Chili Paneer, My Go-to Indian Chinese Dish

Indian Chinese cuisine holds a special place in the hearts of many Indians and never fails to delight family and friends, whether it’s for a quick weeknight meal or a weekend dinner party. One of my go-to dishes from this fusion cuisine is Chili Paneer. While I personally prefer the vegetarian version made with paneer, Indian cottage cheese, it also comes in non-vegetarian variations that you’ll find on the menus of Indian Chinese restaurants, such as Chili Chicken, Chili Lamb, Chili Fish, or Chili Prawns/Shrimp.As far as I know, all of these versions are prepared using the same method, with the primary protein being the only difference. It’s stir-fried along with bell peppers and onions in a light ginger-chili-garlic flavored hot and sour sauce.

Healthy Indian Chinese Chilli Paneer

The Base Sauce: Two Ways

The base sauce recipe remains consistent across all versions, starting with sautéing onions, bell peppers, ginger, and garlic. To this aromatic mix, we add a blend of soy sauce, chili paste/chili sauce, ketchup, chili vinegar and a cornstarch slurry, along with the protein of your choice. Simmered until it thickens, the sauce takes on a deep, rich brown color and a mouthwatering flavor. The beauty of this dish lies in its versatility—you can adjust the amount of sauce to create a dry appetizer or a saucy main course that’s perfect alongside steamed basmati rice or simple fried rice. 

Healthy Indian Chinese Chilli Paneer

While I prepare this dish with a generous amount of sauce for a casual weeknight dinner, it transforms into Dry Chili Paneer for entertaining friends and family on weekends or gatherings. This sizzling hot appetizer is perfect for vegetarians, quick to assemble, easy to serve, and bound to please a crowd. You can elevate its presentation with decorative toothpicks, making it a festive hors d’oeuvre for Diwali or holiday gatherings.

My Healthy Recipe

My recipe strikes a smart balance by offering a healthier alternative to the traditional deep-frying method for paneer or any other protein that is used to make the dish. Instead of submerging it in oil, I go for shallow frying it, that uses just a fraction of the oil, achieving the same golden color and crispy texture. This method not only reduces the overall calorie content but also results in a dish that feels lighter and less greasy without compromising on flavor. It’s a great way to enjoy the deliciousness of Chili Paneer guilt-free, making it a perfect choice for those who want to savor this beloved dish while keeping their health and wellness goals in mind. I’ve linked a short video below that I put together for you that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

Healthy Indian Chinese Chilli Paneer
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Healthy Indian Chinese Chilli Paneer


  • Author: Vasanti

Ingredients

Scale
  • 14 oz/ 400 g paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes (see Notes and Variations)

For the Stir-Fry

  • 4 tbsp neutral oil of choice
  • 23 large garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 large jalapeño, sliced (use Thai chilies for more heat)
  • 1/2 small onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 small bell peppers (any color), 1/2 small onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • salt, to taste
  • fine ground black pepper, to taste
  • 45 sprigs of cilantro/coriander, finely chopped, for garnish
  • 2 medium green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

For the Sauce (see Variations)


Instructions

  • Start by making the cornstarch slurry by mixing the cornstarch in water until there are no lumps.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or a deep sauté pan over medium heat and fry the paneer until golden brown on all sides. Be careful as the oil will splatter while you toss and turn the paneer pieces in the hot oil.
  • Transfer the shallow fried paneer pieces to a bowl or plate, holding them a few seconds along the sides of the wok, allowing the oil to drain.
  • Turn the heat up to a medium high and add minced ginger and garlic to the remaining oil in the wok.
  • Stir and sauté for about 30 seconds and then add the sliced jalapeños.
  • Stir and sauté for about 30 seconds and then add the cubed onions and bell peppers. Sauté stirring continuously for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and fine ground black pepper and stir to combine.
  • Create a well in the center of the wok by pushing the vegetables up the side of the wok. In the well, add the sambal oelek, soy sauce and ketchup and stir to combine. Continue sautéing for a minute and then stir in the vinegar.
  • Combine well and then add the shallow fried paneer. Pour the cornstarch slurry over it and stir to combine. Let the sauce cook and thicken for about 2 minutes, while stirring frequently.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro/coriander and sliced green onions.
  • Transfer to a serving platter and serve along with toothpicks.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4-6

Keywords: Weeknight Cooking, Quick & Easy, Indian Chinese, Healthy Recipes

Step-by-Step Details

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Season or Not?

It is not necessary to season the paneer cubes with salt and fine ground black pepper, but you can do so if you wish.

Recipe Variations

You can substitute paneer with cubed boneless skinless chicken thighs or breast meat, firm white fish like cod, halibut, rockfish or tilapia or medium sized peeled and deveined shrimp. Season with salt and fine ground black pepper and dust with a tbsp of cornstarch before shallow frying them.

Make it vegan by substituting paneer with tofu or baby corn.

To make the gravy with extra sauce for an entree dish, combine ¼ cup of cornstarch with 1 cup of water to make the slurry and double the quantities for the chili paste/sauce, soy sauce, ketchup and vinegar. Follow the recipe as is.

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.



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