Cheese of the Week is a weekly feature on The Daily Meal, drawing on the expertise of internationally renowned cheese expert and consultant Raymond Hook. What follows is based on an interview with Hook.
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If you’ve ever encountered paneer, it’s most likely been at an Indian restaurant, in dishes like saag paneer (with spinach), palak paneer (with peas), paneer tikka, or the dessert ras malai. And if you’ve ever eaten the cheese in one of these dishes, you’ll most likely know how simple and it is, unlike most others that are available.
Paneer is a fresh, cow’s-milk cheese that’s made with lemon juice instead of rennet, which gives it a subtle tang. Its texture is similar to that of firm tofu, and, like tofu, when it’s cooked, instead of melting it firms up and takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked in. This allows it to be a great source of protein for vegetarians, and it adds great textural contrast in dishes it’s used in.
At the end of the day, though, it’s a fresh white cheese, and can be used in similar ways to its counterparts around the world, like Halloumi, queso fresco, and bread cheese. According to Hook, it can be griddled to a golden brown before using, as well as flash-fried to add to the texture and flavor even more. He also recommends using it in scrambled eggs.
While there isn’t much in the way of wine pairings for such a simple, unaged cheese, he does suggest pairing it with that classic Indian yogurt drink, the mango lassi.