The Punjabi platter



December 2016

By Naini Setalvad

The average Punjabi food is nutritious, and reflective of the agricultural richness and diversity of the state, says Naini Setalvad

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 When you think of Punjabi cuisine, heavy dishes like paneer makhanwala, chhole bhature, or butter chicken immediately come to your mind. However, this is not the food eaten in average Punjabi homes; the daily fare is quite simple and health-friendly. But first let’s learn a little about the agriculture in Punjab.

Punjab is a highly fertile region of India. It is also known as the land of five rivers; namely, Jhelum, Sutlej, Chenab, Ravi and Beas. The name Punjab is a combination of two words where ‘Punj’ means five and ‘Aab’ means river. The primary crop of Punjab is wheat. Almost two per cent of the world’s wheat is grown in Punjab. No wonder Punjabis eat a wide variety of rotis; from phulka to kulcha, paratha, nan, tandoori roti, roomali roti, puris, bhaturas and matri. Which explains why Punjab is known as the bread basket of India.

 

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Punjabis also grow grains like maize (makki),  pearl millet (bajri), sorghum (jowar). Even though rice too is grown in the state, plain boiled rice is rarely consumed, except by patients. Mostly, rice is tempered with cumin, or made into a pulao with saffron and green peas. Tarka rice, which is rice sauted with onions and cumin in cow’s ghee may be eaten with rajmah curry or yoghurt curry on holidays.  Punjabis also enjoy a wide variety of pulses. The popular ones cultivated and eaten in the land are rajma (kidney beans), kabuli cholay (chickpea), chana dal (split small chickpeas), mah dal (whole urud dal), rongi (black-eyed beans; chowli), arhar (pigeon peas), moong dal, (yellow lentil) mattar (dried green peas) and moath. As a matter of fact moong dal is quite a staple in their diet. It is a good source of protein that does not raise your cholesterol levels.

Punjabis love their fruits. Be it apples, pomegranate, jamun (black plum), phalsa, baer, malta, sweet lime, mangoes, plums, watermelon, or cantaloupes. It is quite common to
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