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!
When I lived in Amravati, India we’d go to several amazing vegetarian restaurants that specialized in Indo-Chinese dishes. Each place made Veg Manchurian differently, and in my travels I’ve had about twenty different styles of it, some more Indian, some more Chinese. But most quite wonderful. I experimented at home in the kitchen and asked as many family cooks as I could how to make it best.
I even got into the kitchen at one of our favorite Vegetarian Indian restaurants with the young Chinese-Specialty cook I’d befriended and did some spying and interrogating. I got all kinds of answers. Most of the recipes online were awful, calling for lame cooking measures like using ketchup or MSG for the sauce. The best part about researching Indo-Chinese recipes online is reading the comments and forums as Indians fight with one another on the ‘authenticity’ — of a hybrid dish!