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Shahi paneer is one of the most popular cheese dishes in Northern India. It is a type of cheese curry consisting of the fresh cheese paneer, onions, cream and a variety of spices. This dish is often served with some type of Indian bread such as poori, nan or rumali roti. There are a number of similar dishes that use cheese in Indian cuisine, including kadai paneer and paneer butter masala.
The first step in the preparation of shahi paneer is to make the fresh cheese paneer. This cheese is made by adding an acidic liquid such as vinegar or lemon juice to milk. The reaction causes the curds and whey to separate. The curds are gathered in cheesecloth, squeezed and then dried for several hours. They are then pressed down under a weight for two to three more hours, after which the paneer is ready for use.
The spice base is created with a paste made of garlic, ginger and onion that is fried in oil. Spices are then added to the dish, the most common being chili powder, cardamom, turmeric and garam masala. These are cooked until they become aromatic. Some recipes also call for the paneer to be cubed and then browned in the pan as well.
Cashew nuts are then added to the pan and allowed to cook slightly. Some variations also call for dried fruits such as raisins or currants. These can be added as well and allowed to cook. The ingredients are cooked until the mixture starts to become dry in the pan.
Milk is added to the pungent mixture and then reduced to create a thick sauce. The cubed paneer is added to the reduced milk sauce. If the paneer was browned in the pan beforehand, it will better retain its shape and texture, whereas uncooked paneer might start to break down in the sauce.
After the paneer has been heated through, the dish is completed. Some preparations have the shahi paneer served in a bowl or shallow dish with a swirl of heavy cream in the center and garnished with freshly chopped cilantro. When served as a condiment, it can just be placed in a dish appropriate for dipping.
Several Indian dishes are similar to shahi paneer, but focus on different ingredients. Paneer butter masala begins in the exact same style but includes butter, tomatoes and heavy cream to create a very rich dish. Kadai paneer also begins in the same way as shahi paneer but includes slices of bell peppers, fresh tomatoes and cumin to create dish that has a spicier taste.