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History of Paneer: Historical Journey from Vedic to Portuguese Bengali Origin!

The cookbook of human civilization is full of numerous dishes and their varieties. Each and every dish holds its own food history as well as mystery. One such product is "Paneer." This product is mainly. However, the name paneer may not be a familiar one for the other nations; nevertheless, many might know the product though with some other name.

For all those who want to know about "paneer" and the trivia of its food history, you are in the right place.

What is "Paneer"?

One of the many milk products, paneer, has emerged to take place in both snacks and main course meals. It is prepared by curdling the hot meal with lemon juice or vinegar. It is basically a type of unsalted cheese that looks white in color and is fluffy. The cube-shaped paneer that is usually prepared at homes are made firm enough, so it does not crumble down, yet they remain soft and luscious to retain the taste. Paneer is the most common type of cheese used in traditional cuisines from the Indian Subcontinent.

Paneer cuisines

Paneer cuisines are extremely popular in the Indian Subcontinent. Using paneer, we can prepare a long list of cuisines, starting from mere paneer pakoras to butter paneer, paneer do pyaza, and so on.

A person who is not a native of the Indian Subcontinent might find it difficult to pronounce. But all matters is the taste rather than the name. If one starts mentioning the list of paneer cuisines and their derivatives, the list will be endless.

Origin of the word "paneer."

No dish in the world does not have its food history. But what's the origin of this item? Where did the word "paneer" come from? Let us look at its food history. The root word is the Persian term "panir." From it emerged words like panīr, paynir, pander, which refer to any kind of cheese. The English term paneer, as used today, has been derived from the Urdu and Hindi terms panīr.

Food history of paneer

Food historians still debate the origin of paneer. There are basically three theories claiming the birth of this milk delicacy.

  • The Vedic origin

  • The Afghan- Iranian history

  • The Portuguese- Bengali origin

The Vedic origin:

The Vedic society used to view cow as a holy being, and thus milk was considered to be something that shouldn't be acidified. There are various references to butter, curd, ghee, but there's hardly any mention of sour milk cheese. Breaking the milk was taboo back then. However, chef Sanjeev Kapoor says that Vedic Literature has the reference of an item that resembles the modern-day paneer.

Even some scholars consider that there is a kind of cheese perhaps implied in Rig Veda 6.48.18. However, there are many counter-arguments that the Rig Veda mentions no cheese in its exact sense. So whether cheese or paneer is a Vedic phenomenon remains quite a foggy and misty notion. Even in Rigveda, legends about Krishna refer to milk, ghee, cream but never souring milk.

Hence Panner in India would have been introduced by Afghan and Iranian invaders.

The Afghan-Iranian history:

The second theory is perhaps the most widely accepted. Based on texts like Charaka Samhita, many food scholars suggest that the Kushana - Satvahana era of 75-300CE bears evidence of heated and acidulated milk. A kind of solid portion achieved from the blending of lukewarm milk and curd was made to feed the soldiers of the time.

The preparation of paneer seems to be primeval to the North-Western part of South Asia. It is said that the Iranian and the Afghan travelers brought paneer into India. Even the National Dairy Research Institute states the Afghan and the Iranian invaders were the ones who had drawn Paneer into India.

The Portuguese Bengali origin:

The third theory states that the Portuguese while living in Bengal during the 17th century taught the people the art of breaking the milk with the aid of citric acid. They had brought with them their native fresh cheeses and frescoes and queijos. They then taught the Bengalis the concept of acidulating the milk and thus broke the aged old taboo. Thus from this, the formation of cheese or chhena emerged from Bengal. The Bengal mithaiwalaas (sweet makers) are used to prepare various sweets with this chhena, the unsolidified cheese. Famous among them is the "Rasogolla"!

In a nutshell, paneer is the origin of the Indian Subcontinent.

World paneer day

Are you surprised after reading "World Paneer Day"? Well, you read it right. We do celebrate a day for paneer with paneer. World paneer day is celebrated on the 6th of February every year. Isn't it interesting?

Whatever be its birth or food history, paneer tends to be one of the most loved dishes in this land. A perfect product is the one using which we can prepare a wide variety of cuisines; paneer is one such Once tasted, it is very difficult to dislike its taste.

Along with the taste, the food history of paneer is also very interesting. This proves that paneer is not new in our cookbook. In various parts of the world, people use paneer widely though in different forms or different names. The food history of paneer proves that indeed it holds many health benefits.

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