Indo-Chinese Chilli Paneer

Indo-Chinese Chilli Paneer

Chilli Paneer is a very popular Indo-Chinese dish.

It is a dish prepared using some of the Chinese ingredients with an Indian twist to cater to Indian palate hence the use of onion, ginger and garlic! It is so popular that it’s served everywhere from roadside carts to markets to the very expensive restaurants.

It is one of those dishes that you can have as an appetiser or main course. I remember during my uni days when I lived in a hostel my friends and I loved eating out and as we were always short on money the best option was to eat at the street side vendors. We would very often eat at the Indo-Chinese cart or Pao Bhaji. The best thing about eating Indo-Chinese was that my friends could eat chilli chicken and I chilli paneer.

Over the years ‘street food’ has become popular and trendy in the UK and lots of other countries around the world. In India street food has always existed and usually there are long queues at the most popular ones.

The concept behind the dish is that paneer/chicken is battered and fried until crispy and then mixed in a sweet, spicy, sour sauce and crunchy vegetables. It is cooked at high heat hence maintaining the crunchiness of the vegetables. The paneer is cooked with soy sauce, green chilli sauce, sugar/ketchup and vinegar to give it the spicy and tangy taste.  

Chilli Paneer is easy to make once you know the basics and then you can adjust the sauce according to your taste. I know some people (like my husband) likes to measure exactly while cooking but it’s worth remembering that everyone’s palate is different and enjoys different quantity of heat and salt. So, I always suggest that while you cook taste, taste and taste as you can then adjust the seasoning and spicing according to your taste.

The beauty of this dish is that you can make the sauce slightly thick or medium consistency. If you are planning to serve it with fried rice and/or hakka noodles, then the sauce can be medium. If you are serving it as a starter, then the sauce can be slightly thick to coat the paneer. Instead of paneer, you can also use hard tofu.

Ingredients

200 gm paneer (cut in 1 cm cubes)
1 tablespoon corn flour
Oil for frying

For The Batter
3 tablespoons plain flour (maida)
4 tablespoons corn flour/ corn starch
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chilli sauce (optional)
6-7 tablespoons of cold water (to make the batter)

For The Sauce
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
1½ tablespoons vinegar
1-2 tablespoons chilli sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar (or tomato ketchup)
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon black/white pepper
½ cup water

To Sauté
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped celery (optional)
1-2 dry red chilli
2 fresh sliced red and/or green chilli (optional)
1 cup diced pepper
1 diced onion
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander (optional)

Directions

Step-1

To make the batter mix the flour, corn flour, salt, black pepper, and chilli sauce in a bowl. Gradually add cold water and mix to make a smooth batter without any lumps. (batter’s consistency should be pancake batter or dosa batter).

Step-2

Heat oil for frying over medium heat. Oil should be moderately hot.
Dip the paneer into the batter, making sure it is completely covered by the batter. Then drop the paneer pieces slowly into oil in the frying pan. (do not overlap them)
Fry the paneer in small batches on medium to high heat turning occasionally, until they are light golden brown.
Remove the fried paneer cubes and place them on kitchen paper towels for the extra oil to be absorbed.

Step-3

In a bowl mix together soya sauce, vinegar, chilli sauce, sugar (tomato ketchup), salt, pepper and water (all ingredients under sauce).

Mix the cornflour with 1-2 tablespoons of cold water to make cornflour slurry.

Step-4

Heat oil in a wok/pan and add the ginger, garlic, celery, dry red chilli and fresh chillies and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Next add the onions and peppers and sauté for 2-3 minutes on medium to high heat ( we want to keep the crunch in the vegetables).

Step-5

Add the fried paneer and mix.
Next add the coriander, spring onion, prepared sauce and cornflour slurry and gently mix. Cook for 1-2 minutes to coat the paneer with the sauce.
Garnish with spring onions and serve hot!

Tips & Variations

  1. Deep frying the paneer gives a more authentic taste but you can also shallow fry the paneer in a non-stick pan. It will stick a little bit while shallow frying but will use less oil.
  2. Use either chilli sauce or make a paste of whole red chillies. Please do not substitute it with red chilli powder. Yes, it’s a fusion dish but fusion with limits.
    Remember to always add cold water in cornflour/cornstarch while making cornflour slurry otherwise it will turn lumpy.
  3. Always use cold water when making batter with flour and cornflour. The colder the water, better it is. I sometimes keep a glass of water in fridge to make the batter. The corn flour dissolves better in cold water and also yields crispier coating.
  4. You can adjust the quantity of chillies according to your taste and also the variety of chilli you use while making the dish.
  5. You can use a teaspoon of Hoisin sauce to make it extra special.
  6. While adding cornflour to adjust the consistency, add it the liquid very slowly and mix before deciding if you need more or less. Remember you can always add more but cannot take it away. As soon as the cornflour liquid will hit the heat it will start to change the consistency.
  7. Avoid adding too much water as you want the peppers/onions to be crunchy and crispy to bite. Soggy vegetables are a big no no in this dish!
  8. Although coriander is not traditional in Indo-Chinese recipes but it reminds me of the street style Chinese from India as the street vendors always add some fresh coriander while cooking Indo-Chinese dishes and I also like the flavour.
  9. You can sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds before serving too.
  10. You can also add some ginger garlic paste in the batter while frying paneer for another flavour layer.

One Reply to “Indo-Chinese Chilli Paneer”

  1. Made this dish first time for New Year Party at our home. All guests loved it and was a big hit. Many thanks foodie-trail for giving immature cook confidence and delight to all hungry tummies.

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