Introduction to Paneer Manchurian
Breakdown of the Ingredients:
- Oil: You’ll need oil for both the sauce and to fry the paneer here. However, if you want to, you can cook the paneer in the airfryer, or let it cook in the sauce to get a softer texture. I recommend using a neutral oil here like canola.
- Minced Garlic + Red Onions: A good manchurian needs a solid base and that starts with the basics – onion and garlic. For some manchurian recipes I prefer yellow onions but I feel that red onions pair better with paneer. It won’t make a huge difference to use one over the other but I like red onions because they’re a little bit sweeter.
- Ketchup: For some reason people who aren’t familiar with desi street food find ketchup to be a controversial ingredient. But keep in mind that ketchup is simply a sauce with tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar! Using those ingredients independently wouldn’t be strange, and trust me, using them in the form of ketchup isn’t weird either. It adds the perfect touch of sweetness and tanigness.
- Sriracha + Kashmiri Mirch: I like a lot of spice so I usually use multiple sources to add heat to my dishes. Using sriracha alone ends up making everything taste a little too one-note. Plus using a combination of sriracha and kashmiri mirch prevents the dish from being too salty. If you aren’t familiar with kashmiri mirch it’s a type of red chili powder that’s a bit milder than regular red chili powder. I get mine from my local Indian grocery store.
- Soy + Rice Vinegar: Soy and rice vinegar are staples in Indo-Chinese food! You’ll need both to make this dish complete. Soy to add the savory element and rice vinegar to add the tanginess.
- Smoked Paprika: This isn’t a critical ingredient in this dish. Heck, it’s not even a very traditional ingredient for manchurian in general. But I love the subtly smoky flavor it adds.
- Black Pepper: Make sure to use freshly ground black pepper for this recipe if you can. I’m pretty sure pre-ground black pepper tastes like sawdust and I really notice the difference with this subtle tweak! Trust me, it makes a difference.
- Paneer: Paneer is a firm-textured cheese that doesn’t melt when heated. It is similar to halloumi if you’ve never tried it. And it has a great chewy texture.
Process and Keys to Success
Out of all of the manchurian recipes I have on this blog, what I love about this one is how simple and quick it is to make. It doesn’t require breading the paneer or shredded any vegetables. You can simply cook the paneer to using your preferred method and then mix it in with the quick and simple sauce!
There are three primary methods you can use to cook this panner: (1) pan fry, (2) air fry, or (3) in the sauce.
- (1) Pan Fry: if you want a crisper and firmer texture, I recommend pan frying. Just add some oil to a hot skillet and gently drop in your paneer. I recommend using tongs for this. Let the paneer cook in the oil until it turns golden brown. Then use your tongs to flip it to the other side. Cook this side until it is also golden brown, and then you’re basically done.
- (2) Air Fry: If you want to avoid using too much oil in this dish you can simply air fry instead. (An oven works too). I’d recommend brushing the paneer with a tiny bit of oil and then putting it into the airfryer at 400 for 10-15 minutes depending on your desired consistency.
- (3) Cook in the Sauce: If you want your paneer to be soft and luscious, you can just cook it in the sauce. For reference, it would be similar to the texture of paneer you get in something like butter paneer (check out my recipe here!) For this method, no additional oil is needed. Just cook your sauce as you normally would but add in about 1/2c – 3/4c of water to it along with some corn starch. The corn starch will help the sauce thicken. I would add maybe a tablespoon. Then let add your paneer and let it cook for about 10 minutes until all the water has evaporated, and the sauce has thickened.
The sauce here is fairly simple. All you’ll need to do is chop some onions into thin slices, mince your garlic, and combine your sauces and spices. Sauté your onions until translucent and then add in your minced garlic. Make sure not to overcook the garlic. If you burn it, it will make the whole dish taste bitter! So just cook it for a minute at most.
Then, add in your sauces and let everything simmer for a minute or two so it can thicken before you add in the paneer.
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- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 red onion
- 2 tbsp sriracha
- 1.5 tbsp soy
- 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 3/4 tsp Kashmiri mirch
- 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 450 g paneer
- Cut your paneer into cubes and fry in oil until golden brown over meat heat.
- Mix all of your sauces and spices in a separate bowl. Make sure the corn starch in particular is mixed well and doesn’t get clumpy.
- In a separate skillet, sautée your sliced red onions and garlic in oil until translucent. Then, heat your sauce for about a minute until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add in your paneer and coat it evenly in the sauce.
- Serve with rice or roti!