selling rajma chawal, kadhi chawal and it is unlikely to expect somebody to come here in search of exquisite food and taste. All I can say is Hoshiyarpuri is an ever reliable institution and if you wish to experiment with local taste the Poori with Kaddu ki Sabzi is a must have. Bon appetite! 

3 comments:

  1. Hi..Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Haridwar is one of the holiest city in India and is called as 'Gateway to God'. Har ki pauri haridwar is one of holiest ghats in the country and a must visit place in the city.

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  2. Thanks a lot, Anjali, for reading my thoughts :)

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  3. We also ate at Pandit Ji Poori Waale. Great quality awesome desi food.

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