It is universally acknowledged, Punjabi food is supremely dominating. No matter whether one is in Delhi or Chandigarh, Butter Chicken and Amritsari Machhi are available in almost all restaurants.

But before one says Punjabi cuisine, let me correct you: There is nothing called Punjabi cuisine. It might come as a shock, but the truth is Punjab in undivided India was a vast region with each district having its own set of delicacies.

While the core remained the same, each district brought its own kind of cuisines. Not that the spices or ingredients differ, but the flavour varies if you take a trip from one end of Punjab to the other.

For instance, moving from Patiala to Jalandhar, one can notice the change of flavour. Jalandhar, formerly known as Jullundur in British India, is a city in the Doaba region of Punjab.

It is the oldest inhabited major city in the state.Prabhjeet Singh, Sous Chef at Jaypee Palace Hotel and International Convention Centre, Agra, says, “As such, it has clear reflection of typical Doaba culture in its lifestyle and food habits. People love to gorge food that is rich in spices and ghee.” Singh, having a varied experience in North Indian cuisine, believes ghee is an important ingredient for Jalandahri food.

Staple food

“Authentic dishes will include Kutti mirch fish tikka and Jalandhri murg tikka apart from Tandoori chicken and chicken Biryani, all of which are loved by the people of Jalandhar in their regular meals. Curd and raita is also common in local food,” said Singh, describing Jalandhari food. “Besides, the culture of dhaba that we see in Punjab, in fact, was popularised in Jalandhar region.

Spices

“Spices are used in the right amount so as not to overpower the dish, but to just remain preserved in the flavour of the final product. Yellow chilli powder, Kasuri Methi, Kashmiri Mirchi, home ground Garam Masala, Cardamom, Mace powder, Royal Cumin and Carom dominate the spice shelf of kitchens producing Jalandhari cuisine,” said Singh.

Outdoor cooking

Singh, who is in charge of Paatra, the Indian specialty restaurant at Jaypee Palace Hotel, has borrowed a lot of dishes from the interiors of Jalandhar.

Seekh kebab, Lahori boti kebab and Raan are some of the dishes eaten during festivals in Jalandhar, which have found a place in the menu of this restaurant.

“Jalandhar also has a cuisine trend of masonry ovens, also known as “bhattis”, in this region, which is an example of outdoor cooking and grilling. Most traditional houses also have these ovens (wadda chulla or band chulla) that are made from bricks, stones and, in many cases, clay. Older communities in Punjab also used earth ovens (khadda chulla),” said Singh.