I have talked a lot about Indo Chinese cuisine. I am pretty passionate and emotional about this specific category of Indian food. Hot, spicy, tangy or a combination of all makes it the most wanted, lip smacking kind of food and I crave some more as I write.
My Asian friends snigger at the sound of Indo-Chinese. Since there is not much of “Chinese” to it other than the soy sauce, and the quick stir fry style of cooking, it might sound like a mockery to the Chinese cuisine. But it is not meant to be that way. Go ahead and read about the evolution of Indo-Chinese in a previous post I did. India has absorbed and amalgamated flavors and food with every foreign footsteps that left marks in the country. And the migration of the Chinese and their cuisine cannot be undermined. We have selectively picked the ingredients and flavors to pair them up with the Indian meat and vegetables.
There are a lot of Indo Chinese recipes with the “Chilli” prefix – Chili Chicken, Chilli Prawn, Chilli Gobi, & Chilli Paneer. The technique is the same in all; briefly marinate, and coat the main ingredient, be it be the chicken, or the prawn or the paneer and stir fry with hot green chili peppers in a spicy and tangy soy based sauce.
Chilli Paneer is one of the more popular dishes in this particular cuisine, since it is a vegetarian version and appeals to all. If you want to do a vegan “Chilli Paneer”, firm Tofu is undoubtedly the thing to use. This recipes works the best as an appetizer, but is know to be thoroughly enjoyed as a side too, especially with Chinese (Indo) Fried Rice, or Singapore Fried Rice, noodles or even parathas.
A hunk of the flavor of this dish comes from the fresh hot chili peppers So do not skip these. If you cannot bear the heat/spice, remove the seeds and the membrane. Some recipes use capsicum/green bell pepper too. But for me this is an optional ingredient. If I have it, I will use it, but will not make a trip to the store if it is missing.
The soy sauce available in India is usually denser and darker than those we get off the shelves of the supermarkets here or even the ones available in Asian markets in US. The flavor of the Indian made soy sauce is slightly different and deeper. I have used the Indian soy sauce here (which I get from India, not Indian grocery stores here) and hence have this deeper/darker shade of paneer. If you use the regular soy sauce (use the dark one) and even after that do not panic if the color is not so dark.
The Chili Paneer or for that matter any Indian Chinese recipes, usually uses the Green Chili Sauce. I have not used it here. I usually use Sriracha. If you do not have Sriracha, use something similar with Asian flavors. Try to avoid the other hot sauces (like Tabasco) as they have strong vinegar content and the spices are different than the Asian ones and will change the taste.
- 14oz – 16oz paneer, (homemade or store bought) cubed
for marination and coating:
- a dash of salt
- 1 teaspoon tamari sauce/or dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 2 small fresh green chili pepper
- 1.5 teaspoons vinegar
- 2 tablespoon corn starch
For the Sauce:
- 2 tablespoon oil + 2 tablespoon oil pure sesame oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 medium onions, sliced into half moons or diced
- 8-10 fresh green hot chili pepper, sliced (remove seed and membrane if you want less hot)
- 1 green bell pepper/capsicum, (or poblano pepper), seeds removed and sliced into strips
- 3 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons Sriracha, or Indian Chinese Green Chilli Sauce or any Asian flavored hot sauce (or adjust to taste and tolerance)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1.5 tablespoon tamari or dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon corn starch/flour + 1/2 cup water
- 8-10 stalks of spring/green onion
Make a paste with the chili pepper, ginger and garlic. Combine the rest of the ingredients for the marinade with the paste and coat the paneer cubes with this paste. Let it sit for about an half an hour.
Separate the green and the white parts of the green onion and slice the white and the green parts.
Add the vinegar in the bowl of marinated paneer and toss well with a spoon. Toss the 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bowl and with a spoon gently stir them around so that the corn starch coats the paneer pieces. Set if aside for about 15 minutes.
Combine ketchup/tomato paste, sriracha/hot sauce, soy sauce/tamari, sugar, salt, white pepper powder, vinegar in a bowl and whisk to a smooth consistency.
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a skillet big enough to hold the paneer cubes in a single layer; (if the skillet is small, fry them in batches). Place the paneer cubes in a single layer and fry each side for a couple of minutes till each side is golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
Heat the sesame oil in a thick bottomed flat skillet or wok. Add the minced ginger and garlic. After a minute, add the sliced green hot peppers. Cook for a minute and add the green onion and sliced half moon onions. Cook at high heat for a couple of minutes, just until the onions wilt. Add the sliced bell peppers/poblano. Add the fried paneer cubes. Toss every thing together gently and cook for about 2 minutes at high heat.
Add the combined sauce mix to the pan and stir it in. Cook at high heat, until the paneer and the onions are well coated with the sauce.
Combine the corn starch and water and whisk well. Add this to the pan and cook until the sauce thickens just so to coat the contents in the pan, for about 2 minutes. There should be no runny sauce left here. (however if you want this as a side, you might want to add some extra water and simmer for a while to have some sauce to spoon).
Switch off the heat. Add the sliced green onions and toss.
Serve as a side dish or appetizer.