Under the kind guidance of my friend Sunil, I discovered an outstanding culinary experience at the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh house of worship in Delhi.
This temple was first built by Sikh General, Sardar Bhagel Singh in 1783, who supervised the construction of nine Sikh shrines in Delhi in the same year, during the reign of Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II. The complex also houses a higher secondary school, Baba Baghel Singh Museum, a library and a hospital. A new “Yatri Niwas”, and multi-level parking space have been constructed. The space around the back entrance to the Gurudwara is also being spruced up, so as to give a better view from the roadside.
The ground includes the temple, a kitchen, a large (holy) pond, a school and an art gallery.
As with all Sikh Gurdwaras, the concept of Langar (common kitchen/canteen/food) is practiced, and all people, regardless of race or religion may eat in the Gurdwara kitchen for free. At the Langar, only vegetarian food is served, to ensure that all people, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can eat as equals.
The Langar is prepared by Gursikhs who work there and by volunteers who help out to prepare approximately 20,000 meals on weekdays and up to 50,000 on weekends!
The meals are served from 5:30am to 11:30pm and the kitchen operates all night. People donate ingredients and shortfalls are made up for by transfers from other Sikh temples in the city, a system that runs with the efficiency of an army mess.
The organization of the kitchen (it’s really small if we compare it to some of the production kitchens we have in Europe) is mainly structured around a higher level with half a dozen massive woks and two huge preparation areas for breads being done with an amazing dexterity from the dough to the baking (made either on a hot stove or through a semi-automatic conveyor).
I had the pleasure, at least with enough time to take a picture, to help with some vegetable preparation in the biggest wok I’ve ever cooked with, and sit in the kitchen area to have a late lunch.
It was an utterly humbling experience to see up to 50,000 meals prepared and served under such conditions. But I found it even more spiritual and moving to be allowed to witness so much generosity, open-mindedness to other religion, respect and devotion and I wanted to share this experience with you as we start the New Year.
Salut to a tasty 2015.