Chilli paneer is a popular vegetarian Indo-Chinese appetiser or side dish. Cubes of paneer (a hard cheese) are battered and then fried until golden and crispy. It is then cooked off in a sweet and sour chilli sauce with the addition of bell pepper. It tastes great on it own but you can pair it with fried rice or noodles like my Indonesian fried noodles for a quick and easy Friday night dinner.
Did ya miss me, readers?? No? Didn’t realise I was gone? Oh, ok then…
But for those of you who do care (I’m looking right at YOU, kid) then I am back from a very much self imposed blogging hiatus. I decided to take a bit of a break from the blog as I wanted some time to just take a step back, reassess and reflect on life and how I was spending my time and more than anything, to just breathe. For my fellow food bloggers out there, especially those who do it on the side as a hobby, do things ever get a little much for you? The constant grind of keeping up with posting, all those social media networks and image curation sites. It can be awfully tiring at times. I felt like a bit of a machine at times and I realised I wasn’t really enjoying blogging as much as I used to when I first started out and this whole site was just a way of documenting me trying out new recipes.
I’ve always told myself that if I stopped enjoyed running this site then I would just take some time out to allow that enthusiasm to regenerate and that’s exactly what I did. So for the past 2 weeks I have thought very little about this website and it felt pretty good. And near the end of that fortnight, I slowly felt the blogging bug come back and bite me. That tingle of excitement at the prospect of putting together a new recipe, how to style and shoot it in the most appealing way possible and that soothing rhythm of fingers tapping away at a keyboard as
random rambles a soliloquy on food seems to just spill out of you. The only thing I do regret is the massive accumulation of spam comments that awaited me when I logged back in. I really need to find some sort of widget to sort that out!
But enough about an update on my life, you’re here for the recipe, aren’t you? Well, I have been wanting to try a paneer recipe for a very long time and have amassed a huge collection of paneer recipes on pinterest. But now that I have moved out of London, it is not always the easiest thing to find in your small local supermarket. However, I managed to pick some up from Everest on a one off visit to our local Waitrose last week (I know, of course Waitrose would have Indian paneer…). If you’re on the hunt for paneer, try a larger supermarket or your local South Asian food store. If you are not lazy like me, you might want to try making your own as it literally takes only milk and an acid like vinegar.
We’ve never cooked paneer in our family but I have been told by some family members that it is quite popular in Bangladesh. Paneer on its own tastes quite blah, if I’m honest. Kind of spongy and flavourless. BUT, when you fry it, especially in a seasoned batter it becomes this crispy, melty, cheesy bite of goodness. If you like fried halloumi then you would definitely enjoy it.
In a method similar to hot wings, or General Tso’s chicken, the fried cubes of paneer are then cooked in a sweet and sour sauce made up of soy sauce, vinegar, chilli sauce, ketchup and sugar. I added quite a bit of chilli to the sauce, but for those who are not are firey headed, I would recommend cutting out the chilli powder and fresh chillies and concentrating on the sweet and sour flavours instead. For those used to curries and Indian dishes, I would say the following recipe is fairly mild to medium. I am sure some people would happily add extra chilli! You can, of course, very easily season with spice to taste.
So if you’re thinking of ordering a take away on the weekend, save yourself some money and whip up this incredibly easy vegetarian dish. If you want to make a vegan version, you could try tofu or cauliflower instead. If you’re a meat eater, then definitely try cubes of boneless chicken.
- 225g Paneer, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 6 tbsp oil
- 1/2 onion sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 inch ginger, minced
- 1/2 bell pepper, diced
- 3-4 green chillies, chopped
- 3 stalks of spring onions, chopped finely
- Handful coriander, chopped for garnish
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp corn four
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp water
- 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 3-4 tbsp ketchup
- 2-3 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp red chilli sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 5 tbsp water
- In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients for the batter. Add water and mix so it forms a thick batter. Toss the paneer cubes in the batter until well coated on all sides.
- In a frying pan, add about 3 tbsp oil and allow to heat up on a medium heat. Pan fry the paneer cubes until they are golden brown and crispy on all sides. It should take about 1-3 minutes to brown on one side. Place on a plate lined with a kitchen towel and reserve.
- In a bowl (I just washed out the same one) mix together all the ingredients for the sauce. It should be a slightly thick consistency.
- Add the remaining 3 tbsp oil to the pan. Add in garlic and fry until golden and fragrant. Add in onions, ginger and chopped green chilli and fry until the onions are golden brown.
- Once onions have browned, add the fried paneer cubes back into the pan. Stir to mix with the onions, then pour in the sweet and sour sauce from the bowl. Let paneer simmer in the sauce until it gradually bubbles to a boil and some of the liquid from the sauce evaporates off.
- Sprinkle in the chopped bell pepper and cook for about 2 minutes until slightly softened. Season sauce to taste then garnish with the coriander and spring onions and serve.