Friday, October 23, 2015

Palak Paneer: Punjabi Dhabha Style

A green recipe for today.

A popular one.

A Punjabi recipe.

No its not saag.

It has paneer.

Oh now I have said it all. Yup it is Palak Paneer. Put three Ps together –Punjab, Palak and Paneer and you know one is talking about Palak Paneer. So palak paneer is northern Indian delicacy made with palak (spinach) and paneer (cottage cheese). Honestly there is no right or wrong way to make this curry. Some like to use boiled and purred palak in the gravy; some use chopped spinach while some put coarsely purred spinach as well. In the restaurants here in the UK I have noticed huge chunks of paneer are used in medium spicy spinach gravy (coarse spinach). Back in India the spinach is grinned into a smooth paste and later mixed with tomato gravy.

Looking for more Paneer Recipes? Check these out:
Paneer Kofta (fried paneer balls in tomato gravy)
Achari Paneer (Paneer curry in spicy pickled spices)
Palak Mutter Paneer (combination of spinach and peas in tomato gravy)
Paneer Corn Bhurji (grated paneer with chunks of corn)
Hydarbadi Paneer (paneer stir fry with bell peppers)
Paneer Butter Masala (paneer in creamy and rich tomato gravy with butter and tomatoes)
Kadai Paneer (paneer cooked in wok with whole spices)
Paneer Tikka Masala (marinated paneer chunks coated with spicy garlic gravy)

What I share today is the authentic dhabha style Palak Paneer. Whats dhabha? Dhabha are typical roadside restaurants (rural) mostly present on the highways in India. If you ever take road trip in India, you will surely find at least one dhabha on the highway. Food served in dhabha is simple and flavorful. Simple in terms of menu, you will find basic menu, no exotic dishes. Flavorful because they don’t compromise on taste-the food is richly spiced with garlic, spices and lot of oil and butter. So if you want dhabha style cooking, don’t shy from adding oil or butter. Some recipes are good with calories-worth it, I promise.

I clearly remember that taste. Papa, mummy, my brother and me- we stopped at a dhabha in Jhalander (city in Punjab) and ordered Palak Paneer , Plain Kulcha and Aloo Subji. It was a cold night. We sat on a khaat (Indian rural style bed) and between was a wooden patta (plank) on which they served food. After placing the order, the waiter came with a steel jug of water and four glasses. Second round, he placed some chopped onions, pickle and spicy garlic chutney.  After 20 minutes of wait, the food arrived. Piping hot kulchas, aloo subji and palak paneer.  Maa, look how much oil they have added in palak paneer, I told my mother. My mom grabbed a spoon and gave palak paneer a quick mix. Now oil is not visible she said. I smiled.

First bite of that curry was burst of amazing flavors in my mouth. Lot of garlic, ginger julienne, spice from whole red chillies, tang from chopped tomatoes and velvety paneer- all mixed and made into scrumptious Indian subji. This is the best thing ever, my brother said as he licked his fingers. Last weekend, when I was on call with mummy, we were recalling that taste. She gave some instructions and tips and then I dared to make that tasty Palak Paneer.

This is my replication of the Dhabha Style Palak Paneer.  Pair it with any Indian roti, paratha or puri. Even good old basic jeera rice taste very nice with this.

2 cups spinach/palak chopped
1 cup paneer chopped in cubes
1 large tomato
1 medium size onion
2 green chillies
10 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger chopped in juleins
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon ghee
2-4 whole red chillies
1 cinnamon stick/dal chinni
1 bay leaf/tej patta
½ teaspoon cumin seeds/jeera
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder/haldi
¼ teaspoon coriander powder/dhaniya
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon garam massala
Salt to taste
Water 4 cups

Put 4 cups of water to boil. In it add chopped spinach. Boil for 2 minutes. Strain the water and keep aside. Puree spinach and green chillies coarsely.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, bay leaf, whole chillies and cinnamon. Let it cook for few seconds.
Add chopped onion. Cook till onions are soft and transparent.
Add chopped tomatoes. Mix in turmeric powder and coriander powder. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes.
Mix paneer in the tomatoes gravy. Cook covered for 2 minutes.
Add in purred gravy, salt, garam massala and lemon juice. Mix and cook for 2 minutes.
In a seprate pan Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, saute chopped garlic and mix in the gravy.
Finally mix in ghee and ginger julienne. Cover and turn off the heat.

I used baby spinach, but you can use spinach bunch as well.
Green chillies and whole red chillies will bring the spice. You can add more red chilli powder if you like it hot curries.
The paneer I used is very soft so I just added in the curry. If you wish you can put paneer in hot water and then use it.


  1. Haha true... the restaurant food is always better than home cooked for the very fact that they use a lot of oil, butter or ghee, but is it really any better? Haha... Loved this version of yours :)

  2. Looks so delicious. .healthy but taste wise awesome

  3. I totally agree... road side food is the best and we can make it that way if we really don't be miserly on oil and spice factor... :) The palak paneer looks delicious, love the pics...

  4. Palak paneer looks absolutely delicious.. Lovely pics as always.

  5. Delicious palak paneer recipe.... :)

  6. wow..drolling over the palak paneer, of my fav..yumm

  7. I love palak paneer and dhaba style is my favorite way always!! Looks so good!!

  8. so true, nothing beats dhaba ka's been so long since I had some! :( Love this Shweta!

  9. Love the textures and flavors of thus gorgeous dish.

  10. It is true. It looks really yummy


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