Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple) is the heartbeat of Amritsar. It’s why many of us keep going back to India’s very own Golden city. There’s also Amritsar’s fiercely local food scene. Ask Indian gourmands about their favourite cities for food in India, Amritsar is likely to figure on that list. It’s the 2020s and despite travel disruptions in a post-pandemic world, my concept of home still remains a place that I feel completely at home and become a local for the day. It doesn’t matter if that city or space is thousands of miles away from the address that figures in my official documents.
Amritsar is one of the many places where I feel at home. When your friends call you for restaurant recommendations before they visit a city, you know that you are local of sorts. I need more than 10 fingers if I have to count all the places I’d recommend you visit while you’re in Amritsar. Makhan fish restaurant figures high on that list. There’s one dish that you will see on almost every table here, the legendary Amritsari fish tikka. To say it’s one of Punjab’s best-known seafood dishes is not an exaggeration. In a city where chicken dishes, flaky kulchas, and frothy lassis usually hog most of the attention, this scrumptious tikka holds its own. The Makhan story began in the early 1960s with humble beginnings. It’s now a plush restaurant that is on most food and travel hotlists. The Amritsari fish tikka’s story goes back way before the 1960s.
The lobby at the Holiday Inn Amritsar, one of the city’s premier hotels has a unique installation that pays tribute to the meeting of the three rivers – Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas not far from Amritsar. It’s here that I caught up with Executive Chef Binay Singh and Chef Raj Kumar (a local) about Amritsar’s love for fish tikka. These chefs tell me that it’s Amritsar’s unique location that was the catalyst for the fish tikka. The locals always had great fish at source, these flavourful local dishes were further refined in the Mughal Kitchens with subtle improvisations to cooking techniques and spices.
One of the distinct spices in this fish tikka that is a popular winter snack in Amritsar is carrom seeds (ajwain). It’s also the marination and frying technique – many chefs also double fry this tikka – you can’t go wrong (at least from a flavour perspective) when you do that.
Ask any local in Amritsar about why they keep going back to Makhan fish and you’re likely to hear about the restaurant’s legendary green chutney. There’s no better accompaniment to the Amritsari fish tikka than a simple green chutney. While a lot of discussion surrounds the spices, the green chutney and the cooking method (that is quite uncomplicated), the hero ingredient remains the fish. Most local chefs like Raj Kumar will tell you that this dish works best with Sole fish or Singhara. If you’re trying this recipe at home, avoid using any saltwater fish.
How To Make Amritsari Fish Tikka | Amritsari Fish Tikka Recipe
Recipe Courtesy – Executive Chef Binay Singh and Chef Raj Kumar, Holiday Inn Amritsar
- 350 gms of boneless fish
- 1 Egg (Remove yolk, only egg white to be used)
- 2 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of ginger & garlic paste
- 1/4 teaspoon of coarsely crushed Ajwain or Carom seeds
- 1/4 cup besan or ( gram flour)
- 1/2 cornflour
- 3/4 tablespoon of homemade tandoori masala (includes ginger powder, garlic powder, kasoori methi, cinnamon, cloves, mace, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, nutmeg powder, and black cardamom) easily available in the market.
- 3 tablespoons of Mustard Oil
- 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoons of red chilli powder
- White Salt to taste
- Black Salt as per taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1-2 tablespoons of Chaat Masala (to sprinkle on top)
- Marinate the fish pieces with all the ingredients mentioned above.
- Coat it well and keep it aside for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oil and deep fry the fish pieces until it turns golden brown.
- Sprinkle some chaat masala & serve with onion rings, mint and coriander chutney.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie – a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.