Last updated on January 17th, 2024 at 10:39 am
I’m sure you all must have heard about Indian cuisine and its flavorful delicacies. In reality, 90% of the Indian food that is popular all across the world traces its steps back to the Punjabi rasoi (Punjabi kitchen).
Punjab is a prosperous state in India. Moreover, a large part of the Punjab region also lies across the Indian border, into Pakistan. Now, whether Indian or Pakistani, Punjabi foods are famous for their impressive variety and traditional recipes. But more importantly, they are also famous for their tongue-twisting names on tongues that are not accustomed to speaking the Punjabi language.
In this blog post, we are going to list some of the most popular, delicious Punjabi food items and what they are made of, along with how they are pronounced. So, let’s get started, but do keep some napkins handy to keep yourself from drooling! (wink wink)
The Most Popular Punjabi Foods
In all honesty, chicken tikka (ਚਿਕਨ ਟਿੱਕਾ) and butter chicken (ਬਟਰ ਚਿਕਨ) are the two most popular Punjabi foods that are known across the globe. Would you believe if I tell you that chicken tikka masala (ਚਿਕਨ ਟਿੱਕਾ ਮਸਾਲਾ) – a gravy dish originated in a Punjabi kitchen – is the national dish of the United Kingdoms? Crazy, right! But that’s the power of the mouth-watering flavors of the Punjabi cuisine. Let’s take a look at some other popular Punjabi foods too.
1. Tandoori Chicken
Tandoori chicken (ਤੰਦੂਰੀ ਚਿਕਨ) is a Punjabi staple, which is also known as tandoori murgh (ਤੰਦੂਰੀ ਮੁਰਗ). The chicken (kukaṛa or ਕੁੱਕੜ) meat is mixed in yogurt seasoned with tandoori masala, nutmeg, and cumin seeds before being skewered and grilled. Traditionally, this Punjabi food is cooked at high temperatures in tandoors (clay ovens) to give the dish a smoky flavor.
2. Butter Chicken
Butter chicken in India is a favorite Indian meal that combines marinated chicken, spices, tomatoes, and cream. Classic butter chicken has delicious creamy gravy thanks to dollops of butter or makhaṇa (ਮੱਖਣ) used to cook the gravy. The juicy chicken is served with basmati rice or naan (ਨਾਨ).
3. Sarson Ka Saag
Sarson ka saag (ਸਰਸੋਂ ਦਾ ਸਾਗ) is a winter special, hearty vegetarian Punjabi specialty. It is one of the most famous Punjabi foods. This traditional and popular vegetarian dish is made of saag or mustard greens. Punjabis prepare it in dēsī ghi’ō (ਦੇਸੀ ਘਿਓ) or clarified butter and eat it with makki ki roti or makki di roti (ਮੱਕੀ ਦੀ ਰੋਟੀ) which is a flatbread made of polenta or cornmeal.
This dish is a labor of love, as it requires both time and patience. It is best enjoyed alongside a piece of jaggery (Guṛa or ਗੁੜ) and a big dollop of freshly churned white butter.
4. Paneer Tikka
Paneer tikka (ਪਨੀਰ ਟਿੱਕਾ), sometimes known as “vegetarian chicken,” holds a unique position in Punjabi cuisine. When it comes to vegetarian appetizers, this soft cottage cheese (paneer or ਪਨੀਰ) delicacy is the first that comes to mind.
Soft cubes of cottage cheese are marinated in a gram flour-yogurt mix, which is seasoned with spices, and then chargrilled on open flames to give them a smoky flavor. Paneer tikka is a part-finger food across the whole of north India. Generally speaking, Punjabi food fits quite well into the vegetarian diet.
5. Rajma Chawal
Rajma Chawal (ਰਾਜਮਾ ਚਾਵਲ) is a must-eat Sunday lunch in every Punjabi as well as north Indian household. This humble homemade dish is a source of nostalgia for many. Even though it originates in Kashmir, it is a favorite among Indian Punjabis. Rajma (ਰਾਜਮਾ) is kidney beans and chawal or chaul (ਚੌਲ) means rice. This meal is usually served with a side of pickled onions.
6. Amritsari Fish
All fish lovers tend to enjoy this delicious fish delicacy called Amritsari fish or Amritasarī machī (ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਸਰੀ ਮੱਛੀ) from Punjabi cuisine. You can call them fish-fritters. Beautiful pieces of fish, deep-fried to golden perfection and coated in a spiced batter. The fish is then garnished with lemon juice and a coating of garam masala for additional zing.
Amritsar is one of the most popular cities of Punjab and this dish traces its roots to this city.
7. Dal Makhani
This rich mixture of black lentils and red kidney beans is a delightful buttery Punjabi lentil meal. It is one of the most popular traditional Punjabi foods that has a place reserved in EVERY Indian restaurant across the world. Daal makhni (ਦਾਲ ਮੱਖਣੀ) is also a labor of love as kidney beans and black lentils are slow-cooked in butter along with onion, tomato, and tons of aromatic spices.
And true to its name (makhani or buttery is used as an adjective in the name where daal means lentil), this delicious dish is served in a thick gravy with platefuls of cream to make it richer. It is a buttery food, fit for a royal court.
8. Chana Masala
Chana masala (ਚਨਾ ਮਸਾਲਾ) is a traditional North Indian style curry, which is also known as chhole masala (ਛੋਲੇ ਮਸਾਲਾ). It is cooked with white chickpeas, freshly powdered spices, onions, tomatoes, and herbs.
To enhance the taste of this Punjabi chickpea curry, it is prepared in desi ghee using a different ghee recipe. Thus, this spicy chickpea curry could be a favorite dish of traditional Punjabi food lovers at an unexpected dinner party.
Another delicious dinner-worthy dish is egg curry. It is one of Punjabis’s favorite go-to egg dishes.
9. Chicken Tikka
Chicken tikka (ਚਿਕਨ ਟਿੱਕਾ) is a flavorful and colorful Indian chicken dish that is both traditional and popular. Chicken is marinated in a ginger-garlic paste with some dry spices. After that, the ground meat is grilled hot and served to eat.
Fun fact: Chicken tikka has become so famous, you can go to any European city and find a restaurant that serves this dish.
10. Punjabi Kadhi Pakode
Punjabi Kadhi Pakode (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਕੜੀ ਪਕੌੜੇ) confirms the awesomeness of Punjab’s everyday food. Besan pakoras (ਬੇਸਨ ਪਕੌੜਾ) or gram flour fritters are deep-fried in mustard oil or ghee before being added to kadhi – a slurry made of gram flour and buttermilk. Gram flour (besan) and onions are used to make pakoras for the kadhi, and this meal is completed when presented alongside fluffy, steamed rice.
11. Punjabi Dhaba Style Chicken Curry
Chicken curry cooked in different spices is the perfect Punjabi recipe for meat lovers. Boneless chicken pieces mixed with ginger garlic paste, green chilies, and tomatoes make for the best dish. People often add red chili powder to the juicy chicken pieces to make the food spicy.
This chicken curry is served with tandoori roti (ਤੰਦੂਰੀ ਰੋਟੀ) across Punjabi dhabas. Dhabas (ਢਾਬਾ) are roadside eating joints peppered along the national highways across India and Pakistan and work as pit stops for truck drivers and travelers. In Punjabi households, tawa roti (ਤਵਾ ਰੋਟੀ) or chapati cooked on an iron gridle is the preferable side dish.
12. Mango Lassi
Mango lassi (ਅੰਬ ਦੀ ਲੱਸੀ) is a delicious Indian drink made with mangoes, curd, milk, and sugar. When Indian mangoes are in season, mango lassi reaches a divine flavor. But, it is in popular demand across seasons. Punjabi mango lassi keeps the body cool throughout the hot summer months.
In fact, it is a perfect accompaniment to a person trying hot and spicy Indian food, particularly Punjabi food, for the first time. It helps you keep your stomach cool and steady against the spice overload that you might feel. Its equally popular cousin is the regular lassi, which is made of curd, water, and sugar and decorated with chopped nuts and rose petals.
13. Chhole Bhature
Chhole bhature (ਚੋਲੇ ਭਟੂਰੇ) are to Punjabi food what burgers are to American food. Spicy chickpea curry or chhole are served with fluffy, deep-fried bhature (a kind of bread). Chhole bhature are the ultimate street-food in Delhi, the national capital of India, as the city has a strong Punjabi influence.
Piping hot chhole bhature washed down by a tall glass of chilled lassi is what heaven looks like. Of course, you are going into a comatose slumber right afterward, no doubt!
Panjiri (ਪੰਜੀਰੀ) is the most traditional Punjabi sweet dish among all Punjabi sweet dishes. This is one of the most eaten Punjabi foods across Punjabi diasporas. Panjiri is prepared with butter, sugar, cardamom, and almonds roasted in wheat flour. It is the ideal winter treat to keep you warm. However, if you’re on a diet, this might be one that you want to avoid.
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Updated by Punya