I had my first experience with Indo-Chinese food when my then-boyfriend was sent to Hyderabad for work, and I got to go visit him. We had dinner one night with the owner of our car service and his wife, and darling boyfriend failed to tell them in advance that I was vegetarian. Our hosts were horrified not to have anything on hand for me to eat, and sent one of the kids down to get me something from one of the takeaway stalls on a nearby street. They came back with a little mylar sack of paneer manchurian.
I felt awful about the inconvenience, but this awkward social situation introduced me to a new favorite food.
Since coming back to the states, my Indo-Chinese fix has been hard to come by. I'm actually lucky, in that there's a large enough Indian population near where I live to support a wide variety of restaurants. Even so, it's an hour drive to Inchin's, where I can feast to my heart's content.
I'm not sure what possessed me, but I decided that since I had some time to myself this weekend, I would do my best to re-create my beloved Paneer Manchurian at home. I looked at a ton of recipes online, but most seemed to be geared towards the "wet" style of the dish, with a lot of gravy, while I favor the "dry" style, with a light but pungent glaze. Still, I got a feel for the ingredients and technique, and decided just to go for it.
I'm proud to report that the venture was a complete success, and pass the fruits of my labors on to you!
Ingredients (makes enough for two normal eaters, or one of me):
Fresh paneer prepared from one liter of whole milk (there are numerous descriptions for how to make paneer available online, or buy your paneer premade from an Indian grocery)
2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
5 cloves garlic
pinch cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons corn starch
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
2 pinches sugar
3 (ish) Tablespoons water
oil for frying
1/2 of a white onion
2 green chilies
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon chili sauce (sriracha or similar)
1) Cut your paneer into .5" cubes. Place in a plastic bag.
2) Crush 3 of the garlic cloves. Add 1 T grated ginger and a dash of cayenne to the crushed garlic. Mix well, and add the garlic ginger mixture to the bag with the paneer. Coat the paneer with the paste as best you can, then seal the bag and set aside for as long as you can wait. An hour or more is ideal, but you can use it right away after doing the rest of the prep if need be.
3) Remove the tops and bottoms from the chilies, halve, and carefully discard seeds.
4) Very finely dice the onion and chilies.
5) Heat frying oil (in a pan or electric deep fryer) to about 350 degrees.
6) Mix cornstarch, flour, and a pinch of sugar with enough water to form a very runny batter.
7) Add the batter to the bag with your marinated paneer. Mix with your hand to coat all pieces, then place them gently, piece by piece, into the hot oil.
8) Fry paneer until just golden brown, then strain and set aside.
9) Add a small amount of oil to a large frying pan and set heat to medium.
10) Crush the remaining 2 cloves of garlic into the pan. Follow with the remaining 1 T grated ginger. Stir.
11) Add the diced onion and chilies, continue to saute until onion becomes translucent.
12) Add the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili sauce, and second pinch of sugar to the pan. Stir and allow to boil down briefly.
13) When the sauce has reduced a bit, add the fried paneer and stir thoroughly to coat all pieces with the sauce. If there is much liquid left in the pan, keep stirring over heat until only a glaze is left on the paneer and vegetables.
14) Serve with rice and be amazed at what a good cook you are.