The first time I had chilly paneer, would you believe it, was at a dinner party my parents had hosted at home. My mother found a recipe for it in an old Tarla Dalal cookbook, and using it as a guideline, whipped it up to rave reviews.
Ironically, neither parent of mine remembers just how good this tasted. And because my mother used the recipe only as a guideline and not gospel truth, subsequent attempts by me where I followed the recipe word for word, had not resulted in that scintillating addiction that I remembered.
Until now. Until, like my mother, I decided to trust my taste buds more than the printed word and let my tongue lead the way. Unlike my mother, however, this time, I got around to writing down the recipe so that I wouldn’t have to sacrifice any more paneer to the food gods, and instead satiate my cravings.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 capsicum, cut into cubes
1 packet paneer (cottage cheese), cut into cubes (500 grams)
1/2 cup of cornflour
1 medium red onion, cut in eighths
4 tbsp oil
4-5 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 inch ginger, crushed and chopped
2 green chillies, sliced at an angle (mostly so that they’re easier to spot when you’re eating and you’re mentally prepared for the slap of heat)
2 tbsp pepper powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
1 sprig of spring onions, chopped (optional)
- Chop everything. I cannot emphasise this enough. It’s important to get all your prep out of the way because this recipe cooks very fast and if you overcook it, it loses texture and flavour.
- Roll the chopped paneer in the cornflour until every cube is coated well. There’s no need to add in any water because fresh paneer is moist enough to hold the flour around it.
- As you roll your paneer around in the flour, heat the oil in the kadhai on high heat. Mix the leftover cornflour with the water and set aside.
- When the oil is hot enough, fry the coated paneer in the oil until it turns golden brown. Set it aside on some paper napkins to drain the excess oil out.
- Once all the paneer is fried and set aside, add in the ginger, garlic and green chillies. Lower the heat to medium and fry until the garlic softens.
- Add the soy sauce, vinegar, pepper powder and sugar and mix until the sugar dissolves.
- Toss in the capsicum, onions and fried paneer and mix well until everything is coated.
- Add in the water and cornflour mixture and mix well until the sauce thickens. Add salt to taste, garnish with the chopped spring onions, if you’re using them and serve.
This recipe works without the cornflour as well. You will still need to fry the paneer until it turns a light yellow. Don’t let it brown, because paneer tends to get chewy when fried. Use fresh paneer and check the manufacturing date when you’re buying it!
As a substitute to the cornflour, you can use regular flour or maida to fry the paneer. However, when mixing with water, increase the quantity of water so that you get a very loose watery consistency.
When mixing the capsicum and onions into the kadhai, don’t let the capsicums become soft. It’s important to retain that crunch of the capsicum for maximum flavour.
You can substitute the pepper powder with chilli flakes for a hotter spice (you must sure love your heat if you opt in for this!).
This goes great with Fried Rice.
You can follow this recipe and substitute the paneer for cubed and boiled chicken breasts for chilly chicken! Or even go in for seafood or dark meat. Anything you prefer, really (except eggs, don’t experiment with scrambled eggs, it turned rubbery and most unpalatable). Let your tongue guide you!