If you are driving down on Delhi-Chandigarh Highway (NH 1) then its quite natural that one would stop at one of those Dhabas on either side of the highway, for a break. Two weeks ago, post lock down, on my maiden drive down to Chandigarh for work, I ditched these Dhaba (I am glad i did). Instead, I chose Ambala Cantt to make a halt. Had the most satisfying breakfast comprising some amazing Poori Subzi; the subzi which had five components, a rustic yet tasty Cheese Sandwich and a soul satisfying Beaten Coffee concoction. Its not only that. On my way back in the evening, I again made a stop over for some five star level Swiss Roll and a second round of Coffee to tank up for the drive back. The best part is that all of these outlets are in Ambala Cantt and are at just 5 minutes drive from the highway. For knowing these and more…
Breakfast of Poori Subzi at Jain Samosa
Courtesy my friend Pujneet Singh of BhookaSaand fame; whose food videos are a rage, I got equipped with the list of choicest outlets of the city for having Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and for Tea Time Snacking. Obviously, one could not visit all and therefore this post shall cover Breakfast and Tea Time Snacking.
I would have driven on this highway , God knows how many times, over the past almost three decades. Each time, while going the halt would be at Jhilmil Dhaba, Karnal (sometimes as Haveli). Every stoppage, while having the breakfast of Tandoori Parantha with White Butter and Curd (sometimes Half Fried Eggs), followed by a glass of Coffee, I would feel that something is amiss. This time, I had decided to drive past Karnal and make a halt at Ambala, an offbeat stoppage.
Google Maps played some sort of trick and we drove past this unassuming hole-in-the-wall outlet. Then we ditched the map and asked a local. We were directed to the exact location which was very easy. We had reached there around 9 in the morning. Being morning hours, most of the shops were shut (it was also a Monday and the market remains shut) so there was no difficulty in reaching the outlet by car.
As we approached the shop, we found already a few locals were done with their breakfast and few were enjoying. On seeing us, the young, third generation owner, signaled his Chef and he leapt to roll Poori for us. He rolled four and double fried them to ensure that it does not soak much oil.
In the meanwhile, the owner at the counter ladled the Subzi in paper bowls, clubbed it with 2 large Pooris kept on paper sheet and handed over to us. I was reviewing the bowl of Subzi and looked at him with a question mark on my face. He counted on his fingers and told me that this one had Aloo Ki Geeli Subzi (Potato Curry), Sukhe Aloo (dry potato), Chhole (Chickpeas), Kaddu (Pumpkin) and Saunth Ki Meethi Chutney (sweet ginger sauce). Quite an impressive lineup of the ingredients. The Poori was crisp yet aptly soft and a had a filling of mild spices. The Subzi had an array of flavours of mild spices and the five components it had. We had a very satisfying and enjoyable breakfast. We asked for the payment to be made and the young man on the counter smilingly asked for INR 30 per plate. So two of us paid just 60 for this amazing fill. This surely is going to be almost a regular stoppage for breakfast, henceforth.
Now we needed Coffee.
Coffee & Sandwich at Prakash Coffee House
Take a U-turn from the Jain Samosa (back towards the highway) and a few meters away is this outlet. A big signboard announces its existence above a small hole-in-the-wall outlet. We asked for two Coffee and the gentleman at the counter asked if we were interested in Sandwich as well. Our answer was an instant no. But then, every other person who came in, ordered Sandwich first and then the Coffee. I saw a person next to the counter, making sandwiches on a griddle kept on the gas flame. The rustic look of the Sandwiches being made was enough for me to revise our order to include one plate of Sandwich as well. I am glad that we stopped here for both the items are a hero here.
The Sandwich is a White Bread Sandwich with its corners neatly cut, a big slice of Paneer (Cottage Cheese) is placed over one slice of bread, sprinkled with finely chopped onion, Green Chili and Coriander Leaves and the other slice of bread is kept atop. These are then done with salted butter on the griddle. This gives it a deep golden brown crust. You get two Sandwiches (four slices of bread) each cut in two, in a plate. The first bite told me that despite being very basic, this was amazing. The crispy crust laden with butter, the high quality cheese with a crunch of sauteed onions gave a unique bite and the taste.
The Coffee was prepared by scooping spoonfuls of beaten coffee from a bowl into a paper glass followed by pouring of boiling milk over it. A quick stir by a spoon and handed over to you. The first sip told me it was a high class concoction which had a body, a dominant flavour of coffee, good quality milk and mild sugar. A very satisfying cuppa. Pro tip : ask him to make you a strong one. Our two glasses of good coffee and a great sandwich cost us INR 140 (30 each for Coffee and 80 for the plate of Sandwich).
Lunch at ML Mansarovar Dhaba, Mohali
Post finishing our work, we had all the plans to return to Ambala to have lunch at the iconic Puran Singh Dhaba(s) but that was not to be. Our local contact in Mohali insisted that we have lunch there with him and that he shall take us to a place which is quite popular there.
Here we had Mutton Curry and Chicken Curry with Tandoori Roti. This was not a bad choice. I am not reproducing details here as you can read the story on my Facebook page here.
Swiss Roll at Mohan Bakery
Pujneet had spoken very high of this delicacy. So, without any second thought, on our way back, we turned our car in Ambala Cantt, again. Around five minutes from the highway, we were at this Mohan Bakery, adjoining main gate of GMN College. This outlet seemed an island of some modernity in the earthy surroundings. An air conditioned outlet had a great visual display of the cakes, pastries, baked savories and what not.
Without wasting much time, we asked for Swiss Rolls. Soon, a spiral layered, delicate beauty, adorning three subtle colors and aroma, sitting pretty in a paper plate were served to us. A few quick clicks and the first bite told me it was super delicate, full of freshness, subtly and aptly sweet, had high quality ingredients, and was a piece of art. This amazing piece of cake could give many a five star bakers run for its money. Never ever, I would be able to cross Ambala now without having this. And amazingly, it cost us INR 25 per piece, a virtual steal for this kind of product.
Matthi at Sawhney Matthi Wale
In the vicinity of Prakash Coffee House, in Halwai Bazar is this famous outlet. Ask anyone (Sardar Matthi Wala) and you would be directed to the place. We looked no further, just got those fresh out of the pan Matthi packed for home (INR 150 per Kg) and got patted on my back for at least next two weeks at home for bringing back one of the best. You may like to read my Facebook post here.
We wrapped up our Ambala trip, with a resolve to come back again soon to try out rest of the outlets that I have on my list. But, the exit from the city had to be with yet another round of Coffee from Prakash. One for the road, you know.
I still have more options with me as per the list I am having. I would certainly try those during the visits to come. In the meanwhile, if you know any such amazing outlets which are known to the locals only, do share with me. Would love to try those and share with the larger group of foodies across the country. Till then…..
Bon Appetite !!
Magic Of Flavours