The cuisine of Punjab has an enormous variety of mouth-watering vegetarian dishes. The spice content ranges from
minimal to pleasant to high. Punjabi food is usually relished
by people of all communities. In Punjab, home cooking differs from the restaurant cooking style. At the restaurants, the chefs make a liberal use of desi ghee, butter and cream to make the food lip smacking and finger licking. On the other hand, at home, people prefer using sunflower oil or some other refined oil for cooking, with the basic idea of making the food low in fat content.
Wheat is the staple food of Punjabis; however, they do enjoy eating rice on festivities and other special occasions. When it comes to food, each region in Punjab has an entirely different preference like people in Amritsar are particularly fond of stuffed paranthas and milk products. The philosophy of life for most of the Punjabis is to eat, drink and make merry.
They are real lively people who are extremely fond of eating good food. In the preparation of Punjabi food, onion, ginger and garlic are used extensively to enhance the taste of the food. Traditional Punjabi thali consists of varied kinds of breads; some are baked in the tandoor such as tandoori roti, lachha paratha, naan and kulcha, while others are dry baked on tava like chapatti and jowar ki roti. There is another fabulous variety of roti called rumali roti, which is larger in size as compared to the normal one and is also easily absorbable. Also, there are breads that are shallow fried such as parantha and deep fried such as puri and bhatoora.
There is a large variety of Punjabi foods. I have selected few foods that can exclusively identified with Punjab region. Foods prepared in Punjabi homes, differ from those available at the restaurant for two basic reasons:
1) Availability of Tandoor, and
2) Versatility at home to take advantage of large numbers of seasonal vegetables.
Popular Combination Platters
1. Makki Roti, and Sarson Saag (Flat corn bread, and Mustard greens)
2. Pindi Cholay, and Bhature (Curried Garbanzo beans, and deep fried leavened bread)
3. Rajmah, and Jeera Chawal (Red kidney beans, and Cumin Rice)
4. Pakora Kadhi, and Jeera Chawal (Chickpea flour dumplings in yogurt chickpea flour curry, and Cumin Rice)
5. Aloo Paratha, and Dahi (Griddle fried potato stuffed wheat bread, and yogurt)
6. Mooli Paratha, and Dahi (Griddle fried radish stuffed wheat bread, and yogurt)
Mooli is a white radish in the shape of a carrot. Causes bad
7. Poori, and Aloo Gobhi (Deep fried wheat bread, and potato and cauliflower curry)
8. Tandoori Roti, and Makhni Dal (Clay oven baked wheat bread, and buttery black bean soup)
9. Kulcha, and Chikkar Cholay (Baked leavened bread, and Curried Garbanzo beans)
Makki Di Roti
Tandoor arrived in India from Afghanistan during the time of Delhi Sultanate. During Moghul empire Tandoor becomes a standard fixture in the royal kitchen. Finally, during Shahjahan period, it comes out of ground and becomes portable. Over 90% of Punjabi never had a Kitchen equipped with Tandoor.
There is a Tandoor in every community. Woman prepare bread dough at home and take it to the community Tandoor, where the bread is baked for a fee. The community-Tandoor is also used to roast eggplants to make Bharta. After partition, every new neighborhood development in Delhi had a community center with a Tandoor and hold social events such as wedding receptions.
After 1947, one of the most lucrative occupation for the Punjabi refugees was to drive trucks, buses, taxis, and scooters. Small restaurants opened up near major truck/bus stop, taxi station, and petrol station (Gas station). These restaurants were called Dhaba and served home-style Punjabi meals to the drivers, as well as some of the Punjabi refugee settlers. The menu consisted of a Salad plate (sliced onions and tomatoes, fresh green chilies, wedge of lime), Tandoori Roti, Tandoori Pratha, Dal (Mah, Makhani), Vegetable curry (Aloo Rasedar, Aloo Gobhi, Aloo Wadi, Mattar Paneer).
The decor was simple, A small manji (cot) was used as a seat. A small narrow wooden bench was used along-side as a table for food. The drivers sat on the manji, listened to popular film music on the radio, ate home-style meals, and drank Desi-daru (country liquor also called Tharra).
With passage of time, interior was upgraded with tables and chairs. Dhaba became integral part highway system serving home-style Punjabi food to traveling public as well as the drivers. Many Dhaba foods (specially Makhni Dal) have become part of standard Punjabi cuisine. Visiting Desi consider it 'cool' to eat at a Dhaba.
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