When we think of Bangali cuisine it’s impossible not to imagine rich Kosha Mangsho or a flavourful Maccher Jhol but there’s also a whole world of vegetarian fare that doesn’t always get its due credit. The sub-section of Bengali cuisine that’s cooked without eggs, meat or fish is known as Niramish and a great number of dishes in this category use paneer as a substitute.

Chanar is made a lot like paneer but since it's a typical home-cooking ingredient, it's usually made fresh and is very soft. It’s a beloved part of Bengali dishes and dishes like this are often served around Durga Puja during the days of Shashti and Ashtami as a hearty vegetarian celebration dish.

Also Read: The Coming Of Age Of Modern Bengali Food

It’s a little more time-consuming than the average paneer curry, but the fresh Chanar and the extra step of frying it off with the potatoes lends the dish more depth and give the ingredients a nice crust. Try this recipe for yourself to indulge in one of Bengal’s timeless dishes. 

Ingredients:

For Making Chanar:

  • 1.5-litre Full Cream Milk
  • 3 Tbsp. Lemon Juice or Vinegar (I prefer to use Lemon Juice for curdling the milk)

For making Chanar Dalna:

  • 350 gm Chana 
  • 4 Potato
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1.5 Tbsp. Ginger Paste
  • ½ Tsp. Cumin Seed
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Dried Red Chillies
  • ½ Tsp. Cumin Powder
  • ½ Tsp. Turmeric Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Red Chilli Powder
  • ½ Tsp. Bengali Garam Masala Powder
  • 1 Tsp.Sugar
  • 1 Tsp. Salt or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp. Refined Vegetable Oil for cooking + 100 ml(to fry Chana)
  • ½ Tbsp. Ghee
  • 1 cup Coconut Milk (Optional)

Method:

Chanar

  • Start boiling the milk until it begins to bubble and then lower the flame.
  • Add lemon juice to the milk and gently stir.
  • Within a minute, the milk will begin to curdle, it will gather into clumps and then separate.
  • Turn off the heat and cover with a lid for 5-10 minutes.
  • Strain the excess water from the curdled milk and then transfer the curds to a muslin cloth.
  • Place it flat and put a weight on top to squeeze out the excess water. 
  • Leave it to set for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the cheese from the cloth and cut it into pieces.

Chanar Dalna

  • Cut the potatoes into medium-sized cubes and chop tomatoes roughly.
  • Make a paste of Ginger and add Cumin powder to that paste and mix thoroughly.
  • Mix both Turmeric Powder and Red Chilli Powder with a little water to make a paste.
  • In a pan with oil, fry the potatoes until golden brown. 
  • Toss in the chanar cubes and fry until they are browned on all sides before straining off the oil.
  • Temper the bay leaves, dried red chilli and cumin seeds for 30 seconds in hot oil before adding in the tomatoes. Cook until slightly softened (2-3 minutes).
  • Add the Ginger-Cumin Powder Paste and Turmeric-Red Chilli Powder Paste to the Pan and mix properly with a ladle and cook for around 2 minutes.
  • Add sugar and salt to the mixture and water as well and cook till oil separates from the mixture.
  • Now add 3 Cups of Water and coconut milk (optional) and also the fried Potatoes and Fried Chana to the Mixture and mix properly.
  • Cook in Medium flame for 10 minutes while covering the pan with a lid.
  • Add Bengali Garam Masala Powder and Ghee to the Gravy and mix properly.
  • Switch the flame off and give the Curry a rest of 5-7 minutes before serving.