- Harmandir Sahib, often referred to as the Golden Temple, is the largest Sikh shrine in the world.
- The Langar at the Golden Temple has been serving meals since 1577.
- It now costs over 4 million dollars a year to keep this kitchen running.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: This is the largest free kitchen in the world. Open 24 hours, year round, this food hall feeds 100,000 people for free each day. And on religious holidays that number can double.
Just one of these huge bowls is enough to feed around 10,000 people.
We visited Amritsar in India to find out everything that goes into feeding such a large crowd, and to see just what it takes to make such Big Batches…
This is Harmandir Sahib, often referred to as the Golden Temple, it’s the largest Sikh shrine in the world. But despite being part of the holy site this kitchen doesn’t discriminate, the food is completely free to anyone, regardless of religion, gender, or ethnicity.
Community kitchens, or Langar, have been popular across South Asia since the birth of Sikhism. And the Langar at the Golden Temple has been serving meals since 1577.
Each dish is cooked in giant metal vats. Over one hundred gas cylinders and huge piles of wood are burned through every day to keep things running 24/7. And there’s only one short 30 minute break in the cooking from 4:30 to 5am.
Thousands of vegetables have to be peeled and prepared by volunteers before they’re taken to be cooked. And while the menu can vary, depending on availability or the donated vegetables that the kitchen may receive, it is always vegetarian.
But keeping this many people fed takes a lot of ingredients. That’s over 375kg of onions and 100kg of spices every 24 hours, just for the dal. To make it: chana dal, or split chickpeas, and urad dal, or black lentils, are mixed together and repeatedly washed. They’re then moved into even larger vats and mixed with the onion, spices, salt, and ghee, a clarified butter, and cooked together. The kitchen spends over $5000 dollars a day on ghee alone.
And it’s not just dal, each day the kitchen offers the lentils, a vegetable dish, bread, kheer, rice, pickle, water, and tea. Kheer is a sweet pudding made of rice, milk, sugar and almonds boiled together.
But one of the biggest demands on the kitchen is bread. Unlike the huge vats that can be made in bulk, each chapati needs to be rolled out separately before cooking. Once cooked each one is hand coated in ghee to add flavor and keep it from drying out.
To keep up with demand the work is split between machines and people cooking by hand. Producing the bread alone takes 10 tonnes of flour a day.
And to keep this operation running smoothly it takes a lot of volunteers.
This ‘selfless service’ is an important part of Sikhism. Sewadars, or religious volunteers, are key to keeping this operation running daily. From peeling and chopping vegetables, and even donating food, to serving and cleaning, almost everything is volunteer run.
Using metal trays keeps waste to a minimum, but it makes a lot of noise…
The scale of the kitchen has been constantly expanding to accommodate more and more visitors each year. 20 years ago the kitchen would use 3500kg of flour per day, but now that number has almost tripled.
It now costs over 4 million dollars a year to keep the kitchen running. But with a constant stream of donations and support, the langer has kept up with demand no matter the number of visitors.