Punjabi cuisine is associated with food from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. This cuisine has a rich tradition of many distinct and local ways of cooking. One is a special form of tandoori cooking that is now famous in other parts of India, UK, Canada, and in many parts of the world.
The local cuisine of Punjab is heavily influenced by the agriculture and farming lifestyle prevalent from the times of the ancient Harappan Civilization. Locally grown staple foods form the major part of the local cuisine. Distinctively Punjabi cuisine is known for its rich, buttery flavours along with the extensive vegetarian and meat dishes. Main dishes include Sarson da saag and makki di roti.
Basmati rice is the indigenous variety of Punjab and many varieties of rice dishes have been developed with this variety. The cooked rice is known as Chol in the Punjabi language. Many vegetable and meat based dishes are developed for this type of rice.
Style of cookingEdit
There are many styles of cooking in Punjab. In the villages many people still employ the traditional infrastructure for cooking purposes. This includes wood-fired and masonry ovens. In the past many people employed wood-burning stoves. But this method is dying out. One derivation from this type of cooking is the tandoori style of cooking commonly known as tandoor. In India, tandoori cooking is traditionally associated with Punjab as Punjabis embraced the tandoor on a regional level. This style of cooking became popular in the mainstream after the 1947 partition when Punjabis resettled in places such as Delhi. In rural Punjab, it is common to have communal tandoors, which are also called Kath tadoors in Punjabi.
Punjab is a major producer of wheat, rice and dairy products. These products also form the staple diet of the Punjabi people. The state of Punjab has one of the highest capita usage of dairy products in India. Therefore, dairy products form an important component of Punjabi diet.
Some north Punjab villages have also developed a local cheese variant known as dhaag, but the tradition of making dhaag is dying out.
Food additives and condimentsEdit
Food additives and condiments are usually added to enhance the flavor of the food. The most common additives is vinegar . Food coloring as additive is used in sweet dishes and desserts. For example, in a sweet rice dish, a color known as zarda is added. Starch is used as a bulking agent. The typical condiments include black pepper, coriander, cumin and dried maithi leaves. South Asian cuisine has typical condiment mixes as well known as chutneys.
Breakfast recipes with respect to different regions within Punjab varies. Common ones are Chana masala, Chole, Paratha/Aloo Paratha, Halwa poori, Bhatoora, Falooda, Makhni doodh, Amritsari Lassi, Masala chai, Tea, Amritsari Kulchas, Phainis, Dahi vada, Dahi, Khoa, Paya, Aloo Paratha.
In upper Punjab Pakistan the Lahori Katlama is famous for the breakfast as well.
Many dishes of meat variety is available and some of them are named below.
- Biryani: lamb and chicken
- Kebab: braised minced lamb meat, commonly served with naan.
- Keema : Braised minced lamb meat, commonly served with naan.
- Lamb : including Rogan Josh, Bhuna Gosht, Kadhai Gosht, Raan Gosht, Dal Gosht, Saag Gosht, Nihari, Rara Gosht, Paye da Shorba
- Shami Kebab, Chicken karahi, Amritsari Tandoori Chicken, Punjabi Karhi (The Chicken yogurt curry of Punjab), Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Paye.
- Kunna Goshtmeat prepared in Kunna (mitti ka bartan (clay utensil)).
Since Punjab is the land of five rivers, freshwater fish is an important part in its cuisine. However, fishes of sea water are not consumed since Punjab is not in the close proximity with the sea. Carp, rohu and catfish are the most commonly prepared fish. Other fish types include thela machi and tilapia. Recently shrimp has been introduced. Fish tikka is an Amritsari speciality.
- Amritsari Dal makhani (lentils with cream and butter); rajma (red kidney bean) and rice; rongi (Black-eyed peas); choley (eaten with naan or kulcha); aloo (eaten with puri).
- Khichdi: In the Punjab, khichdi is made of millet floor, mung beans and moth lentils. However, khichdi made of rice and lentils is also consumed.
- Paneer Recipes like Shahi Paneer; Khoya Paneer, Paneer Kofta, Amritsari Paneer, Matar Paneer, paneer paratha  etc...
- Panjiri: This is a traditional Punjabi dish which has a generous amount of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, dry dates, cashew nuts along with whole wheat flour, sugar, edible gum (khanewala gondh), poppy seeds and fennel seeds (saunf) to make the traditional dish of ‘panjri’ or also known as ‘dabra’.
- Pulse, bean and lentil; Saag; Baingan bharta.
- Punj Ratani Dal: A mixture of 5 lentils.
- Punjabi Kadhi Pakora (traditional curry with pakoras) and rice. Kadhi is a type of curry made by cooking garamflour with curd or buttermilk. Fried lumps (pakoras) of gramflour with salt and chillies are also added.
- Punjabi Lassi paneer: In the Punjab, it is traditional to prepare lassi and then extract the paneer which would then be consumed by adding water, salt and chili. Lassi paneer can also be added to potatoes and spices to make a curry which resembles scrambled eggs. Lassi paneer cannot be cut into cubes as paneer from milk can be.
- Sarson da saag (a dish prepared from green mustard leaves) and with makki di roti, a bread made by corn flour; Arvi ( Colocasia esculenta roots are prepared with spices and curry); Mushroom and bean sabzi
- Toasted grains: In the Punjab, toasting corn and wheat grains on the Punjabi bhathi is a traditional delicacy. The toasted seeds are also traditionally mixed with jaggery.
- Pakoras which are eaten with green chutney also called Pudina Chutney
- Sattu: ground barley grains mixed with salt and turmeric rolled into balls. Millet and corn grains are also used.
Tarka is a fried garnish of spices and aromatic substances used to add to the taste of the dal. Mostly fried onions, zeera, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, hari mirchain, hara pudina and garlic are the most commonly used products in tarka.
Sweets and dessertsEdit
Punjabis eat a variety of Breads. Flatbreads and raised breads are eaten on a daily basis. Raised breads are known as khamiri roti. Sunflower and flax seeds are also added in some breads occasionally. The breads may be made of different types of flour and can be made in various ways:
- Baked in the tandoor like naan, tandoori roti, kulcha, or lachha paratha
- Dry baked on the tava (Indian griddle) like phulka or chapati, jowar ki roti, baajre ki roti and makki ki roti (these are also smeared with white butter)
- Shallow fried like paratha, keema (minced meat) paratha, aloo (potato) paratha, mooli paratha (radish paratha), paneer paratha, palak paratha (spinach paratha), aloo paneer paratha, etc...
- Deep fried like puri and bhatoora (a fermented dough)
- Salt-rising bread: Salt rising bread is a unique bread found only in the Salt Range region of Punjab, Pakistan. Since rock salt is readily available in salt range so many people in the past made use of salt instead of yeast to leaven the bread.
Herbs and spicesEdit
Indian subcontinent based spices are used in Punjabi cuisine which are grounded in the Mortar and Ghotna or the food processor. Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is widely used in Punjabi cuisine.
Punjab has a diverse range of beverages. Some are dairy based such as lassi and butter milk. Water buffalo's milk based products are especially famous around Punjab. Mango lassi, Mango Milkshake, Chaas etc. Others are juices derived from vegetables and fruits. Water Melon shake, carrot juice, tamarind juice ( Imli ka paani) are famous among fruit juices. Shikanjvi and neembu paani drinks are specifically famous in hot summer season. Jal-jeera is also common as well.
Sattu is a traditional North Indian drink which is also traditionally consumed in the Punjab. Sattu is made by roasting barley grains and then ground into powder, mixed with salt and turmeric and water.
The local regional drinks in Punjab also includes Doodh soda ( Milk Soda) and bantay (local soda drink) in Pakistan.
Canning, bottling and smokingEdit
Canning and bottling for preservation purpose is a common practice in houses. It increase the longevity of the food products for many months. Also in the old infrastructure smoke houses are a common occurrence that are used for smoking the meat products that increase the shelf life of the meat and also add taste in it as well. Smoked meat is known as Bhaapi gosht as well.
In Punjabi cuisine both traditional and modern methods are employed for cooking. The traditional stoves and ovens used to cook Punjabi food include:
- Pressure cookers are also used
- Punjabi bhathi (a form of masonry oven)
- Tandoor (to cook tandoori chicken, naan)
- Tawa (used for making roti)
Chulla and Punjabi bhattiEdit
The traditional name of the stove in the Punjabi language is chulla.
Whereas masonry ovens are known as bhattis. Outdoor cooking and grilling have many different types of bhattis. Traditional houses also have ovens (wadda chulla or band chulla) that are made from bricks, stones, and in many cases clay. Older communities in Punjab also used earth ovens (khadda chulla), but this tradition is dying out now.
Etiquette of Punjabi diningEdit
Etiquette of eating is considered a major part of the cuisine. Every Punjabi household follows certain regional etiquette. The word etiquette has many local names depending on the particular region of Punjab. Though certain etiquette varies regionally, there are many etiquette practices that are common throughout Punjab. Communal dining is a norm in Punjabi families.
Bringing and sending fresh fruits, sweets and food items as gifts to family members is a common practice in Punjab, particularly during the spring season. Food items are distributed among neighbors as well on special occasions and as a sign to show hospitality. Mango is considered a delicacy and produced widely in Punjab, and mango parties are common during the fruit's harvest season. Watermelon and spiced mooli (white radish) at food stalls are shared among friends and relatives.
Major features of etiquetteEdit
Invitation to dineEdit
- Invitation to a meal or tea is generally distributed few days beforehand.
- Denying the invitation for no major reason is considered a breach of etiquette.
- The invited guest or elder person is given special respect and attention.
- Usually the invited guest is requested to start the meal. It is considered rude if the host starts eating without taking into account the attendance of all guests.
- Table setting is done before the arrival of the guests.
- Family members or any occupants within one home make sure to eat together during the dinner.
- If any other person is present in the vicinity then they are offered meals as a way of giving respect. It is considered rude to start eating food without asking others to participate in a meal. It is customary to offer food to anyone in your vicinity before eating.
- Chewing food with one's mouth open and burping in front of others is considered rude.
- In the villages of Punjab Pakistan, an additional common plate is usually placed on the table for any bones left from the consumption of chicken or beef. Placing left overs on the floor or on the table floor is considered bad etiquette.
- Usually a roti with curry is eaten with the hands. But for the rice, soup and sweet dishes cutlery is employed.
Eating utensil etiquetteEdit
- Punjabi families use a hybrid style of South Asia and European utensil etiquette most of the times. Rice and desserts are eaten with spoons. Forks and knives are usually employed as well. But the bread is usually eaten with the hands. Soup spoons are used for consuming soup.
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