A few weeks back, the wife was craving a Banh Mi. I do make a pretty decent Vegetarian version (recipe here) which tastes even better with a homemade pickle (recipe here) but being the constant tinkerer of recipes that I am, I refused to just go ahead and make the Tofu Banh Mi that my wife had asked for (and she had asked very nicely) and decided to use Paneer instead of Tofu as my protein.
A few searches on the net did not yield much by way of ideas, so I thought of just making Paneer Tikkas and using them instead of Tofu. Paneer Tikkas done right, for those of you who haven’t had them, are vegetarian’s answer to BBQ heaven. The best I have ever had were at the Bukhara restaurant in Delhi but I was fortunate enough to find a great recipe for them in J Inder Singh Kalra’s seminal book “Prashad” (Side note – this is a must-have book for lovers of Indian food, especially those that like dead animals. There is not a bad recipe in the book.). How did they turn out? The Paneer Tikkas were great. Did they work in a Banh Mi? Not so much. I think I’m going back to the Tofu for now.
Here is the slightly modified J Inder Singh Kalra recipe for Paneer Tikkas. It works really well but I wouldn’t try and get cute with the Tikkas again by using them to make sandwiches.
INGREDIENTS (for 4)
1 3/4 lbs Paneer (recipe here)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp Ajwain (Caraway) seeds
2 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Black Pepper powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 tsp Kasoori Methi (Fenugreek)
For the batter:
3 Tbsp Gramflour (Besan)
1/2 Cup Cream
- Cut the Paneer in chunks of about 2″X2″X1″. Evenly sprinkle cumin, ajwain, 1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala, Pepper, Turmeric and Salt.
- Whisk egg in a bowl and mix in other ingredients of the batter into it.
- Put Paneer into this batter and let it marinade for about 45 minutes.
- In the meantime – fire up a grill (or use an oven at about 350F)
- Skewer the Paneer about an inch apart – you can put some raw onion to separate the Paneer – and grill (or bake) for about 10 minutes (14-16 minutes in an oven) or so – you’ll see the Paneer starting to bubble and blacken. TIP: Raise the skewer by placing the two ends on two fireproof blocks of some sort – bricks or tile perhaps. It will ensure the Paneer doesn’t stick to the grate after it is done.
- Sprinkle the remaining Garam Masala and KAsoori Methi and enjoy with some Green Chutney.