Cheese is one of the most widespread and recent additions to contemporary Indian cuisine. It suits our palates so well, it's hard to believe that we've never come up with our own version of the stuff (other than paneer, of course).
Let’s face it, we Indians have a slight problem with our appetites. We're hooked on our regional fares, so much so that we don't really eat much else, at least not at home. We all have our own ways of dealing with the monotony that follows as a result. You’d be lying if you said that you've never tried adding a foreign ingredient to a regional staple, be it peri-peri seasoning or blocks of Amul cheese. Cheese is one of the most widespread and recent additions to contemporary Indian cuisine. It suits our palates so well, it's hard to believe that we've never come up with our own version of the stuff (other than paneer, of course). Today, vendors sell a variety of Indian foods lined with cheese, from household dishes like the dosa to street food staples like Delhi chaat. While some might scream sacrilege, cheese makes for a great addition to Indian food. Read on to find out how you can pair cheese with your favorite Indian dishes.
There are a plethora of cheeses available on the market today, some more common than others. For the purpose of this article, we’ve included cheeses that are easy to obtain regardless of where you are in the country.
What is ricotta, you ask? Well, to put it simply, ricotta is paneer that hasn't been pressed and is made using vinegar as a coagulant instead of lemon juice. Given that it’s almost identical to paneer, this is probably the easiest cheese to pair with Indian food, and also a great starting point for those who aren't used to more processed cheeses. The cheese is also incredibly accessible, as you can make it right at home, as you do with paneer. The primary difference lies in texture and mouthfeel. The malic quality of vinegar gives ricotta a distinctly different taste, and the globules of coagulated protein that make up the cheese give it a completely different mouthfeel. In contrast to paneer, ricotta is rich and creamy, whereas paneer is oftentimes chewier and leaner. A few dollops of ricotta make a great addition to gravy-based dishes such as palak paneer or murgh tikka masala; the cheese enhances the richness and texture of the dish without affecting flavor.
We bet most of you reading this article have a few blocks of processed Amul cheese stashed away in the fridge. In which case you're probably all too familiar with the cheese's versatility. From grilled cheese sandwiches to masala maggi, there’s no dish that the humble Amul cheese can’t bring something to. The cheese is renowned for having changed the direction of Indian street food since its introduction. Vendors around the country have taken to using the salty blocks in everything from bread pizzas to kathi rolls to more unconventional preparations like Szechuan cheese dosas and cheese pani puris. Love it or hate it, processed cheese is here to stay.
Gouda is probably the most popular craft cheese in India, available across the country in a range of qualities, shapes, and flavors. The cheese is usually sold in the form of pre-packaged slices, cut from rounds, and may feature the addition of herbs and/or spices, such as black pepper, paprika, cumin, fenugreek, etc. The taste depends on how long the cheese is aged; younger goudas are characterized by mild fruity notes, while older rounds have a distinct nuttiness and tang, trading the fruity sweetness for one that is more reminiscent of brown sugar or caramel. Younger gouda makes an excellent addition to dishes such as malai paneer or vegetable korma. Older gouda is best used in non-vegetarian dishes, like mutton kofta or chicken kathi rolls.
This Italian string cheese is available in various grades across the country. The cheese is popularly sold in the form of processed blocks and is available in just about any corner store. Mozzarella of this quality, however, is a far cry from the hand-stretched balls of cheese that are sold in fromageries. Processed mozzarella is almost rubbery and nearly tasteless. Artisanally produced mozz, on the other hand, is soft and rich, with a mild milk flavor and a slight grassy undertone. This melty cheese makes a great addition to street-style mince cutlets or as a base for pakoras.
Just like gouda, there are various grades of cheddar available on the market, from artisanal slices to highly processed blocks. Rounds of cheddar are characterized by a mild earthy flavor and a pronounced bitterness, both of which are accentuated with age. This cheese is an ideal addition to street food preparations like bun maska and vada pav.