Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paneer 65

A hyderabadi starter dish with a mystery! Now why the number 65? Lots of theories to this, some say it was originally cooked with 65 ingredients or spices, some say it was first made in 1965 and some others say it was the 65th item on a mess menu...and so on...I say...I JUST DONT CARE! Whatever was created...was just wonderful!

This dish makes a great starter and jazzes up a party menu. You can keep it all in one dish, or just poke some toothpicks in each piece and decorate it. The spice paste so wonderfully clings onto the paneer, that each bite tastes awesomely full of flavor!

Level: Medium
Serves: 6 people

Paneer marination:
200 gms paneer, cut into medium sized cubes
1 egg
2 tblsp all purpose flour
2 tblsp cornstarch/cornflour
1 tblsp chinese chilly sauce
1 tblsp soya sauce
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp sugar
Water as required

1/2 tsp mustard seeds
20 curry leaves
1 tblsp garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tblsp ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp chilly powder
1/2 cup yogurt, well beaten
1 tsp chinese chilly sauce
1 tsp tomato ketchup
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp cornflour (made into a paste with 2 tblsp water)
Coriander to decorate

Lets start with the paneer - 
Step 1 - In a bowl, add the all purpose flour, cornflour, chilly sauce, soya sauce, salt, pepper, sugar and mix well. Add water gradually till it forms a semi-thick batter. The batter consistency should be such that it should coat the back of your spoon evenly. It should not run off the spoon quickly.

Step 2 - Add the cubed paneer pieces. Mix well and deep fry till it reaches a nice brown color, as seen in the picture. Keep aside.

Lets work on the sauce now - 
Step 1 - Heat a tblsp of oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the curry leaves, ginger and garlic. Stir fry for a min.

Step 2 - Add the red chilly powder and yogurt. Mix vigorously. Immediately add the chilly sauce, tomato ketchup, salt and pepper. Give it a quick mix. Drop in the paneer pieces and mix well so that the sauce coats all the paneer pieces well.

Step 3 - Finally add in the cornflour paste and mix well. This should immediately thicken the sauce and the sauce will cling on well to the paneer.

Serve hot decorated with freshly chopped coriander leaves.

The sauce needs to be made very quickly. So have all the ingredients measured and kept at hand, else you could end up curdling the yogurt!

Do not skip the egg in the paneer marination. It helps in uniform coating over the paneer pieces when they are frying.

I have shared the recipe I learnt in a cooking course I took with my friends in college. But for a healthier version, you could always replace paneer with extra firm tofu or just avoid the frying process. But if you avoid the frying process, make sure your sauce has stronger flavors, cause the paneer is going to be tasteless in this case.

Also, Paneer 65 is supposed to have a bright red color...if you want it that way, go ahead and add some food color in your yogurt!

Happy cooking everyone!

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