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Paneer
Paneertikkaindia.jpg
Paneer tikka from Mumbai, India
Origin
Alternate name(s) Chhana, chhena
Region or state South Asia and Iran
Dish details
Main ingredient(s) Milk
Variations Palak Paneer, Mutter Paneer, Rasgulla

Paneer (Hindi: पनीर panīr, from Persian پنير panir) is a fresh cheese common in South Asian cuisine. It is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice or other food acid.

Unlike most cheeses in the world, the making of paneer does not involve rennet as the coagulation agent, thus making it completely lacto-vegetarian and providing an important source of protein for vegetarian Hindus.

Contents

Preparation

To prepare paneer, food acid (usually lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or yogurt) is added to hot milk to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are drained in muslin or cheesecloth and the excess water is pressed out. The resulting paneer is dipped in chilled water for 2–3 hours to give it a good texture and appearance.

From this point, the preparation of paneer diverges based on its use and regional variation.

In most cuisines, the curds are wrapped in cloth and placed under a heavy weight, such as a stone slab, for 2–3 hours, and then cut into cubes for use in curries. Pressing for a shorter time (approximately 20 minutes), results in a softer, fluffier cheese.

In Eastern Indian and Bangladeshi cuisines, the curds are beaten or kneaded by hand into a dough-like consistency called ছানা sana in Assamese, ছানা chhana in Bengali, or ଛେନା chhena in Oriya. In these regions, sana/chhana/chhena is distinguished from ponir, a salty semi-hard cheese with a sharper flavor and high salt content. Hard ponir is typically eaten in slices at teatime with biscuits or various types of bread, or deep-fried in a light batter.

In the area surrounding the Gujarati city of Surat, surti paneer is made by draining the curds and ripening them in whey for 12 to 36 hours.

Dishes

Mattar paneer, a vegetarian dish from India
Cubes of paneer in a salad served in an Indian restaurant in Mumbai
Saag paneer, a spinach-based curry dish

Dating back to Ancient India, paneer remains the most common type of cheese used in traditional South Asian cuisines. The use of paneer is more common in northern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh due to the prominence of milk in their cuisine. It is very popular when wrapped in dough and deep-fried or served with either spinach (palak paneer) or peas (mattar paneer).

While cuisine in the northern states of India features paneer in spicy curry dishes, the use of sana/chhana/chhena in Oriya, Assamese, and Bengali cuisine is mostly restricted to sweets, for which these regions are renowned. The well-known rasgulla features plain chhana beaten by hand and shaped into balls which are soaked in syrup. The sana/chhana/chhena used in such cases is manufactured by a slightly different procedure from Mughlai paneer; it is drained but not pressed, so that some moisture is retained, which makes for a soft, malleable consistency. It may, however, be pressed slightly into small cubes and curried to form a dalna in Oriya and Bengali cuisines.

Some common paneer dishes:

  • Mattar paneer (paneer with peas).
  • Paneer majestic (paneer fried in a spicy batter).
  • Saag paneer or Palak paneer (paneer with spinach).
  • Shahi paneer (paneer cooked in a rich, Mughlai curry).
  • Shahi tukda (a dessert made by frying paneer).
  • Paneer tikka (a vegetarian version of chicken tikka, paneer placed on skewers and roasted)
  • Kadai paneer
  • Chili Paneer (with spicy chilies, onions and green peppers, usually served dry and garnished with spring onions)
  • Paneer pakora (Paneer fritters)
  • Rasmalai
  • Rasgulla

Similar cheeses

Queso blanco or queso fresco are often recommended as substitutes in the Americas, as unlike paneer, they are commercially available in many American markets. Both are generally salted, unlike paneer.

The farmer cheese sold in Western countries, and dry curd cottage cheese, are similar except that they are made from cultured milk and often salted.

Anari is very similar in taste and texture to fresh Indian Paneer. Anari is a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus.

Beyaz peynir is a similar Turkish cheese.

Substitutes

Firm tofu has a similar texture and consistency so it can be used in place of paneer as a non-dairy substitute.

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Wikibooks

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Cookbook:Paneer article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

To make paneer for 4 people, we need:

  • 3 liters of milk
  • 6 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar

Bring 3 liters of milk to a boil in a large pan. Add, just before the milk starts to boil, the lemon juice or vinegar to coagulate the milk. Pour the coagulated milk through a cheese cloth to discard most of the water within. Press the water out firmly and place a weight on top of the paneer. Allow to rest and harden for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.

Sometimes the hardening in the refrigerator may not work. You may find that the Paneer may breakdown into small granules while cooking. The alternate way to make it firm is by steaming it for about 15 mins.


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