With the increasing interest and appetites of people for a variety of cuisine from different parts of the world, it is quintessential to have a know-how of some of the world's tastes and flavors. Have you heard of Punjabi cuisine or Punjabi food? Do you want to explore India, especially Indian Punjab through its cuisine and ingredients? Are you interested in some palatable foods to enjoy the aroma, earthy flavors, and unique tastes? You should read this article as it talks about the ingredients which add to the flavors and tastes of Punjabi food.
Not knowing Punjabi and being a chef in Punjab is nothing less than a tragedy. I was in Punjab trying to find my way through several ingredients while cooking with little to no info about the food ingredients.
I put oregano instead of cumin in a dish because I was in a hurry and did not know the right word for cumin in Punjabi and could not check what the shopkeeper gave me. I Learned my lesson so here I am with another useful blog post for you!
With the globalization of the economy, the globalization of the palate has also occurred.
In this hyper-technological world, the ancient culture of farming and cultivation is still being followed in Punjab.
The people are immensely inspired by the agricultural system prevalent since ancient times thus the food is very unique and something you cannot taste anywhere in the world. Punjabi food has a quality, richness, and freshness.
Punjabi cuisine is one of the most widely known in the world and its fame is increasing day by day. It adds to the brilliance and prodigiousness of Punjab province. Working in Punjab demands you know about these.
The Indian land, especially that of Punjab is ideal for cultivation. Punjab is termed the “bread basket” of India. Most of the crops have been cultivated indigenously and thus the cuisine consists mostly of the grains and vegetables produced by the land.
The two cultivated principal crops are wheat and rice. The other crops include great millet, pearl millet, barley, vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, and others as well the fruits. The traditions of cattle farming have been given prime importance since ancient times thus it is also a major source of dairy products like curd, butter, paneer, ghee, etc. Most of the food source comes from locally grown crops and dairy products.
Punjabi cuisine is very distinct not only in its tastes and flavors but also in its preparation. Indian food is loved and admired internationally and Punjabi cuisine has played a major role in promoting this love for food elements outside India. Food from Punjab can be summarised as robust and earthy while being exotic and rich.
The two most important features of food from Punjab are in its distinct taste and aroma. Punjabi food is especially lauded on important Punjabi dates and special occasions.
Punjabi food is made in a traditional clay oven known as tandoors. The tandoors are heated up with wood fire and the cuisine is prepared either directly in the ire or on the heat from coal. The smoke of wood and the tandoori give a unique flavor to the delicacies.
Simplicity is the key to Punjabi food as Punjabis do not like exotic frills and accompaniments. Tavas and bhattis are also traditional ovens used for cooking. A whole lot of spices are used to add flavors and heat to the food as Punjabi food is very spicy. The most common are chilies, salt, and garam masala.
As the list of cuisine from Punjab is very long the ingredients used are also wide in range. Food ingredients are called ਭੋਜਨ ਸਮੱਗਰੀ (Bhōjana samagarī) in Punjabi. Some of the common classifications of these ingredients consist of spices, condiments, dairy products, bread, grains and pulses, and fruits and vegetables. Let's learn all about these!
Layering herbs and spices are one of the best features of Punjabi food. Spices are used both in whole and grounded form to add to the flavors and give heat to the taste. Some of the essential spices are as follows.
Cumin seeds are tiny seeds brown in color and used both in vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. These are usually termed zeera. Some bread also relies on these small seeds for flavor. These give a bittersweet aroma to the food and are found in two types generally referred to as sufaid zeera and kala jeera.
There are two types of cardamom: bari ilaichi (black cardamom) and choti ilaichi (green cardamom). Black cardamom is commonly used in savory dishes while greens are usually used for desserts as these add to the sweeter aroma and flavor.
Garam masala is a mixture of dried spices and is extensively used in Punjabi cuisine. The ingredients include cumin, black cardamom, bay leaves, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, etc. It is a blend of spices that gives a tempting aroma and taste to the desi food.
Turmeric comes from Curcuma longa and is an essential part of most of the curry dishes in Indian Punjab. It not only gives an orange-yellow color to the dish but is an antioxidant and gives anti-inflammatory effects. It is used in the grated and grounded form.
The seeds of the cilantro plant commonly known as dhania are used widely in Punjabi food. The plant with green leaves is used for tarnishing while the seeds as spices give a nutty and earthy taste to the cuisine.
Mustard seeds are usually available in yellow, black, and brown colors. Slight roasting in ghee brings out the flavor of these seeds. Sarson or rai (mustard seeds) is the seed of Sarson ka saag.
Fresh curry leaves are also a mainstay of Punjabi cooking. Curry leaves are used in fresh and dried form, have a pleasantly bitter taste, and are a staple ingredient in many desi food items, especially soups and stews.
Tamarind is a souring agent which makes itself an essential part of cuisine ranging from curries, and stews to soups, sauces, drinks, and a spicy-sweet dessert to make on birthdays etc.
Chat masala is generally used as a seasoning for various snacks and street foods in Punjab rather than the whole of India. It is a tangy spice consisting of amchoor, black pepper, black salt, ginger, ajwain, and some other spices to give a spicy and sour taste to the snacks.
Carom seeds known as ajwain in Punjab are a part of the spice. It is used in vegetable dishes and various kinds of bread like naan, kulcha, and parathas.
Fennel seeds, known as saunf, are used both in powdered and whole form. It is considered a good digestive agent used in cuisine, especially for tarka to dishes like Tandoori chicken, and is also consumed as a digestive agent.
Fenugreek is used as a favorite adding ingredient in Punjabi dishes. It is a key ingredient used to give an exotic taste and pleasant smell to the dishes.
Indian bay leaves generally called tej data are leaf-shaped spices derived from a cassia tree. It is also used to wrap dumplings in Punjab and some other parts of India.
Asafetida generally known as hing, is derived from a plant (ferula plant). It is fried or slightly roasted in ghee to add flavor and gives an onion-like aroma to the dishes.
Dried chiles especially red dried chilies are quintessential in Punjabi cuisine as it adds to the warmth and heat of the food. These are used in whole, crushed, and grounded forms. These give a pungent taste and peculiar color to the food.
Star anise also known as chakra phool is part of garam masala. It is a star-shaped seed pod mostly used in savory cuisine like biryani.
Condiments, known as ਮਸਾਲੇ (Masālē), are also prime in Punjabi food. These are used both as an ingredient or as side dishes. Chutneys, raita, and pickles are the most common condiments of Punjab.
Chutneys feature a range and variety of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Podina chutney, alloo bukhara chutney, imli chutney, and tamater chutney are the most commonly known types of chutneys along with many others.
Pickles made with carrots, mango, limes, olives, lemon, etc are also a prime condiment of Punjab. Mango pickle is the most favored condiment and it is used as a complementary element of Punjabi cuisine.
Raita is mostly used as a side dish for rice. It is generally made with onion, tomatoes, and cucumber chopped and added to yogurt. Grounded fresh mint and coriander are also added to the raita.
Dairy products are known as ਦੁੱਧ ਵਾਲੇ ਪਦਾਰਥ (Dudha vālē padāratha). No Indian Punjabi food can be made possible without ghee (desi ghee) as the very first ingredient you need for any dish is ghee.
Ghee is used for tempering spices. Spices are sauteed in ghee or oil to give an aromatic, nutty taste and flavor to the cuisine. The alternative to ghee is butter, paneer, and sunflower oil.
Butter is also used in some foods and the dishes featuring butter are termed makhani like dal makhani (dal made in butter) and murgh makhani (butter chicken). Sunflower and other refined oils are now being used instead by some health-conscious households. Mustard oil is used for fermentation purposes like for making pickles.
Other dairy products include yogurt, paneer, cream, etc. Paneer is a curd cheese that is used in cubes and fried. Just like butter cottage cheese is also a star of many popular and known dishes of Punjab like matar paneer, palak paneer, shahi paneer, etc.
Yogurt is used in dishes like raita lassi not only for flavor but also for acidity. It is also a quintessential element of many street foods and snacks like chana chat, dahi bare, and samosa chat. It has also been added to the chutneys to give them flavor.
A variety of bread has been taken as a staple food by Punjabis. It varies from baked bread to dried baked in tandoori, chapatis made on tavas, and extends to those made by shallow or deep frying. You should know the basic words and phrases about the variety of bread in Punjab since it's extremely diverse in nature.
Roti, naan, paratha, and kulchas are bread baked in a traditional oven called a tandoor. Bread like chapati (made with white flour), makai roti (made with makai), bajre ki roti (made with bajra), and jowar ki roti (made with jowar) are made on pans called tavas.
Parathas, especially stuffed parathas like those of savage, alloo (mashed potatoes), palak, and paneer, are shallow fried with poori and bhatura deep-fried.
Naan is a predominant part of Indian Punjab where people make bread in a tandoor. In cities, you find it outdoor while in rural areas women make it at home with all-purpose flour, yogurt, and yeast. Roghni naan is consumed in breakfast and ghee is also added to it.
Roti is an unleavened flatbread made on tavas, the traditional griddles, it is also termed chappati. It is usually made with gram flour, chickpea flour, or wheat flour.
Parathas are essential to different Punjabi breakfast recipes.
If you visit Indian Punjab you will be amazed by the stunning beauty of their fields dotted with wheat fields, rice paddies, and paddocks of pulses.
Thus it is no wonder that Punjabi food consists mostly of grains and pulses including Jowar (sorghum), bajre (pearl millet), gandum (wheat), makki (maize), and chaawal (rice).
Wheat, maize, millet, and sorghum are used to make different varieties of bread while rice is cooked in different styles and used in several ways. Steamed rice, jeera rice, tarka rice, pulao, and biryani are the most known rice dishes.
Pulses are also thoroughly enjoyed and loved in Indian Punjab. The ones commonly cultivated include cholay (chick pea), dal mah (urud dal), moath, dal chana (split small chickpeas), rajma (red kidney beans), rongi (black-eyed beans), arhar ( pigeon beans), and dal moong ( yellow lentil). Pulses are a good source of proteins and are consumed either boiled or cooked.
Like various crops, the Indian Punjab is also a big producer of fruits and vegetables. Fruits are consumed after meals to satisfy the craving for sweets.
Some of the most commonly produced fruits that the Punjabi people consume in their everyday life are phalsa (phalse fruit), baer (jujube), malta (orange), saib (apple), aam (mango), tabooz (water-melon), and lime. Fruit chaat is a very common snack in north India. Mango pickle and mango lassi are also loved by the masses.
North Indian cuisine consists of vegetables such as onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, and green chilies.
Cauliflower, green peas, mustard greens, brinjal, carrots, radish, spinach, cabbage, capsicum, lady finger, bitter gourd, onions, and turnips mushroom are few of the vegetables produced in northern India. Punjabi dishes like sarson ka saag, alloo gobi, palak paneer, gajar ka halwa rule over the hearts of many.
People of Punjab are very fond of vegetables therefore the Punjabi kitchen offers a whole lot of vegetarian Punjabi recipes. They prefer a healthy diet, thus vegetables, especially leafy vegetables, contribute the highest to their cuisine.
Most of these dishes are taken with roti like Sarson ka saag (served with Makki ki roti), aloo gobi, aloo matter, baingan bharta, etc. Dishes made from pulses include chickpea curry and chana masala. A vegetarian Korma called Navratan Korma is loved by vegetarian Punjabis as it is made with nine different vegetables, paneer, and nuts.
Non-vegetarian dishes from a Punjabi household consist of meat from goats, and lambs. They also consume eggs, fish, and chicken to a greater extent. Beef is forbidden in their religion. Common meat dishes include mutton curry, tandoori chicken, chicken curry, kebabs, and fish tikka. Dishes containing eggs include egg curry, egg bhaji, etc.
Punjab is rich in tasty and vibrant dishes and cuisine like it is in traditions and language. They prefer simple foods but the variety is quite extensive. The Punjabi style of food offers an exotic and palatable range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine varying in spices and other ingredients based on the preferences for the specific recipe.
The Punjabi thali offers you every type of ingredient, with main and side dishes including condiments, spices, bread, desserts, and drinks. Lassi, roti, sarson ka saag, makki ki roti, bhature, tandoori chicken, and a whole list of such cuisines are the best that can be found in northern Punjab.
Such exotic and tasty food items from northern India have garnered fame from all over the world and thus the cuisine is liked and enjoyed around the globe from India to the UK. Cheers!!!
That's it for this blog post. After learning all this, feel confident in asking for the Punjabi ingredients.
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