The state of Punjab in Northern India relies heavily on farming, and this shows in the abundance of fresh vegetables and dairy products used in Punjabi cuisine. Here's an overview of the cooking style and traditional dishes associated with Punjabi cuisine:
Punjabi dishes feature lots of yogurt, milk, and clarified butter, so sauces tend to be thick and creamy, but not overly spicy. There's no shortage of vegetarian foods, thanks to the abundance of fresh vegetables, but pulses, lamb and chicken are also popular. Flatbreads such as paratha and roti are usually served with main meals and pickled vegetables are a common accompaniment. The region is known for its use of the tandoor oven, which is a clay oven fired with charcoal or wood that's used to cook foods such as bread and chicken at high temperatures. Common spices include the following:
- Cumin - With a warm, slightly smoky aroma, this spice is often used to season curries and breads.
- Garam Masala - This spice mix contains pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin and is used as a base for many Punjabi curries.
- Cardamom - These spicy-sweet seeds are used in both sweet and savoury dishes and have a flavour not unlike ginger.
Traditional Punjabi dishes include:
- Dal Amritsari - This lentil dish is hearty and full of fresh flavours. The lentils are seasoned with garam masala and cooked with tomatoes, coriander and onions. Just before the dish is served, cream is added to create a thick dal that's perfect for scooping up with warm flatbread.
- Tandoori Chicken - The chicken in this dish is exceptionally tender thanks to it being marinated in yogurt and cayenne pepper for several hours before being cooked in the tandoor. It's often served on skewers and eaten alongside naan bread and crunchy salad.
- Murgh Makhani - This creamy chicken curry uses yogurt, ginger, garlic, chilli powder, and cumin to create a mildly spicy dish that's usually served with a garnish of fresh coriander. It is perfect for those who prefer curries with lots of sauce over dry varieties.
- Kulfi - This is a popular dessert that has a taste similar to ice cream, but it's denser and is prepared by cooking flavoured milk for several hours over a low heat until it evaporates and thickens. The milk is then cooled and frozen until required. Popular flavours include mango, pistachio, cardamom, and rose.
Punjabi cuisine is a real treat for your taste buds, so keep an eye out for traditional dishes at local Indian restaurants like Royal India Restaurant or ask your server to recommend a Punjabi dish for you to try.