Chilli paneer is one of those hybrid dishes that is not traditionally Indian but not completely foreign either. It is an Indo-Chinese fusion dish and is prepared with paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and lots of spicy fresh green chillies. It is a crowd favorite that pleases adults and kids alike, and can be said to be the vegetarian companion to chilli chicken. Pieces of paneer are fried until crispy on the outside and then tossed in a wok of vegetables and sauces. Chilli paneer is packed with oriental flavors, and is spicy and slightly tangy with a hint of sweetness. This is a quick dish found from roadside stalls to food courts and 5-star restaurants almost everywhere in India.
Chilli paneer serves as an appetizer that has either deep-fried or shallow fried paneer as the main ingredient. Moreover, it is not only a tasty appetizer but it also has the wholesome goodness of paneer and vegetables. It is rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients which are healthy for our body. There are many variants of Chilli paneer such as dry or gravy Chilli paneer. Some recipes follow a more chilli sauce base (more Indian) and some are more soy sauce based for a Chinese style Chilli paneer. Chilli paneer dry is served a starter, or it can be had as a snack, whereas Chilli paneer gravy is preferred as a main course dish, and can be paired with nice hot steamed rice, noodles or fried rice.
Chilli paneer recipe involves frying corn flour coated paneer until crisp, and then tossing it in a flavorful Indo Chinese freshly made chilli sauce along with stir fry onions, capsicum and spring onions. For the chilli sauce loads of ginger garlic, chili flakes and sesame oil are used. to get that smoky unique flavor, huge and heavy Chinese wok is used to fry the ingredients in extremely high heat. The flavor of this dish comes from the fresh hot chili peppers.
Some recipes use capsicum/green bell pepper too. Tomato sauce, soy sauce, and spring onions are the key ingredients of this recipe. For a twist, a tablespoon or two of schezwan sauce can be added to make a schezwan paneer chilli. There are enough crunches from the bell peppers and onions, which is a nice contrast from the creaminess of the paneer. In short, Chilli paneer has enough textures and flavors to satisfy all taste buds.
Paneer cheese is such a versatile ingredient and lends itself to any dish. It absorbs the flavors of anything it is put into. This makes it a really good vegetarian option to swap out meat and still be able to enjoy a particular dish. For a vegan version of “Chilli paneer”, firm tofu is the ingredient to use. Visit your nearest Amma’s South Indian restaurant to relish this favorite dish of India.