A Tale of Two Paneers
One with tandoori flavors — and one in the Indo-Chinese tradition
Happy New Year, everyone — even though it seems more like about five years have passed since the start of this month. While 2021 feels like more of the same so far, and I don’t anticipate being able to make any real “plans” sooner than six months from now, I’m trying to remain positive and keep myself busy with more knitting projects and cooking inspiration and all of that (though I’m starting to feel like I’m about to run out of TV to watch). I’m also here to talk to you about paneer.
RECIPE: Stir-Fried Paneer and Peppers
The key paneer recipe in today’s newsletter, which was also on the original Rad Dishes site (as well as its current iteration) involves a version that doesn’t take me much more than half an hour to put together. It’s a basic stir-fry dish my mom taught me, with “authentic” Indian flavors, but a minimal lift in the kitchen. Without further ado:
Serves about 3 to 4
12 ounces paneer (I use store-bought, but if you make your own, more power to you)
1 green pepper
1 small- to medium-sized red onion
1 green chili, sliced up (optional)
1/2 tablespoon neutral cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 to 1 teaspoon tandoori masala
Salt to taste
1. Chop up the paneer, onion and pepper into bite-sized cubes/ rectangles. (Essentially, you want the pieces to be somewhat proportional to each other).
2. Heat the oil over a low-medium flame in a wok or deep pan.
3. Add the onions, stirring occasionally and let them get pink.
4. Add the paneer and fry for about one to two minutes. (You'll see the pieces get a little brown).
5. Add the green pepper, turmeric powder, tandoori masala, green chili and some salt. Stir all the ingredients together so that the spices are evenly distributed (your paneer will take on a nice yellow color).
6. Let the concoction cook another three to five minutes, stirring occasionally, before turning off the flame.
7. If you'd like the peppers a little more "cooked," you can cover the wok or pan for a few minutes while the flame is off before serving. If you are very hungry, go ahead and dig in right away while the peppers are still a little crunchy.
Adapted from Mama Rad.
I tend to use green peppers here as it's somewhat traditional, even though I don't use them that often for other dishes I cook, but there's no reason why you can't use a red pepper, for instance, if that's what you prefer.
Bonus Recipe: Chili Paneer
I’m a big fan of Indian-Chinese cuisine (yes, this is a real genre of food and if you’re not aware of it, it’s time you learned). I found myself really missing one of my favorite restaurants for Indian-Chinese food a few weeks ago and tried to make some dishes at home. I’m going to be completely honest: the restaurants are always going to be better than me at making veggie hakka noodles. They’re also better than me at making chili paneer, but the version I made at home tasted pretty good.
The picture above probably looks… fairly similar to my tandoori-flavored paneer, but I promise you it isn’t. I used this recipe from Cook With Manali, and just used one of my 12-ounce readymade packs of paneer from the store. I wasn’t very precise about my garlic use, though I’m the type of person who likes a lot of garlic. The one thing I did differently was create an odd concoction to mirror the green chili sauce the recipe calls for because I wasn’t about to go Indian grocery shopping for one ingredient. Maybe it’ll be useful to you:
Green chili sauce solution in a pinch: I took two green chilis (I always have some in my freezer), a garlic clove, a “pinch” of minced red onion — then I sautéed them on the stove (the air will get a bit fume-filled, so be careful). I proceeded to add one-fourth teaspoon sugar, a pinch of salt, two tablespoons of water, covered it and cooked. Once the water evaporated, I brought everything to a mortar, took out my pestle, and smooshed it until it came close to resembling a sauce (it’s totally fine for it to have small chunks in it). This yielded enough for the recipe (I didn’t need a huge batch, though here’s one of the recipes I used as reference) and gave the paneer at least some semblance of the flavor I was craving.
That’s my lazy lesson in chili paneer. I hope it was inspiring in some form.
Food For Thought
Some other recipes I recently made and enjoyed: For New Year’s Eve, I cooked this delightful Ground Lamb Pulao by Nik Sharma (of A Brown Table) via NYT Cooking (something I’ve also finally just subscribed to). I only had a pound of ground lamb available, and it still turned out pretty impressive. For dessert that night, I made Smitten Kitchen’s “I Want Chocolate Cake” Cake, which is … exactly what it says right there in the title. It’s like a sophisticated children’s chocolate birthday cake, and it was the exact comfort and indulgence I needed on the night bridging 2020 and 2021, both proving to be challenging years so far.
Bites of Culture
I read a couple of highly anticipated books from last year — the new Elena Ferrante (The Lying Life of Adults) and Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind, and honestly, neither did a whole lot for me. Is my 2020 malaise sweeping over into 2021? Do I need books to grab me in a way they didn’t back when I spent 75% of my time reading them while commuting on a train? I’m not sure. I’m still reading away though, and am now working my way through a hefty classic — something I like to do at least once every winter. Yes, it’s a Charles Dickens novel — Bleak House.
My husband and I are a mere three movies away from completing our Marvel rewatch, which started two years ago, just a few weeks before our wedding. For a brief period, we joined the ranks of those watching Ted Lasso and after being a bit lukewarm on it for a couple of episodes, it completely won me over. Separately, I’ve been watching Servant, also on Apple TV+ (entertaining enough if weird and nicely produced) and maybe it was my recent early Vampire Chronicles reread, but I finally started watching What We Do in the Shadows (the series) and… I love it. I cannot stop laughing at the absurdity of it and how much it makes fun of the vampire myth.
Thanks for reading this edition of Rad Dishes! You can follow me on my occasionally updated Instagram account and my extremely irregularly updated Twitter. A streamlined version of Rad Dishes (the original food blog) is here.