The many facets of ‘Punjabi’ cuisine. “In this day and age where we have begun to learn and appreciate Regional food rather than food defined by political boundaries, here’s my small bit of gyaan to add to your food appreciation pages..

The “Punjab” as we know it today has had many facets attached to it, not just in terms of geography, but cuisine as well.

Punjab itself is divided into several “Punjabs” -the Royal Punjab,the most historic seat of royalty being Lahore, then there is the farmer’s Punjab, agrarian community being pretty influential. Talking about Royal Punjab,during some part of the Mughal era & Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time,the food had European influences, since his generals & some sections of the Barracks were European.Later all the smaller (as compared to Maharaja Ranjit Singh) Royalties – Nabha,Patiala,Kapurthala, etc,carried the same European infatuation in their lifestyles & kitchens. A true royal Punjabi cookbook would be incomplete without these dishes. Then we have the traders’ Punjab, Lahore & Amritsar being major trade cities. Followed by Khatri Punjab, the Sufi Punjab & of course, Urban Punjab. And there’s the fine line between Sindh & Punjab too.

Old Punjabis will tell you that there’s nothing called Punjabi food beyond Lahore. What we had in Indian Punjab was either the food of minor royalties, that was influenced by the west, the French & the British; or the peasant food. We eventually got a taste of Lahore, Karachi food post Independence, when they came here & adapted that food to our palate. That again cannot be termed Punjabi food! How would you then place Punjab in a bracket and say this is Punjabi food?!For eg, Sarson da saag is peasant Punjabi food. Karahi Paneer is a form of Karahi cooking that’s typical of old Punjab, most of which is now in Pakistan.Amritsar being a major trade centre, traders from all over used to come in and settle down. Plus the pilgrim influx. So between the traders & the pilgrims, the dhabas as the quick vegetarian food source, became famous. The list isn’t comprehensive either, there’s more to discover! Do leave your thoughts on this in the comments too…

Here's the Punjabi Pakoda Kadhi recipe by chef himself.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, Cooking time: 30 minutes, Serves: 4

Ingredients

For Pakodas

2 large Onions, grated

1 inch-Ginger, grated

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

1 tsp Coriander powder

Salt to taste

1 tbsp Coriander seeds, roasted & crushed

1 cup Gram Flour/Besan

½ cup Buttermilk

Oil for deep frying

For Buttermilk Mixture

1/5 cup Sour Buttermilk or 1 cup dahi watered down

1 tbsp Gram Flour/Besan (little heaped)

1 tsp Turmeric powder

Salt to taste

For Kadhi

1 tbsp Ghee

1 tbsp Oil

1 tsp Cumin seeds

1 inch-Ginger, roughly chopped

4-5 Garlic Cloves, roughly chopped

2 Dry Red Chillies

1 tbsp Coriander seeds, roasted & crushed

2 large Onions, grated

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

1 tsp Coriander powder

2 large Tomatoes, roughly chopped

Salt to taste

Finely chopped coriander leaves for garnishing

Process

For Pakodas

• In a mixing bowl, add onions, ginger, turmeric powder, salt, red chilli powder, coriander powder, coriander seeds, besan and buttermilk, make a thick batter.

• Heat oil in a kadhai for deep frying.

• Make random small bite size balls and fry the pakodas till 70% done.

• Fry them for the second time till golden brown and crisp.

• Remove in an absorbent kitchen towel and Keep aside for further use.

For Kadhi

• In a mixing bowl, add buttermilk, besan, turmeric and salt, whisk well to avoid lumps. Keep aside for further use.

• In a heavy bottom pan, heat ghee and oil.

• Splutter cumin seeds, followed with ginger and garlic, cook till raw smell goes off.

• Add red chilli and coriander seeds, cook for a minute. Now Add onions, cook till translucent.

• Add red chilli powder and coriander powder, mix well and cook for a minute.

• Add tomatoes and salt, mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

• Add prepared buttermilk and besan mixture to this stage. Whisk well to avoid curdles.

• Cook the kadhi for 5-7 minutes on low flame. Do not thickens kadhi. It’s consistency should be thin.

• In a serving bowl transfer kadhi and then add the prepared pakodas.

• Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Note: Double Frying the Pakodas, makes them crisp and cooks through