The Cuisine of Punjab
Punjabi people are robust people with robust appetites and their food is like the Punjabis themselves, simple, sizeable and hearty with no unnecessary frills or exotic accompaniments. The Punjabi tandoori cooking is celebrated as one of the most popular cuisines throughout the world. Huge earthen ovens are half buried in the ground and heated with a coal fire lit below it. Marinated meat, chicken, fish, paneer, rotis and naans of many types are cooked in this novel oven and the results are absolutely scrumptious!
Punjab has imbibed some aspects of its cuisine from external influences. Connoisseurs of the cuisine say that the gravy component of Punjabi cuisine came from the Mughals. The most popular example is the murg makhani. It served the state well to combine this influence in its cooking since it had a lot of pure ghee and butter. Murg makhani also provided a balance to tandoori chicken, which was dry because it was charcoal cooked. Nans and parathas, rotis made of maize flour are typical Punjabi breads. Of course, over the years the roti has been modified to add more variety, so there is the rumali roti, the naan and the laccha parathas, all cooked in the tandoor.
Winter, in Punjab, brings in the season of the famous makki ki roti(maize flour bread) and sarson ka saag(mustard leaf gravy). No meal is complete without a serving of lassi( sweet or salted drink made with curd) or fresh curd and white butter which is consumed in large quantities. The other popular dishes, which belong exclusively to Punjab, are ma ki dal, rajma (kidney beans) and stuffed parathas.
In a vastly diverse country like India, every region has something typical to offer whether it is in clothes or in food or in its music, dance and art.
Punjab, the land of milk and honey, boasts of a robust climate where the agricultural revolution has reaped rich dividends. The land of plenty has a cuisine, which caters to the characteristic needs of the people.
Punjabi cuisine is not subtle in its flavor. There are no intricate marinades or exotic sauces but it has full-bodied masalas (spices) cooked with liberal amount of desi ghee (clarified butter) always served with a liberal helping of butter or cream. Milk and its products are an essential part of every day cookery, curd and buttermilk are also an essential concomitant with every Punjabi meal.
A predominantly wheat eating people, the Punjabis cook rice only on special occasions. It’s never eaten plain or steamed, for steamed rice implies that somebody is sick. Rice is eaten always with a Bagar (flavoring) of cumin or fried onions with Rajma or Kadhi, Rajma with rice or rice with Kadhi is eaten or holidays or on festive days. In winter rice is cooked with Gur or with peas called matarwale chawal or as a delicacy called Rao Ki Kheer which is rice cooked on very slow fire for hours together with sugar cane juice.
In Punjab itself, there are differences in flavors and style. For example, people around Amritsar prefer well-fried stuffed paraunthas and milk sweets. The people of Doaba region eat more of them; in the Malwa region Bajra (ground maize) khitchadi (kedgeree) is a delicacy. There are a course certain dishes, which are part and parcel of Punjab, and their very mention conjures up the rich flavor of the state. Mah ki Dal, Sarson Ka Saag and Makkee Ki Roti, meat curry like Roghan Josh and stuffed paraunthas can be found in no other state except Punjab. The food is suitable for these who burn up a lot of calories while working in the fields and tilling their small acres. For the urban folk, however, eating even one dish is enough because life in the cities is so sedentary. The main masala in a Punjabi dish consists of onion, garlic, ginger and a lot of tomatoes fried in pure ghee
An average day’s meal would generally comprise :
Stuffed Alloo Mattar (potatoes and peas) Paraunthas and a glass of butter milk.
Sarson Ka Saag and Makki Ki Roti with onion Chutney.
Mah Ki Dal, Bhunna Gosht, Tandoori Roti and Dahi Raita.