Chilli Paneer (also known by other creative spellings such as Chili Paneer and Chilly Paneer) is one of the most famous Indo-Chinese dishes in India, along with Veg Manchurian. From street carts, restaurants, and home kitchens across the continent you can find this spicy hybrid dish.
This vegan Chilli Tofu Paneer variation is easily made by substituting tofu for paneer cheese. Batter-frying with cubes before adding to the sauce and veg is a trick which adds more texture and taste to your ‘paneer’. Tofu isn’t quite as easy to find in India as fresh paneer, but while living in Amravati, India, I was able to find tofu. I experimented often in the kitchen making this stellar Indo-Chinese appetizer. Even the neighbors were impressed!
Many Indian restaurants make Chilli Paneer with so much spice, garlic and ginger that the alarm bells start ringing and an order of lassi or raita is the only thing that can cool down the exploding heat. This recipe is not so absurdly spicy, but feel free to add more spices… if that’s your thing.
Chilli Tofu Paneer
serves 2 / time 40 min
- 7 oz / 200 g tofu pressed (see below)
- 2 Tbsn lemon juice
- 1 tspn soy sauce
- 2 Tbsn nutritional yeast or chickpea flour
- 2 Tbsn corn starch
- 2 Tbsn coconut oil or vegetable oil for frying
- Press the block of tofu (about 1/2 of package) wrapped in dish cloth with plate or book on top to remove excess water. After 20 min, unwrap, cut into medium cubes.
- Combine lemon juice, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, corn starch in bowl. Add tofu cubes, mix well, coat all pieces.
- Heat oil in a sauce pan on medium high. Fry battered cubes evenly until golden brown, about 5 min. Remove, drain, set aside.
Spicy Indo-Chinese Chilli Sauce:
- 2 Tbs oil
- 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 in / 2 cm ginger finely chopped
- 1 red chili sliced or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 1 tsp coriander ground
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 medium tomato chopped
- 1/2 red pepper chopped
- 1/2 green pepper chopped
- 1 Tbs lemon juice or 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml water
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- salt to taste
- spring onions chopped, for garnish
- Heat 2 Tbs oil in a medium sauce pan on medium high. Add mustard seeds. After they start to pop (about 30 sec) add onion, garlic, ginger, chili, coriander, turmeric. Stir, fry 3 min.
- Add tomato, red pepper, green pepper, lemon juice, sugar. Reduce heat to medium, stir, cook for 5 min.
- In small bowl combine water, corn starch, soy sauce. Stirring, add liquid slowly to tomato and peppers. Add salt to taste, if desired.
- Add fried tofu cubes. Cook, stirring regularly, until sauce thickens, onions and peppers start to brown, about 5-7 min.
- Serve garnished with spring onions.
Chilli Tofu Paneer without garlic and onions (Vedic style): replace garlic and onions with 1/4 tsp asafoetida, add 1 small tomato. Tropical sweet-sour spin: add 1/2 cup chopped fresh pineapple. More spicy bite and Indian flavor: add 1/2 tsp black pepper, 4-6 curry leaves, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp ground paprika along with other spices before frying vegetables.