Rich, rustic, robust: The taste of Punjab
There’s something energetic and mood lifting about the cuisine. The colourful, spicy, buttery dishes that showcase the lively culinary tradition of Punjab have been the favourite of gourmands across cultures.
“Punjabi food has been nurtured in hearts and palates rather than recipe books. It is so widely popular because of the use of fresh seasonal ingredients, and vibrant culture and folklore - all woven together,” says Sandeep Pande, executive chef, JW Marriot, New Delhi.
The hotel had recently organised a food festival to celebrate the local, rustic flavours of Punjab. Bittu Meat Wala, a native from Amritsar, Punjab, visited Delhi and showcased recipes such as Amritsari Burrah, Bhatti da Murgh, Wadiyan Matar, Choley Kulchey, transporting guests to the rustic and authentic Punjab.
“Punjab with its rich cultivating land and five rivers is ideal for growing crops and thus it’s called the granary of India. Punjabi cuisine stood the test of time because of its self sufficiency. Punjab is capable of producing its own requirement be it crops, milk or spices. Whatever happened in and around Punjab didn’t affect its food culture and thus it was able to retain its uniqueness,” says Chef Sanjay Vij, executive chef, Vivanta Surajkund.
Punjabi food is considered to be one of the best when it comes to innovation and experimentation, say experts. Chef Monish Gujral, chairman of Moti Mahal Delux, says, “Punjabi cuisine is a result of experimentation. It’s a fusion of Mughlai food (the delicacies that the Mughals brought in the 18th century) and Punjabi recipes from the North-West province. Butter chicken and chicken tikka were created from the fusion. Punjabis added their flavours into the Mughlai kitchen and the food that we love today is the result of that fusion.”
The Punjabi food as we know it today is an outcome of historic events but there is more to it. It’s an exciting exchange of various cultures and traditions. “During the partition, the Punjabis from Pakistan brought the tandoor. It opened up the world of barbequed fares. From the North-West frontier arrived simple but robust flavours of nomadic people. The cross-cultural influences resulted in embracing fresh and dried nuts from Afghanistan. In fact, the iconic dhaba culture evolved out of the need for survival for the displaced peoples of Punjab,” says Vij.
Due to its flavours to style of cooking, easy techniques and approach, the cuisine transcended far and wide. However, chefs have been adding novelty into their creations. “Ingredients such as broccoli, morels, wild mushrooms, finer cuts of meats, and cold water fish are finding a place in modern Punjabi restaurant menus, leading to bigger ingredient baskets for chefs,” says Chef Gurpreet Singh, culinary director, Daryaganj Hospitality group. Alternate grains such as jawar, bajra and amaranth are also gradually finding place in the cuisine.
The cooking methods in Punjabi cuisine are mostly simple, tried and tested methods. “Spices are freshly grounded, crushed with the traditional mortar and pestle. Tempering or tadka is another method of adding zing to the food. Use of brass and copper utensils is prevalent in Punjabi cuisine, owing to its health benefits,” says Vij.
Pande adds, “The food needs to be cooked with care whilst cooking meats and dairy together. Also, the balance of sour, spice and salt needs to be perfect. Another factor is temperature control of chulahs and tandoors to create unforgettable dishes.” So, which Punjabi recipe are you trying this weekend?
Chicken Pakoda Recipe:
● Chicken 1 - Cut into small pieces (No Boneless) - 800 gms
● 2 TBSP Ginger- Garlic Paste
● 250 grams Yogurt
● 150 Grams Besan (Chickpea Flour)
● 2 Eggs
● 3 Green Chilies
● 1 TBSP Grounded Cumin seeds
● 1 TBSP Kasuri Methi
● 1 TBSP Red Chilly Powder
● 1 TBSP Salt
● 1 TBSP Black Pepper Powder
● Refined Oil for Frying.
1. Make 2/3 deep cuts/ gashes with a knife in each piece of Chicken.
2. Marinate the chicken with Yogurt, Ginger-Garlic Paste, Salt, Black Pepper,
Red Chilli Powder and set it aside for 3 hours (covered).
3. For the batter, mix everything together at one go have a consistency and
nothing can be identified, separated. Clean the pieces of whatever is visible
over and above the pieces, ensuring that enough remains inside deep gashes
for the flavour.
4. Deep fry on medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
By chef Gurpreet Singh
Author tweets @ruchikagarg271