The lively culture and legacy of the northern Indian state of Punjab can be seen in its cuisine, which is known for its robust flavours and generous quantities. Punjabi food is based on the liberal use of spices and sauces. Punjabi food uses a wide variety of ingredients to create its unique qualities. Among the most common ingredients in Punjabi food are wheat, rice, lentils and pulses, paneer, tomatoes, onions, and garlic, as well as spices, ghee and butter, yogurt, and fresh herbs.
The carefully chosen spice combinations, which range from the earthy warmth of cumin and coriander to the acidic burn of red chili powder, give the food depth and individuality. The addition of turmeric provides the food a vibrant color, while the flavor and aroma are added by garam masala, a blend of various spices.
Punjab, in the northwest of India, is known for its rich cultural tapestry and bountiful harvests. Punjab, sometimes known as the “Land of Five Rivers,” is home to an abundance of farm produce that has greatly influenced regional cuisine. The state’s agricultural past is reflected in contemporary cooking styles that value using seasonal, locally grown produce.
Butter chicken, also known as murgh makhani, is a staple of Punjabi cuisine and a symbol of the decadence and rich flavours for which the region is known. Tender chicken breasts are braised in a gravy made from a tomato base and enhanced with butter and cream. Flavours of acidity and creaminess are married in a dish that features a combination of spices, tomatoes, and dairy ingredients. Butter chicken is a popular dish from Punjab that showcases the region’s culinary prowess when paired with naan or rice.
Punjabis have a penchant for robust flavours, and chole bhature, a popular street meal and comfort food, exemplifies this. Chole is a dish made of chickpeas that are cooked in a spicy stew and served with bhature, a type of deep-fried bread. Pickles, onions, and yoghurt are common accompaniments, bringing a harmony of textures and flavours to the dish. Chole bhature is more than just a dish; it’s a representation of the state’s passion for rich, filling food.
Mustard greens (sarson da saag) and cornmeal flatbread (makke di roti) are staples of Punjabi cuisine. Butter is a common accompaniment to this classic dish, which is meant to commemorate the winter harvest. When combined with the earthy flavour of makke di roti, the robustness of sarson da saag—enhanced with spices and, sometimes, spinach—creates a full and nourishing dinner.
Dodha barfi is a delicacy that perfectly exemplifies the decadent and opulent nature of Punjabi sweets. Dodha barfi is a rich and fudgy sweet made by boiling milk until it caramelises and then flavouring it with almonds and cardamom. This dish is a testament to the generations-old culinary expertise that went into making it.
Rice pudding, or phirni, is a popular treat in Punjab. Phirni is created from crushed rice and milk. Creamy and fragrant, phirni is flavoured with saffron and cardamom and topped with chopped nuts. This dessert is a representation of Punjab’s fondness for dairy-based treats and is served cooled in clay pots.
The rich and silky dal makhani is a staple of Punjabi cooking. Slow-cooked in butter, cream, and a variety of fragrant spices, this dish combines black lentils (urad dal) with kidney beans. The resulting dal is typically served with naan or rice and is rich and flavorful. Time and patience are required to make dal makhani, which is indicative of the traditional approach that characterises Punjabi cuisine.
Lassi, a refreshing drink made from yoghurt, is widely consumed in Punjab to beat the heat. Both salty lassi, seasoned with spices like cumin, and sweet lassi, flavoured with cardamom or rosewater, are common preparations. Punjabi food is known for its bold flavours, and this traditional drink is a great way to cool down and replenish after eating.
One of the most iconic Punjabi desserts is pinni, which is created with toasted flour, ghee, almonds, and jaggery. The mixture is formed into bite-sized rounds, and they have a deep caramelised sweetness and a pleasant combination of textures. Pinni has deep cultural roots and is frequently used in festive contexts.
Amritsari fish, a culinary treasure from the city of Amritsar, exemplifies the range of flavours to be found in the Indian state of Punjab. Spices and gramme flour are used to coat the fish before it is deep-fried to a golden crisp. The fish used is typically a white river fish like Singhara. The final product has a delicious crust and juicy fish inside. Amritsari fish is a common snack and street meal that is typically served as an appetiser with mint chutney.