Vaisakhi recipes and the concept of free kitchens

Published: April 16, 2014
Vaisakhi Parade Surrey

An Indian Sikh devotee distributes langar (free food) at the Gurudwara Santokh Sar Sikh Temple in Amritsar. NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images


Food, especially feeding others for free, is a central philosophy of Sikhism. Sikhs do not have many strict rules regarding food but many are vegetarians. In the free kitchens of the gurdwaras (langar), vegetarian food is always served.

The institution of the Sikh langar, or free kitchen, was started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status, a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th-century India where Sikhism began.

In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. At the Khlasa Day parade in Surrey this weekend there will be plenty of free food and drink being given away by individuals and institutions.

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Here is a sampling of what you can expect. Or if you want to try some of these Vaisakhi delicacies at home, follow these recipes.

Jalebi — Jalebi is a traditional sweet dish that no Sikh occasion can do without.



• 2 cups self raising flour
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1 cup yogurt
• Vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil for deep frying
• 1 cup sugar
• Few strands saffron
• 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
• 2 drops orange food colour
• 2 tbsps rose water


Mix the flour, baking powder and yogurt into a batter and keep aside for 24 hours to ferment.
Pour batter into a ketchup dispensing bottle.
To make sugar syrup: Melt the sugar with the rose water and boil to get a one thread consistency. To check for one thread consistency, carefully dip the tip of your index finger into the syrup, touch your finger and thumb together and gently tease apart. If one thread is formed between your finger and thumb the syrup is done.
Turn off fire, add the saffron strands and cardamom and stir well.
Heat the oil in a deep wok-like dish. To test for the right temperature, drop a small amount of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and rises to the top of the oil, the oil is hot enough. Keep the flame on medium at all times to ensure all round cooking of the jalebis.
Now hold the ketchup dispenser over the hot oil and squeeze the batter into the oil into a wiggly, randomly coiled circle. Squeeze out several at a time.
Fry till light golden and then remove and put directly into the sugar syrup.
Allow to soak for 2-3 minutes and then remove.

Pakoras — Pakora or pakoda are basically indian fritters made with gram flour. Pakoras are fried, crisp snacks made with different veggies.



• 1 cup chickpea flour
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
• 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 3/4 cup water
• 1 quart oil for deep frying
• 1/2 head cauliflower florets
• 2 onions, sliced into rings


Sift the chickpea flour into a medium bowl. Mix in the coriander, salt, turmeric, chili powder, garam masala and garlic.
Make a well in the center of the flower. Gradually pour the water into the well and mix to form a thick, smooth batter.
Over medium high heat in a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Coat the cauliflower and onions in the batter and fry them in small batches until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Pindi Chana — Pindi chana or a dish of chick peas is normally fired up with Indian spices.


• 1 cup Chickpeas (Chole)
• 1 Tea Bag or 1 tbsp Black Tea Leaves tied in a cheesecloth
• 21/2-inch Ginger, 3/4th of it shredded finely for garnish
• 2-3 tbsp Oil
• 2 Onions, chopped
• 2 tsp Garlic, finely crushed
• 2 Green Chilies, sliced
• 3 medium sized Tomatoes, chopped
• 2 tsp Ground Coriander
• 11/2 tsp Ground Cumin
• tsp Turmeric Powder
• 1/2 – 1 tsp Red Chili Powder or as per taste
• SALT to taste
• tsp Garam Masala
• Finely chopped Coriander Leaves


Soak Chole in water overnight or for about 6 hr.
Cook the chole with salt and enough water in the cooker for about 20 minutes or till fully done. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.
Finely chop the remaining ginger. Heat oil and sauté onions till golden, then add garlic and chopped ginger and green chilies. Sauté for 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and chili powder and sauté over low heat until the oil separates.
Add chole, the reserved cooking liquid, salt and half of the coriander leaves.
Simmer, uncovered until the liquid has been absorbed.
Add a pinch of garam masala and serve chole sprinkled with the remaining garam masala, coriander leaves and shredded ginger.

This content is produced as part of a joint venture between and the South Asian Post.

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