Within the state itself, there are different preferences. People in the area of Amritsar prefer stuffed parathas and milk products. In fact, the area is well known for quality of its milk products. There are certain dishes which are exclusive to Punjab, such as Mah Di Dal and Saron Da Saag (Sarson Ka Saag).
The food is tailor-made for the Punjabi lifestyle in which most of the rural folk burn up a lot of calories while working in the fields. The main masala in a Punjabi dish consists of onion, garlic and ginger. Tandoori food is a Punjabi speciality especially for non-veg dishes.
Hallmarks of Punjabi food
Pulse, bean and / or lentil preparations:
- Dal makhani (Mah di dal)
- Dal maharani
- Dal amritsari
- Lobiya (Black eyed bean)
- Rajma (Red kidney bean)
- Choley (eaten with bhatoora or naan).(Whole Bengal gram e.g Bengal chickpeas)
- Punj ratani dal (mixtures of 5 lentils) etc...
- Saron (sarson) da saag te makki di roti
These are generally soaked overnight or for at least 8 hours and gently simmered on the embers of a tandoor (A clay oven of the shape of a horizontally sliced pot) along with ginger, garlic and a few other garam masala (whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, mace, and bay leaf).
These are then combined with a tangy masala base which could include tomato or dried mango (aam choor powder) or even pomegranate seeds (anar dana). The character typical to the bean or whole lentil preparation is that the shape is retained intact, but the gentlest pressure would make it into a paste.
Dollops of cream and butter provide for the rich finishing touch. Garnishing is usually with shredded coriander leaves and juliennes of ginger.
Other very popular Punjabi food include:
- Shahi Paneer (Butter Chicken, but chicken replaced with Paneer (Indian Cheese)
- Tandoori Chicken
- Tandoori Fish
- Paneer Pakora
- Gulab Jaman
The Punjabi breads are generally flat breads; only a few varieties are raised breads. The breads may be made of different types of flour and can be made in various ways:
- Baked in the tandoor like naan, tandoori roti, kulcha, lachha paratha
- Dry baked on the tava (Indian griddle) like phulka or chapati, jowar ki roti, baajre ki roti and the very famous makke ki roti (these are also smeared with ghee or white butter)
- Shallow fried like paratha, aloo or mooli paratha
- Deep fried like puri and bhatoora (a fermented dough)
The tandoor also allows for tasty chicken and meat preparations including seekh kebab, tandoori chicken, reshmi tikka and malai tikka.