Friday, March 27, 2015

Paneer Chilli Garlic Kebab

I don't tend to write about my father whom we affectionately call Pappa a lot around here. Apart from the fact that we grew up in a household where women solely managed and ran the kitchen, my father and I coherently had opposite views and values when it came to food. He, being a man of  small appetite, consciously calculating what and how much he eats, reluctant to try new flavours,  in general incurious about food. Whereas I, from the time I remember love food and was a good eater even as a toddler (which apparently my wee one didn't inherit). The first thing my Ammi told me when I got married and moved away was 'I miss cooking for you'.  

To be fair, some things do excite him. Fresh caught fish which he would scale and clean himself. Freshly caught wild rabbit that he would slaughter, skin and cut. Free range hen from his friend's farm and mangoes that he would pluck himself from my maternal grandma's farm trees. Considering our lives in Kuwait didn't allow wild rabbit or any of those things often, he was left with only his usual dal roti request for meals. Occasionally he would request mutton curry simply stewed with spices, tomatoes and onions for 3-4 hours. That was his guilty pleasure, red meat in moderation he often told us.

Of the many things he doesn't like (creamy curries, noodles, pastas and sandwiches) Indo-Chinese is high up there. And that, if you are Indian family can be catastrophic. Indo-Chinese, much like American-Chinese is a bastardised version of Chinese food, where the only common is use of soy sauce and high heat stir fry method.  Sweet, salty, garlicky, laced in oil and umami flavours of soy, Indians can get teary eyes talking about their love for hakka noodles, crispy chili dripping chicken, velvety brownish grey sauces coated manchurians 'curries', dramatically red hued szechwan 'chutney', fried rice, the list is endless. Each state has a slightly different version and has taken different influences from the Chinese. But my favourite is the use of curry leaves and mustard seeds down south in the Kerala-Chinese cuisine. But that's for another day - I have a family recipe from my mother in law which is to die for. 
If someone says it honestly enough though, Indo-Chinese is completely dependant on bottled sauces  (in fact specific to some Indian brands drowsed with preservatives and stabiliser) that makes up the base for these dishes. Soy sauce, chilli sauces, ketchup, green chilli sauce to name a few. And perhaps, that's where my father's dislike comes from. Mom would make these dishes for us though, not as often as we would like but once every few months and make dal for Pappa. While we slurped our noodles, Pappa sipped on his dal with the same pleasure, not once being tempted by our greasy, sloppy, shiny bowl of deliciousness. Now, that I find myself being most cautious of what I put in my system and particularly my wee one's system, I can't help but be in awe of his willpower and conscientious.

While I can wake up to tell my husband that I dreamt of the crispy dosa stuffed with szechwan chutney we had on our last trip to Mumbai, it is him, the real lover of all things Indo-Chinese. Born and brought up in the Indo-Chinese capital of sorts - Kolkata, he claims his blood is red from all the chilli sauce laden food of college days. Some 230 years ago, it was in Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, where Hakka immigrants from China started to settle, started little eateries and created 'Chinatown' that to date is the only Chinatown in India. While Kolkata's Chinatown might house the 't'authentic' Indo-Chinese, there no lack of red lanterns lined restaurants in most of metro India. 

But if not the dimly lit interiors, with bright neon hoarding, dragon sculptures and paintings oozing out fire at the fine to casual dining restaurants, one is sure to find a stall of chowmein, chili sauce specked thin noodles with julienne capsicum and carrots buzzing with large cues on the narrowest, dingiest of streets. Perhaps, my father missed this wave of Chinese insurgence in our cuisine growing up in a tiny village of Rajasthan (which is a relatively more rooted in its traditional food). 

Now, that my father lives closer, we tend to reconnect about food with small talks about what he ate growing up and the little changes we are making to make our food 'cleaner'. He ate this paneer kebabs  after I told him what was in it. He ate up without a word and my husband ate it with pleasure. It's a win.

Paneer Chilli Garlic Kebab


1/2 kg paneer, cut in 1 inch cubes, here's a link to how to make it at home
1 1/2  tbsp ketchup (preferably all natural without corn syrup)
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp soya sauce
1/4 tsp white pepper powder
2 tsp honey
1 fresh red chilly, whole
1 tbsp vinegar

Salt to taste

Red onion, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes for grilling


Blitz all the ingredients except the panner in a blender until a smooth paste is formed. I like to keep the chilli slightly chunky but it is up to you. Marinate the paneer in the paste for at least 2 hours.

Skewer the paneer alternating with vegetables of choice on wooden skewers and grill them on a grill pan (or barbecue grill or tandoor) for a minute on each side until slightly charred. Brush them with little oil once off the grill and serve hot with lime wedges.



  1. Mmmhh, those dosa stuffed with szechwan chutney sound amazing! I've never had Indo-Chinese food. I'll have to remediate that soon...

    Your paneer kebabs look mouthwatering.



  2. Loved reading the food memories of your papa. And this kebab, is a delight!

    1. Thank you Kiran. My sister called him the other day and told him I wrote about him and that he's finally the part of the family haha :)

  3. I've never tried paneer before.. but it sure looks delicious. I am SO inspired to make these kebabs.

    1. I hope you do! They are so easy to do too.

  4. Have been a lurker here every now and then. More than the recipes or photos (which are really great too), the stories you weave around them are the best !

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. I really appreciate it.

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  6. This recipe was awesome. I made it for a potluck gathering yesterday and it was a huge hit!! Thanks to you….


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