Preparing Parshaaday in a Queens Gurdwara

Preparing parshaaday in Richmond Hill (Screen shot via Open City)

Preparing parshaaday in Richmond Hill (Screenshot via Open City)

Every Sunday at the Sikh gurdwara in Richmond Hill, Queens, more than 25 volunteers help to prepare Punjabi roti and serve it to visitors who may number as many as 1,500. Although langar occurs every day, Sunday is the busiest.

Sonny Singh of Open City writes about the “unmistakable” and “magnetic” aroma of dough roasting on an open flame that emanates from the kitchen.

“Pehle pangat, phir sangat,” says Gurmeet Singh. First sit together and eat langar, then pray.

Gurmeet has been running the kitchen at Gurdwara Baba Makhan Shah Lobana in Richmond Hill since it was founded in 1998. Langar, the community kitchen and meal, has been a central part of Sikh practice for hundreds of years. Bustling gurdwaras like this one serve langar around the clock, seven days a week, to anyone who comes, for free.

Women, men and even children do duty in the kitchen, kneading dough, shaping it into the flattened “disks” that when cooked puff up briefly, then are stacked and buttered and served out with dal and other foods.

“Roti is the Punjabi staple food,” says Gurmeet. “We eat it at home too, but when we’re in gurdwara, it becomes parshaada.” Parshaada—the eternal blessing, a gift from our Guru, humbly prepared from the hands of sevadars every day here in Richmond Hill’s, and New York City’s, second largest gurdwara.

The gurdwara goes through about 200 to 300 pounds of atta (durum wheat flour) every Sunday, to prepare about 8,000 to 9,000 parshaaday. Watch the video to see the process, and go to Open City to find a recipe to prepare your own.

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