|Alternative names||Poneer, Fonir, Chhana, Chhena|
|Place of origin||Indian Subcontinent|
|Main ingredients||Strained curdled milk|
|Other information||Rich source of milk protein|
Paneer (pronounced [pəniːr]) is a fresh cheese common in the Indian subcontinent. It is an unaged, non-melting soft cheese made by curdling milk with a fruit- or vegetable-derived acid, such as lemon juice. Its acid-set form, (cheese curd) before pressing, is called chhena.
Etymology and history
The word paneer entered English from the Hindi and Urdu term panīr, which comes from Persian panir (پنیر), meaning "cheese" in general, and ultimately from Old Iranian. Armenian panir (պանիր), Azerbaijani pəndir, Turkish peynir and Turkmen peýnir, all derived from Persian panir, also refer to cheese of any type. The origin of paneer itself is debated. Vedic Indian, Afghan-Iranian and Portuguese-Bengali origins have been proposed for paneer.
Vedic literature refers to a substance that is interpreted by some authors, such as Sanjeev Kapoor, as a form of paneer. According to Arthur Berriedale Keith, a kind of cheese is "perhaps referred to" in Rigveda 6.48.18. However, Otto Schrader believes that the Rigveda only mentions "a skin of sour milk, not cheese in the proper sense". K. T. Achaya mentions that acidulation of milk was a taboo in the ancient Indo-Aryan culture, pointing out that the legends about Krishna make several references to milk, butter, ghee and dahi (yogurt), but do not mention sour milk cheese.
Based on texts such as Charaka Samhita, BN Mathur wrote that the earliest evidence of a heat-acid coagulated milk product in India can be traced to 75-300 CE, in the Kushan-Satavahana era. Sunil Kumar et al. interpret this product as the present-day paneer. According to them, paneer is indigenous to north-western part of South Asia, and was introduced in India by Afghan and Iranian travelers. For the making of what is today called chhana, the Manasollasa recommends the addition of a sour substance (even sour curds from a previous operation) to boiled milk, after which the precipitate was separated, the cheese then mixed with rice flour and shaped into various balls, and then deep fried to make sweets. National Dairy Research Institute states that paneer was introduced into India by Afghan and Iranian invaders.
According to another theory, the Portuguese may have introduced the technique of "breaking" milk with acid to Bengal in the 17th century. Thus, Indian acid-set cheeses such as paneer and chhena were first prepared in Bengal, under Portuguese influence.
|Nutritional value per 100 g|
|Energy||1,108.76 kJ (265.00 kcal)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: What is the nutritional value of paneer? - Doctor NDTV
Paneer is prepared by adding food acid, such as lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or dahi (yogurt), to hot milk to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are drained in muslin or cheesecloth and the excess water is pressed out. The resulting paneer is dipped in chilled water for 2–3 hours to improve its texture and appearance. Incidentally, the same procedure is used to obtain the Italian cheese, Ricotta. The only difference in making ricotta, is the addition of heavy cream to the curdling process. From this point, the preparation of paneer diverges based on its use and regional tradition.
In North Indian cuisines, the curds are wrapped in cloth, placed under a heavy weight such as a stone slab for two to three hours, and then cut into cubes for use in curries. Pressing for a shorter time (approximately 20 minutes) results in a softer, fluffier cheese.
In Bengali and other east Indian cuisines, the chhena are beaten or kneaded by hand into a dough-like consistency, heavily salted and hardened to produce paneer (called ponir), which is typically eaten in slices at teatime with biscuits or various types of bread, deep-fried in a light batter or used in cooking.
Use in dishes
Paneer is the most common type of cheese used in traditional cuisines from the Indian subcontinent. It is sometimes wrapped in dough and deep-fried or served with either spinach (palak paneer) or peas (mattar paneer).
The well-known rasgulla features plain chhana beaten by hand and shaped into balls which are boiled in syrup. The sana / chhana / chhena used in such cases is manufactured by a slightly different procedure from paneer; it is drained but not pressed, so that some moisture is retained, which makes for a soft, malleable consistency. It may, however, be pressed slightly into small cubes and curried to form a dalna in Maithili, Oriya and Bengali cuisines.
Some paneer recipes include
- Paneer pulao (paneer with rice)
- Mattar paneer (paneer with peas)
- Shahi paneer (paneer cooked in a rich Mughlai curry)
- Paneer tikka (a vegetarian version of chicken tikka, paneer placed on skewers and roasted)
- Paneer tikka masala
- Chili paneer (a Indo-Chinese preparation with spicy chilies, onions and green peppers, usually served dry and garnished with spring onions)
- Paneer pakora (paneer fritters)
- Palak paneer
- Ras malai
- Khoya paneer
- Paneer momo
Most international fast food restaurants in India offer paneer-based food. McDonald's India serves the McSpicy Paneer and Paneer Wrap. Taco Bell India serves a paneer and potato burrito. Little Caesars, Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's have pizzas with paneer toppings.
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Anari, a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus, is very similar in taste and texture to fresh Indian paneer. Circassian cheese is produced using a similar method and is close in consistency to paneer, but is usually salted. Farmer cheese (pressed cottage cheese) and firm versions of quark are similar except that they are made from cultured milk and may be salted. Although many Indians translate "paneer" into "cottage cheese", cottage cheese may be made using rennet extracted from the stomach of ruminants and such varieties when pressed into farmer cheese are firmer than paneer. Queso blanco or queso fresco are often recommended as substitutes in the Americas and Spain as they are more commercially available in many American markets. Queso blanco can be a closer match, as it is acid-set while queso fresco frequently uses rennet at a lower temperature. Both are generally salted, unlike paneer. It is also similar to unsalted halloumi.
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panir and peynir, the Persian and Turkish words for 'cheese' (...)
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People during the Kusana and Saka Satavahana periods (AD75–300) used to consume a solid mass, whose description seems to the earliest reference to the present day paneer
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