Thursday, March 18, 2021

Chana Bhaapa | Bhapa Paneer -- Steamed Paneer in Mustard sauce

Chana Bhapa | Paneer Bhapa | Chhana Bhaapa

Chhana Bhapa | Bhapa Paneer | Steamed Paneer in Mustard sauce

Chana Bhaape or Steamed Paneer is a very popular Bengali Dish where fresh home-made chhana (ricotta cheese) is steamed in a a sauce of mustard and coconut. It is a very quick and simple recipe. Traditionally steamed in a pot or pressure cooker but I do it in the microwave. This recipe for Chhana Bhapa tells you both methods.

This past weekend, close friends across 2 states came visiting. They wanted to meet my mom but were waiting to get vaccinated before coming. 
One of them has converted in her food habits and is now a complete vegetarian. She really loved fish and meat and then one fine day, she just stopped eating any of those. And not for health reasons or because someone told her to. For the past year, I kept thinking she would quit, would start eating at least eggs, but nope she is still a vegetarian.
I think it takes a lot of discipline to do that. To give up something, not for the purpose of achieving a goal or anything but to just let go.❤
So anyway, we being Bengali and she being Bengali, I am always worried as to what vegetarian food to cook for her. I mean she is a good cook and cooks a variety of vegetarian food anyway at home. Also she is more fond of Bengali vegetarian than say a plate of pasta.
Bengali vegetarian recipes are in plenty and with little nuances each one is very unique.
This time, I made two dishes, that she had not tasted before. She really loved them. We chatted so much and she talked to my Mom about her spiritual journey and in the middle of all that, I forgot to take photos of the other food items, or the table, or people!! I forgot to even look at my phone almost all weekend!!!
🌱This was our **vegetarian spread** -- Motor Dal, Motor Dal er Bora (lentil fritters), Kolmi saag with Begun, Peper Shukto, Paneer Bhaape, Phulkopi korma(again my Mom's recipe), Pineapple Chutney and Malpua.
🌱This here is **Chhana Bhaape** with shorshe posto (Steamed paneer with mustard and coconut). Many of you know this and it's an easy dish with great taste.
🌱The other dish that she loved was **Pepe r Shukto**. Shukto with grated green Papaya. That's my Mother's recipe and has a delicate taste.

The Chhana Bhaapa or Steamed Paneer in mustard sauce is exactly like our Shorshe Chingri Bhaape.  It has all the key Bengali elements of mustard paste, coconut and loads of mustard oil. The "bhaape" here means a cooking process where the food is cooked by steaming. Traditionally these "bhaape" dishes were done in two ways.
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a steel tiffin box, close the lid and put it in a pressure cooker to steam.
2. Mix all the ingredients together, wrap in a banana leaf, tuck the leaf parcel in the pot of rice which is almost cooked and still hot and steaming. Here the leaf parcel is cooked by latent heat. Often such dishes steamed in a leaf are also called paaturi.

Here I have made this in microwave and it is super simple. Don't get intimidated by the steps. I have deliberately broken down the steps to making the mustard paste, posto paste etc.

Chana Bhaapa | Bhapa Paneer

Serves 6 people. Takes 30-35 minutes to make.


To Make Chhana/Fresh Paneer Whole Milk -- 1 Gallon (1.89 L) Vinegar -- 4Tbsp (OR Lime Juice 4Tbsp)

To Make Shorshe Baata or Mustard Paste

Black Mustard Seeds ~ 3 Tbsp
Yellow Mustard Seeds - 1 Tbsp
Posto or Poppy Seeds ~ 3 tsp
Green Chilli ~ 3
Salt ~ a pinch
Soak in warm water for 30 minutes and then grind to a paste with splashes of water.

Note: You can use ready made Sunrise Mustard powder also. Mix 2 Tbsp of Mustard powder in little water for 10-15 minutes and use that.

To Make Posto Baata or Poppy seeds paste

Poppy seeds - 2 Tbsp
Green Chilli - 2

Other Ingredients

Narkel or Grated Coconut ~ 1/3 Cup fresh or frozen. You can use more if you want
Yogurt ~ 1/3 Cup thick beaten yogurt.
Sugar -- 1 tsp for a light sweet edge

Sorsher tel or Mustard oil ~ 2 Tbsp
Green Chilies ~ 6-8
Kashundi - 1 Tbsp (optional)
Salt -- to taste

Step 1

Make Chhana

Mix 4 Tbsp of Lime juice OR 4 Tbsp Vinegar in 1 Tbsp of water Bring 1/2 gallon(8 cups or 1.89 lt) of Whole/Full Fat Milk to a rolling boil. Don't go on a diet and use anything less that Full fat Whole Milk.

When the milk has come to a full boil add the diluted lemon juice/vinegar. Lower the heat. Almost in seconds you will see the milk curdle and clumps of white milk solids forming. When you see the greenish water separating take it off from heat. Add some ice to stop the cooking. Let it sit for 30 secs or so. Note: If the lime is not sour enough, you might see that the milk is not curdling. In that case add 1 tbsp of Vinegar to aid the curdling.
Now line a colander or sieve with cheesecloth and drain the chhana/chenna/paneer. Next lightly rinse the chhana with water to remove the acidic taste and let it drain.

Gently squeeze out the excess whey and let the Chhana drain for about 20 minutes or so. You want a crumbly, moist and soft chhana for this dish. Don't leave the chhana for long and dry it up.

Step 2

Make Mustard Paste

I usually make a larger amount of Mustard paste as it is easier to grind larger amount in my mixer (Nitri Bullet). I use only part of this in this dish.  Rest I store for later use.

Black Mustard Seeds ~ 3 Tbsp
Yellow Mustard Seeds - 1 Tbsp
Posto or Poppy Seeds ~ 3 tsp
Green Chilli ~ 3
Salt ~ a pinch
Soak in warm water for 30 minutes and then grind to a paste with splashes of water.

The Mustard-Poppy Seeds Paste ~ use 2 Tbsp of this paste. If the paste is too pungent for you, you can sieve the paste and use the more liquid mustardy water mixed with a little of the thick paste.

Step 3

Make Poppy seed paste

Poppy seeds - 2 Tbsp
Green Chilli - 2
Grind to a paste with splashes of water

Step 4

In a container which you can steam or which you can microwave, mix the fresh chhana with
2 Tbsp mustard paste,
1 Tbsp Kashundi (optional)
1 Tbsp poppy seed paste,
4-5 chopped Green Chilies
1/3 Cup yogurt
1 tsp sugar
and salt according to taste.

Add 1/3 Cup fresh grated coconut to this. If using frozen grated coconut defrost and then use.

Drizzle 2 Tbsp of Mustard Oil liberally. The fun thing is you can control and use less oil and it still tastes great. But of course more mustard oil makes it still better!!!

Now STOP! Taste and adjust seasonings as per your taste

Add a lot of fresh coriander leaves chopped.

Step 5

Microwave -- Cover the Microwave container and put in microwave for 3-4 minutes

Pressure Cooker -- Put water in the pressure cooker bottom and put in this container.
I have a Futura Pressure Cooker and I steamed for 1 minute. In this pressure cooker, after the full pressure is built the time has to measured (no whistles), so I kept for 1 minute after the build up of full steam. In a whistling pressure cooker, you have to allow one whistle
Take it out and serve with hot white rice. For an extra kick drizzle little mustard oil before serving

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  1. If I want to use store bought paneer and cubed it would that be good? Mi know how to make Chana at home just want yo know the other way. Have you tried that way or always made with home made paneer. Thank you.

    1. Ricotta would be a better substitute for Bengali chhana than paneer. Paneer has e crumbly texture while chhana is creamy

    2. Yes, Ricotta will be better for this dish than store bought Paneer

  2. Where does one find sunrise shorshe powder in the states? My local Indian or Bangladeshi store don't have it :(


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