Punjab, “Land of five rivers,” with its distinctive five rivers coursing through it, irrigating the lush fields, is one of the pioneer states in food production, feeding the Indian populations as well as outsiders. Its rich farming background provides an abundance of fresh farm produces which combined with the age-old practice of cooking results in one of the best cuisine. It’s the home to the well known and most ordered Paneer Tikka, Aloo Paratha with Dahi, Lassi and delightful array of vegan delicacies making it a veritable VEGETERAIN HEAVEN!!!
So, vegetarians here’s the deal; you promise to read, I will promise you the best top 25 vegan dishes from the realm of Punjab!
1. Sarsoo ka Saag aur Makki ki Roti
This simple dish is the heart and soul of Punjab, its pride! A perfect marriage between the winter greens; spinach, mustard greens and bathua, desi ghee and other masalas forms the legendary Sarsoo ka Saag. It is served with the Maki ki Roti that is the flat bread of makki ka atta or maize flour, kneaded, flattened and cooked with desi ghee. It’s a perfect bite, the melt in the mouth saag complimenting the coarse roti, a perfect condiment. If you are craving for a healthy meal with home touch, then you must go on order this wholesome meal!
2. Chole Bhature
Chole, beautifully cooked chickpeas with spicy gravy, scooped in the puffy leaf of special Punjabi Bhature, hot out of the frying oil, is a sensation, blast of flavors in your mouth. You take a bite; I bet you will go back for more!
3. Aloo Paratha or simple Paratha
When we say paratha, we say Punjab! The most loved of parathas is Aloo paratha. The flat bread stuffed with seasoned smashed potatoes, cooked in desi ghee and served hot with butter and dahi is a terrific comfort go-to meal. The stuffing can range from onions to almost all the vegies including paneer, so choose your choice of stuffing, and sit down comfortably and savor every bite! I bet you won’t regret ordering it!
4 Paneer Tikka
How can we not talk about Paneer when we talk about Punjab and vegetarian foods? The freshly made cottage cheese is a rich source of protein and the favorite of the Punjabi household. The cooking technique for this Paneer Tikka is Tandoor oven, an earthen hearth cooking the best of naans, roti, meat, and vegetables, flavoring it with smoke.
The Paneer along with other vegies are marinated in a mix of spices in yoghurt based marinate for sometimes. The fun begins when the paneer and vegies go onto the skewer and into the tandoor oven. The tantalizing smell wafting from the hot Paneer Tikka out of the oven onto your plate and the smoky flavor in your mouth upon the first bite is a bewitching promise that you will but want more and keep on wanting some more.
5. Paneer Tikka Masala
Want gravy to go with your favorite Paneer Tikka? That’s possible too. Rich gravy made by pure tomatoes, onions cooked with other spices and curd, exquisitely compliments the smoky Paneer Tikka. It is served with tandoori roti, naan, rice or pulao. The explosion of flavors in your mouth, tingling your taste buds upon a bite is the magical Paneer Tikka Masala.
6. Paneer Makhani or Paneer Butter Masala or Butter Paneer
There is no harm in having a little bit of butter with everything for Punjabis; in fact, it enriches the taste. Paneer cubes cooked in gravy of tomatoes, onions, cashews and other dry spices with cream in butter or makhan, rich and delicious, finds its place on the menu on each and every occasion accompanied by any roti, naan or rice. The moment you sink your teeth into the soft paneer swirling in buttery gravy, you will be star struck, like, how can something be so delicious?
7. Kadai Paneer
Now that’s quite a lot of Paneer based dishes, right? That’s not the end of the list. There are lot more to come and almost all of them brings it at the top of the chart of the most loved food in Punjab and around the world, because its’s one of the god’s own food and guess what, everybody loves it! The distinct thing about thing about this dish is the use of Kadai masala, roasted and crushed spices cooked in with the tomatoes, bell peppers and paneer cubes. The roasted spices make this dish to stand out from the rest, the soft paneer cubes coated with spices in perfect harmony with the crunchy bell pepper. The never-ending variety of flavor bombs in your mouth would urge your hands to take another bite and then another. You have got to try this dish if you truly want a healthy vegan diet!
8. Palak Paneer
Are you concerned about your weight and feel guilty while ordering the specials on the menu? Well, this dish will give you the liberty to eat your fills and still not compromise with your health and weight. The spinach blanched and pureed is added to the fried spices and a cube of paneer served with any roti or naan is one of the yummiest dishes you can ever find in Punjab. So, go green, go healthy, go Palak Paneer!
9 Shahi Paneer
Who told nuts couldn’t be used in curries? So, this Shahi Paneer, one of the most ordered dishes as it doesn’t have tomatoes unlike other dishes and for the nutty flavors of almond and cashew. Paneer cubes cooked in gravy of onion, and nuts and other whole spices as well as dry spices, is a creamy gravy, engulfing the seamlessly beautiful paneer cubes. The nutty flavor and creamy texture makes the curry melt in your mouth and it is served with any flatbread or rice. So, get your hands on it if you are looking for the best paneer experience!
10. Paneer Lababdar
Another paneer dish! Paneer cubes and grated paneer is cooked in the gravy of tomatoes and cashew with other spices and finished up with a dollop of cream served with any flat bread or rice. The smooth texture, great flavors, subtle creamy colors and the grated paneer chunks in the gravy complimenting the paneer cubes if a delightful bite filled with Punjabi hospitality.
11. Rajma Chawal
Too much of paneer had our head busting, filled with doubts which one to choose, right? So here’s the comfort food, made and served with love. The thick Rajma spread over steamed rice is the most welcoming sight when you are all hungry and craving for home cooked food. The creamy rajma with impress even the greatest of chefs, warming your soul along with your body. So, want some love, hug a bowl of Rajma Chawal, it won’t be same, but I bet it won’t be same too.
12. Baingan Bharta
Who wouldn’t love roasted vegies? I bet almost everyone. So, if you are a vegetarian and you love your vegies roasted then its time you hit the jackpot by ordering this filling bharta, roasted, mashed and cooked egg plants or baingan with spices. The grainy seed, the creamy flesh coated with all the spices scooped up in the pocket of roti or naan is just like Spanish say, perfecto!
13. Punjabi Kadhi Pakora
The pakora, sizzled in the hot oil, cooked in the curd based gravy infused with other dry spices and specifically dried red chili. The creamy yogurt based gravy and the spiced up yummy pakora are best served with steamed rice or flat bread. It’s a festival of flavors in the first bite, and it never ceases till you are done with your share. So, hungry, grab kadhi rice!
14. Dal Makhani
As its rich agricultural background gives it a large array of pulses along with grains, so it’s one of the most loved dals of Punjab served with rice or any flat breads. A mixture of rajma and urad dal cooked thoroughly with dry spices and butter, that’s where its name comes from. The buttery dal jammed with head boggling spices is enough to hike up your taste buds and keep you going back for more!
15. Dal Fry
Now that we are talking about dal let’s talk about them well. So, this dal has its uniqueness. The soaked mixtures of different dals are cooked in the fried spices to give it a vivid taste of being fried, now isn’t that wonderful, a fried dal. It is best served with rice or flat bread. The un-dal-like dal, with the smoothest texture, will make you forget all other dals but it!
16. Dal Tadka
Cooked similarly like dal fry but here we have another technique which staggeringly changes the taste of the dal. The dal gets a tempering at the end of the cooking process, a tadka of mustard seed, cumin and other spices with dried red chili poured over it. The final touch enables this dal to tease every taste bud in your mouth and call it playing tricks with your brain, but you won’t look at dal the same way after you have this dal. It’s the best dal experience!!!
17. Veg Handi Diwani
A simple dish of steamed vegetables cooked in the gravy of tomato, onions, cashew nuts and poppy seeds with crushed roasted dry spices finished with cream. This vegetable in a creamy gravy is best served with rice or flat bread. The subtlety of the vegetables and the robustness of the spices intertwine perfectly to form the lovely dish which is bound to get thumbs up from you too. So, craving for healthy vegies, go for Veg Handi Diwani!
18. Vegetable Makhani
Punjabi people know how to eat healthily, so, no need to fret about health when you eat Punjabi dish. So, for this dish, the steamed vegetables are cooked in tomato gravy with butter and other spices. This butter rich, healthy veg in gravy is best served with rice or flat bread. The utterly buttery gravy will bath you with warmth and fill you up heartily.
19. Aloo Gobi
Potatoes and cauliflowers have never tasted better than the Punjabi Aloo Gobi. The slow fried chunks of aloo and gobi is a go-to sabzi that can go with any flat pieces of bread suitably. The soft potatoes and wilted cauliflower covered with masalas are a soul food, filling and comforting. So, want some soul warming, get Aloo Gobi!
20. Garlic Naan
Another of many of Punjab’s flat bread making it to the top of the menu in Punjabi restaurants. It is fluffy bread made out of milk and flour with garlic paste and cooked on tawa or tandoor oven. It’s a perfect condiment for any gravy based sabzi for it soaks it up, and its flakey texture with garlicky flavor makes you savor every bite of it and guess what, it’s worth it!
In the south, we have coconut water, and in Punjab we have Lassi! The curd blended till smooth with sugar and flavored with cardamom is the best refreshment. As the thick lassi swirl around your mouth with thick froth on your upper lips, you can feel it working its magic, numbing your senses and suddenly heightening them again, giving you a euphoric feeling. So, up for the best experience in Punjab, grab a glass of lassi!
22. Mango Lassi
The mango pulp is blended with cardamom seed, yoghurt, sweetener and milk for smoothness. The soft, smooth, blend that comes out of the blender is an oasis in the desert, the best combination of fruit and yoghurt!
23. Gajar ki Halwa
It is best served during winters. The beautiful combination of carrots, sugar, milk or khoya and dry fruits, is the epitome of warmth in the bleak cold of Punjab winter. It warms you up from inside; you will fill your blood vessels dilated and color rush onto your cheeks upon the very few bites of this halwa. So, feeling cold or suffering from cold, grab Gajar ki Halwa!
24. Shakkar Para
It is fried dough, coated in sugar is an indulgent Punjabi treat. It’s not overtly sweet like other sweets yet can curve your cravings for something sweet. So, want something sweet to munch on, get some Sakkar Para!
It’s a sweet treat made with flour, desi ghee and dried fruits like cashew, almonds, and jiggery. It’s the warmth provider due to its high sugar and fat content so an easy guess, it’s made during winters. So, are you a sweet tooth, why don’t you grab some Pinni!
So, Punjabi cuisine is the fresh from the farm to plate culture, all rustic and with the multitude of flavors, offering great varieties. It’s a destination for every food lovers so, grab your back pack, your camcorder, your purse and start exploring!