Have you ever really disliked something – almost held a grudge against it, and then been proven completely and miserably wrong? Have you ever had your assumptions and pre-held beliefs proven as a misconception? It takes a very good cook to make you fall in love with something you’ve always disliked, but with this sweet and sour ‘chilli’ paneer, I was proven to be very, very wrong about paneer.
Let me tell you all something. I’ve never really been a fan of paneer. My Mother never cooked it, and on the few occasions I ate it somewhere outside, it was always flavourless, rubbery and just generally off-putting. When it was on the menu of my Waleema, I wasn’t too excited. However, on the day, I heard compliments about how tasty the paneer was, so I decided to put a few cubes on my plate to try. My word, I thought. This is one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten!
I kid you not, I must have had three entire naans with that chilli paneer. Did I even care I was the bride? Nope. Did I care that I must have called the waiter to bring me more chilli paneer about 5 times? Nope. Did I even care that my husband ate way less than me? Oh not at all! I didn’t try the chicken tikka or the chops – I don’t even remember what else was on the menu. All I literally remember about my Waleema is the lip-smackingly delicious chilli paneer.
Me and my Mother would continue to rave about the chilli paneer weeks after my Waleema. Remember the chilli paneer we had at Panna’s? Amazing. We need to go there again. Maybe we can celebrate my first anniversary there? Do you think we can get them to home deliver to us? Chillipaneerchillipaneerchillipaneer!
During October, 3 months after my wedding, my husband went to Pakistan for 2 weeks and I stayed at my Mother’s home during that time. It was whilst we were having another chilli paneer rave that I decided I was going to try my hand at a recipe. I consulted one of my chachis who suggested some of the spices that must have been in it, and I then set off to the kitchen. And – my luck! The first batch only needed ever so minor tweaks and the second batch was almost replica of the chilli paner I had been dreaming about! To date, that must have been the least amount of time I spent in the kitchen trying to mimic another recipe! I don’t think I can get a closer copy of the chilli paneer at Panna’s without asking the chef! Can you imagine the sheer happiness I must have felt?
I must have then made 3 batches of the stuff over the next 48 hours then continued to make it for weeks whenever I could get my hands on some paneer.
Before I hand over the recipe to you, let me give you some background information on this dish. This dish is known as an ‘Indo-Chinese’ dish, meaning it’s a fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisine. The sauce for this recipe can be used for a variety of dishes, including prawns, chicken, noodles, various vegetables etc – it’s an amazingly versatile sauce! The real name for this dish is ‘Chilli Paneer’, but what strikes me is that chilli isn’t the predominant flavour of this dish; it’s the typical Chinese ‘sweet and sour’ taste that really comes through! The chilli can of course be adjusted to your taste, however I prefer to let the heat take a backseat in this recipe and let the flavours from the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar do most of the work!
Now that I’ve raved about the chilli paneer (as usual), here is the recipe! This goes best with fresh naan or on it’s own to eat with a fork. It’s intended to be a side dish, but for me it will always be the star of the show.
Enjoy, with love x