WHAT IS PANEER AND WHY SHOULD AMERICANS EAT IT?
Introduction to Paneer
If you're a cottage cheese lover, this one's for you!
When it comes to Indian culture, it's pretty common to be a vegetarian or vegan; whether you are vegetarian or not, you've undoubtedly heard of Paneer wherever you're in India. Paneer is a favorite item used frequently in Indian vegetarian dishes and curries.
What is Paneer?
What exactly is Paneer? People who regularly eat at Indian restaurants must know Paneer by heart. It is made by curdling pure milk with either vinegar or lemon and then soaking the resultant solid milky mass in a cheesecloth commonly known as cottage cheese.
Paneer is a variant of cheese made in India. It's usually made from curdled milk, fruit, or vegetable acids like vinegar or lemon juice.
There are a few unique traits that make Paneer the type of cheese that it is:
- It's an unaged cheese
- It's a soft cheese, and
- It doesn't melt
There are different theories about where Paneer originated, the oldest and most common of them dating back to the 16th century in Southeast Asia, where Persian and Afghani rulers first introduced the cheese.
But no matter where it originated, it's accepted wholeheartedly that Paneer is a vast and tasty part of Indian culture.
Can Paneer be made at home?
The best thing about Paneer is that you can make it at home if you want to have some homemade cheese. The best part about making Paneer at home is that the ingredients and items required are simple and readily available anywhere. You need some whole milk, a cheesecloth, and lemon juice — that's it! You'll have delicious Indian cottage cheese/paneer in under an hour.
Let's now see the method to make Paneer at home:
- Take a large double layer of cheesecloth. Line your colander with it and set it in the sink.
- Now, gently boil 8 cups of whole milk on medium heat while stirring.
- Add in some lemon juice and turn the heat to low.
- While mixing, you'll see that the milk has started curdling. Remove this curdled milk from the heat, pour it into the lined colander, and rinse with cold water.
- Using the cheesecloth, squeeze out the excess liquid.
- Drain out the remaining liquid by tying it to your faucet
- Twist the ball tightly and weigh it with something heavy to ensure even cottage cheese.
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes, and then enjoy!
Can you buy Paneer?
Of course, yes!! If you don't prefer homemade Paneer, you can buy Paneer from outside too. The first choice would be your local neighborhood grocer, as they usually have one or two top brands of Paneer always available for purchase. If you don't have a grocer nearby, there are online options too, where you can buy Paneer.
Common Paneer Dishes
When it comes to consumption, you can eat Paneer either as a snack, with a meal, or even for breakfast. And while cottage cheese might not sound like a common breakfast item, wait to dump it until you've tried it!
Many paneer dishes and curries are made in different parts of India. Some familiar and iconic paneer dishes are:
- Paneer Tikka masala
- Matar Paneer
- Paneer Butter Masala
- Shahi Paneer
- Kadai Paneer
- Paneer Tikka (dry)
- Paneer Makhana
- Palak Paneer
- Paneer Do Pyaaza
And many more!
The above dishes are trendy in India and centered around Paneer. The one thing to note here is that whether you're eating Paneer by itself or as a dish, be sure to use and consume it quickly, as it only stays fresh in the refrigerator for three days.
For eons now, Paneer has been considered the finest substitute for chicken, mutton, and beef as it gives strict vegetarians the same texture and taste. Paneer has almost the same soft yet dense texture as chicken. It is also considered the best alternative for people trying to convert to being vegetarians.
Why consume Paneer?
Disclaimer - This blog does not provide you with any medical advice. It is strictly meant to be an informational and recipe blog only. Please consult your physician or medical expert for what works best for you.
There are many reasons why you should include Paneer in your daily diet:
- It might assist you in losing weight - According to surveys, more than 40% of the population in Mississippi is obese! Obesity has now become the worst health problem that the average American faces. For obese individuals, or those struggling with weight management issues, having Paneer fulfills daily dietary needs and can also counter the urge for binge eating as it is automatically satiating. Additionally, Paneer is exceptionally rich in proteins and other nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, healthy fats, etc. When we decide to work on weight management or to have a healthy BMI, ample exercise and substituting meat with Paneer can be a very potent combination. Paneer automatically increases our protein consumption and thus helps us transform into the body we want. You can even switch fatty cheese with Paneer in your breakfast to go the extra mile. It will also help you remain cheerful and energetic throughout the day.
- It might reduce the risk of breast cancer - We're all aware now that breast cancer cases are increasing at a very alarming rate, which is very concerning for pre-menopausal and unmarried women. For preventing breast cancer, it is commonly recommended to supplement your diet with Vitamin D and calcium – two necessary nutrients that help prevent cancer and are found in Paneer in sufficient amounts. Not only breast cancer, but research has also proved that Paneer is quite effective in preventing many other types of cancer like colon and stomach cancer. The other health benefits of including Paneer in your diet include fighting heart diseases and diabetes, relieving joint pains, and many more. Thus, Paneer has several health benefits that can transform your lifestyle into a healthy one.
- It is easy and quick to cook - Many American dishes usually require hours of work and additional detailing, which can be tedious and frustrating for working people who typically only have a little time to cook. By contrast, most paneer dishes are easy to prepare and take less time than other dishes.
- Paneer may build strong teeth and bones - Paneer is composed of calcium that automatically helps build strong teeth and muscles. Paneer also helps prevent gum decay.
- Paneer may improve the immune system - Having Paneer regularly boosts the immune system and strengthens it against most common ailments.
For instance, with Alcoeats Paneer Easy Indie Bowls, your cooking activity reduces drastically! It means you can spend precious time enjoying your paneer dishes' rich and mouthwatering flavors rather than sweating it out in the kitchen.
Why should Americans consume Paneer?
There are several reasons for the gradual but sure groundswell in favor of Paneer.
- For people on Keto diets, it would gladden them that Paneer is very high in protein and fat, automatically making it their firm favorite. For information, the Keto diets market was valued at $9.5 billion in 2019. (The U.S. is the biggest market in the world for ketogenic diets.)
- Because of its high melting point, it retains its shape even when it's properly cooked, thus making it a good candidate for those "center-of-the-plate" vegetarian dishes.
- Generally, Paneer is always considered "clean-label," unlike many other faux-meat options, which means that it's made with minimum additional ingredients.
- Because it's so rich in protein, having Paneer for breakfast makes you feel full for longer. Paneer is also rich in fat, iron, calcium, and magnesium, making it an even healthier choice.
- Having Paneer daily helps in reducing cramps. Paneer is also beneficial in preventing osteoporosis due to its very high calcium levels. It also contains a high amount of zinc necessary for the average sperm count in men.
- Paneer is considered beneficial for those who have diabetes. It is very rich in Omega 3, which is very good for the mental development of kids.
- Paneer is also considered good enough for people suffering from cardiovascular diseases as Paneer regulates blood pressure and controls cholesterol levels.
Apart from all the above, there has been an increased culinary interest in Paneer's place of origin. For instance, searches for "Indian restaurants near me" went up nearly 350% last year on Google Trends. Searches for Paneer-based dishes also have gone up tremendously over the past few years.
What Are The Best Paneer Dishes?
Paneer can be used in curries or grilled as a side dish like the legendary Paneer Tikkas from Punjab with its inherent cheesy and milky flavor. Fresh Paneer makes mouthwatering desserts in Bengal, like rasgulla, ras malai, chenna murky, and many others.
Here are some finger-licking paneer recipes:
Paneer Butter Masala
The iconic Paneer Butter Masala is a delicious, creamy, rich butter-based paneer curry cooked in a creamy milk gravy with tomatoes and onions. Perfect for dinner parties, this paneer recipe is a prevalent one with an aroma that will instantly stimulate your taste buds. And when cooked with Alcoeats Butter Paneer Instant Gravy, the curry becomes even more lip-smacking and delicious!
Kadai paneer is a famous chunky stew flavored with ground coriander and red chilies. The secret to cooking delicious kadhai paneer is roasting the spices beforehand. It deepens their beautiful aromatic flavors. And if you want to stimulate your tastebuds, add even more chilies and an extra teaspoon of garam masala.
The term 'tikka' appears in a lot of Indian dishes, and it refers to the method/technique of cooking in a tandoori oven. All that you need to make delicious grilled paneer tikka is your oven! Marinate your paneer cubes, skewer them with fresh vegetables, and bake everything. Easy!
Palak paneer is a delicious and healthy side dish loaded with spiced spinach. Here, paneer cubes are simmered in a thick spinach puree for this mild and creamy dish. You can make this a main dish by serving it in a big bowl with a side of buttery naan bread and fluffy rice.
Paneer Koftas are small balls made with Paneer and stuffed with the aromatic goodness of raisins and khoya along with various spices, deep fried and simmering hot, doused in a deep, rich gravy. Koftas taste great with hot, crisp naan or Rotis. Another winner on the dining table, Koftas, never fails to entertain friends and family.
Paneer Lababdar is a vegetarian and gluten-free side dish made from paneer chunks in a rich and creamy gravy. The dish is richly flavored with onions, cashews, tomatoes, and spices like ginger, garlic, and cardamon.
Dum Paneer Kali Mirch
A dash of black pepper magic is enough to make a recipe deviate from the usual. This paneer recipe is a fragrant curry seasoned with black pepper. It consists of paneer chunks in a luscious creamy gravy with mild spices and black pepper. It's best served with steamed rice or any Indian bread to enjoy a wholesome meal. If you want to eliminate excess fat, you can exclude the cream.
This dish is a real crowd-pleaser! Predominantly Indian flavors of grated cottage cheese, tomatoes, dried fenugreek, and cashew nuts dominate the dish. Paneer bhurji can also be cooked for a light brunch or as a side dish for dinner.
This dish consists of paneer cubes flavored with a dash of soy sauce and aromatic spices, including garlic and ginger. This dish has a definite Chinese vibe to it. It can be considered fusion food at its most delicious.
Yet another Indo-Chinese collaboration, here paneer cubes are fried in a sweet and spicy chili sauce until perfectly browned and fragrant. Add some Alcoeats Paneer Chilli Mix, and you have the most delicious Chilli Paneer ready in seconds! There are three different variants of Chili Paneer – dry, semi-dry, and gravy.
To Sum Up On Paneer
Want to try the creamy royal flavors of Indian Paneer? Alcoeats has the most loved Royal Paneer – Indian Simmer Sauce Mix (traditionally known as "Shahi Paneer") to improve your experience with paneer-based food. You must season the Paneer with salt and butter and add the sauce and water mixture. That's it; you are ready with a lip-smacking paneer curry that fits into every occasion.
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