Tchaman Kaliya (Paneer in a milky broth)

Paneer kalia, radish greens, andhra daal

Paneer is de rigueur for a Kashmiri vegetarian spread.  Good high-fat milk is hard to come by in mountainous Kashmir since there are no water buffaloes; low fat cow milk is what you get.  Despite this, dahi (yoghurt) and paneer are plentiful and a regular part of the diet.  On days fasting is prescribed, all Kashmiri Pandits practice vegetarianism; even those who may not be fasting.  Observing periodic dietary restrictions are to be found in most faiths and belief systems, be it Ramzan for Muslims, or Lent for Christians. Us Hindus seem rather fond of fasting and have created an immense variety of them.  To add to the fun, each fast comes with its own rules: what is kosher, what is not, or the length of the fasting period (half a day to up to an entire month).  You may also chose the frequency of fasting: weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or yearly.  If you like to walk your own path, well, you could even customise your fasting routine.

Some food preparations are so intricately tied with f(e)asting that it is hard to imagine anyone would cook them on ‘normal’ days!  Breaking of a fast with specific foods also brings a special significance to those foods and further intensifies the link between our memories of events and places with the food we eat.

When we were children, my mother observed a few monthly fasts such as on poornima (full-moon day) and ashtami (the eight day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar) in addition to some other prominent annual ones. On these days we would be explicitly instructed to stay out of the kitchen and not touch either the washed cooking vessels, or the freshly prepared food unless we had washed ourselves scrupulously, or until she had eaten. Most of these fasts permit the consumption of fruits, milk, and milk preparations throughout the day. You may also eat one ‘regular’ meal of the usual staples which, in her case consisted of steamed white rice with a couple of vegetarian preparations. She would usually have this meal in the late afternoon, around 3 o’clock or so, after we were fed and calmed from a boisterous day at school. If it was her day off, then she might even have a mid-day snack of potatoes (phak’e aulov!) fried in mustard oil.  Oh how we would beg her to throw a few into our outstretched hands!  She did always share a few.


Tchaman kaliya (tcha-mun cul-e-yah) is one of those utterly simple dishes that delivers on taste on a day when one meal is all that you are going to get.  But, it is there on every Kashmiri feasting menu as well! Eating well is not about how much you can eat anyway.  Whenever I am craving Kashmiri food and yet do not have much time to spare, this is the dish I turn to.  If there is time, then I will make the paneer myself.  Using store bought paneer makes it a very quick dish.  This mild dish is very unusual in its spicing; green cardamoms and fennel combine with milk for a flavour so subtle you have to eat to believe it can be this good!

Tchaman Kaliya
(Paneer in a milky broth)

200 gms paneer
1 medium sized potato, peeled and sliced into 1/4th inch discs (cut into half if the potato is too large) (optional)
3-4 green chillies, slit
1 T saunf (fennel) powder
1/2 t sonth (ginger powder)
1 t coriander powder (optional)
1/2 t turmeric powder
1-2 T mustard oil
hing (asafoetida), pinch
1 clove
2 green cardamoms
1 tejpatta (cassia leaf)
1/4 t garam masala (optional)
1/2 C milk
salt to taste

Cube* the paneer. Take about 3/4 cup of hot water in a bowl.  Add the turmeric to the water and keep ready. Pan fry paneer to a light gold. Watch this step; it is very easy to overcook. In this dish, underdone is better than over. If you have good paneer made with full fat milk you can sear the paneer without any oil. Lower the pan fried paneer into the dish of warm water.

Heat mustard oil to smoking. Fry potato slices just till they begin to colour. Remove with a spoon. Add hing to the hot oil. Add the whole spices and stir till fragrant (a few seconds). Turn heat down. Add coriander powder and stir.  Add paneer and the soaking water. Add saunth and saunf powders, salt, and the slit chillies. Stir.  Add the potatoes, cover, and cook at a simmer till the potatoes are tender (7-10min.) Add milk and simmer another few minutes. Turn heat off, sprinkle the garam masala and stir. Serve with steamed white rice.

kaliya* For ceremonial feasts the waza (Kashmiri cook) always cubes paneer into big chunks (3/4″ cubes) for kaliya which is served from a huge earthen pot that it is cooked in. Home cooks cut the paneer into thick (1/4″ thickness) rectangular pieces (about 1″ x 1 1/2″ or thereabouts) or 1/2″ cubes. It just depends on which way we are inclined on a particular day.

Note: Potatoes are not traditionally added to kaliya.  But if you know me then you know how much I love my taters! 🙂  On occasion, though, potatoes are added to many dishes to extend them.   Simmered in this milky broth infused with mild spices like cardamom and fennel, the potato absorbs the flavours to present itself in yet another glorious avatar.

52 thoughts on “Tchaman Kaliya (Paneer in a milky broth)

  1. At long last! Love the pictures. He he, so you add potatoes too :P. I will have to try with coriander powder, never used it in any of the Kashmiri dishes.

    Are you sure you are not really Kashmiri?! 🙂 I add just a little coriander powder in deference to fusion with plains cooking! Aren’t the potatoes here really something?!

  2. Although I was quite skeptical when first I saw the title of this dish, as soon as I saw the potatoes and coriander powder, I was sold! Do you think maybe I could also add a few green plantain slices? 😀

    If you want to blaspheme you could.
    But I know better…

  3. LOVE kashmiri food (which is why I am an ardent folower of your blog as well!)…. I’m going to try this at home soon, it looks wonderful.

    One of the simpler (though with a unique depth of flavour!) Kashmiri dishes; do try!

  4. *adds this to list*
    How do you keep the milk from curdling? I keep asking everyone this same question because if I have to add milk to a recipe after salt has been added, it separates almost immediately. So what secret, oh daughter of your mother, are you holding back from us?

    [wonders if there is just one…list]
    I rarely have my milk split. Most often, I will not boil it right away after adding milk unless the milk was at room temperature. I add cold milk and turn the heat off, and then warm it just before we sit down to eat. Also the fennel powder in the broth might provide just sufficient thickening to prevent curdling. Maybe it has to do with how milk is processed where you are?
    No secrets; you know that. But I wonder if I should hold back sometimes…

    1. It used to happen in Bombay, too. With fresh tabela milk, packet milk, bottled milk, UHT milk, Amul milk, you want me to go on?

      It’s not the milk; it’s you!
      [I am in splits though!]

      1. Eh. That expression is another one of those that is not understood well in the US by Americans and British alike. You may split your sides laughing but if you are in splits, you are Indian. Over here, they do the splits but never are in splits.

        What’s the expression you use – keep up with the program, people! The Indians are here and they are speaking their English!

  5. Oh and as I read through the ingredient list, I almost thought I must be on the wrong blog! For how is it possible that there is no badi elaichi in this tchaman tchkaliyah. But then, knowing you, I see how you slipped it in rather insidiously with that optional qualifier.

    Yep. There is some (not roasted!) in garam masala.

    1. I think it’s haak-chop.

      Never would I do that to haak! I (and the son) was in tears the one time the maid ‘helped’ and chopped it up into smithereens when my back was turned! Oh the horror of haak-chop!
      These be radish greens!
      Note how TH has neither tchaman nor mujji-haak in his thali…More for me!

      1. So…what is he eating? You cook separate stuff for each person? Wow! You are amazing! My poor family gets no choice. Like last night, all we ate was rajma with lightly toasted bread. There was leftover pulao but everyone wanted bread. If someone did not want rajma, they were SOL.

        Sometimes I do, sometimes they eat bread. No rajma even. But don’t be getting new ideas for your lists…

      2. I see it now- it says “Andhra dal”. That narrows it down :-/ , but it looks like a dal-‘n’-subzi-in-one-dish-kind-of-dal. Green peas maybe? Sundakkai? But what I am really curious about is the podi!

        It’s time to make this podi again this year! It is sesame-peanut chutney!
        You got it pretty close. The dal has spinach and tomatoes. Well done! You could have checked Flickr though

      3. Methinks she wants views on Flickr.

        And, let’s not forget, the conversation! Which can be found on FB now…but it is too public

      4. FB is public? My wall is not. I restrict it to people I know or have spoken to IRL and/or have had a reasonably long and good online relationship with. Everyone else is directed to my IFR page. Conversations on FB can be restricted to specific people or groups also. This blog is public, Flickr is public unless the pics are F&F or private. Tchyou’ve tchbeen tchaving tchtoo mutsch tchaman in your kaliya. Time to make that podi and return to sea-level and the glories of sambar and rasam.

        The point of FB is to be socially more active = public…I meant it in that strain. Flickr is primarily to share pictures.
        You getting them all mixed up – the t, tch, ch…chee chee.
        Can’t make sambar at the moment – out of tuvar (imagine!). Working through all the dals in the pantry. The rice and urad dal have been soaked for ragi idli, so it is finally time to stock up; can’t put it off any longer. Did pretty good – just the one half-kg pack of whole urad, and 1kg of chhole in the larder!

    2. There is no caption for the pic and the title does not show unless you hover over the image and that does not work very well on mobile phones. So there!

      You used to be on Flickr once upon a time…before there was FB…how times change.

      1. I am still v much on Flickr. I don’t click through on images or hover over them when I read blogs 😀

        …or check ‘from your contacts’, or occupy the corners…(sigh)

  6. Fall in New Jersey ! leaves Falling , orange mums every where however fresh seasonal veges are dwindling on the farmer’s market stall. I always fall back on to vrat ke aaloo(Delhi)and “kadle usli” (Kannada chick peas) aand my favorite panch phoran (Bengali) dal. You are right you remember and eat all your life. growing up in Delhi with all crossroad of inflences and peepping into all auntiji 7:00 pm whistling presure cookers. Right now I only feel gratitude in my heart for all the choices I have to eat. I respect choices in food being a vegetarian, the little variations in method and spice go a long way.Your method of making fried paneer juicies and saunf in a paneer dish will go a long way to fill my heart with gratitiude when I open my near empty pantry to cook on a cool fall evening……

    Those aloo are to die for!
    The season has changed here as well. There is a nip in the sir – it snowed in the mountains, and our temperatures are falling quick in response! The winter veggies are beginning to surface on the shelves – our best veggies season is just around the bend!

  7. yummm anita, as always. good to have u back on the blogging circuit!

    😉 Thanks, deeps!
    Have been following you across the continents!

  8. I remember that regular fasting was a way of life in our homes, but I don’t observe them. On the other hand, food specified for fasts are always so very good, except ours are very simple.
    I like the idea of paneer being “fasting” food. 🙂

    Always remember all types of milk-produce (including barfi!) are ‘fast-foods!’
    We have started observing one annual one as a family – Janmashtami. That way we get to cover some of the fasting foods!

  9. So true about our ( hindu ) fasting , it can always be interpreted to our own convenience 🙂

    I have been following a different recipe of chama kaliya ( as i call it ) as adapted from a TV show. this one will great as i love the white yakhni . That green cardamom n saunf aroma is to die for.

    The green saag here i am curious about , i love greens and make them look like this . The haak i have seen is very oily n very very yummy too. Is it different?

    How different is it? This is how it is cooked in home kitchens as well as by professional wazas.
    Those are radish greens prepared with just a little bit of hing and whole red chillies. Haak is our fave green, and it need not be very oily (though liberal slashings of mustad oil do improve the flavour even more!).

    1. Now i know this is the real chaman kaliya…..I make muli saag a bit differently though it looks same….it’s almost daily on our table now a days.

      This muli-saag was inspired by quick-stir-fry Chinese technique! Just a pinch of hing and a couple of dried red chillies+chopped radish greens! Made it quite a few times last winter!

  10. It is seldom that I do make your recipes although I often think that I shall
    But I do keep them all and all the entries from you over the past few years.

    Always sound so good and the pictures are good.
    As well I learn a little about India and the people
    You most always include some personal information

    Being in Canada our typical menu is not the same and I, now retired and on my own don’t have occasion to make up something special so much when I do it is usually at family request or friends.

    Did make home made dinner rolls for company about two weeks ago. They where very light and just
    delicious Good to know I had not lost my knack. And have made so many pies, fruit pies for my now grown children and their family’s to take home and freeze.
    I do make a curry sometimes with various things but have never used the combination of spices that you do most often in fact using a ready mix bottled curry seasoning, labeled curry seasoning, from the grocery store

    You make cooking sound so much more a part of life
    Thank you.
    I know I am a bit off topic here hope you do not mind
    Always look forward to your postings

    Thanks for reading, Diane.
    It is fun to cook for family and I bet it is nice to have requests! Processed, pre-cooked/frozen foods are not yet a major part of urban Indian lives yet. I hope we will learn the value of simple food cooked fresh and maintain a good balance.

  11. Looks amazingly creamy and flavourful – esp the saunf and coriander combination! I have made this once from a recipe I have in my handwritten book (need to check from where I got that recipe) and it was nice. This must be even better – def a must try.

    🙂 It is definitely a dish to make when time is short. It really hits the spot for me when I haven’t had Kashmiri food in a while.

  12. Hi Anita,

    This recipe sounds just delicious- I can’t wait to try it.

    I really love your blog -although I’m only de-lurking myself after a good two years – the photographs, the anecdotes, the ‘insider’ information about Kashmiri culture- and above all the obvious enjoyment and care with which you approach your cooking.

    Can’t wait for the next one post!

    Thanks, Maithili

    Good to hear from you, Maithili! Thanks for reading A Mad Tea Party!

    1. How many servings would this make, do you think? I’m planning to cook this next week- quite excited about it too:)

      This amount should serve 6-8 people as part of a spread, 4 if it is the main dish. Let’s see how you like it!

  13. Only if I had checked your blog earlier! I recently got married in a Kashmiri family and I cooked a surprise dum oluv and choek vangan meal for my husband, though I ended up using too much red chilly. I was looking for a chaman recipe too, but couldn’t find it. Now I know where to look! 😀

    Welcome to the club, Khushboo!

  14. Made this paneer dish last night and I was so impressed with the flavors. I am of course a regular fan of fennel seeds and ginger, which should have been a a clue that I will love this one. But really, I like it more than I thought I would. Next up will be passing on this recipe to my mother. Bengali vegetarian is also a no garlic-no onion affair, which means Puja days require more creativity to make the same dishes interesting. I think ma could get excited about this one. Thanks for sharing your family recipe. I can’t wait to cook it again.

    I discovered Bengali food sort-of late, but fell in love with it right away! I think there are many parallels between Bengali cuisine and that of Kashmir.

  15. u had me hooked at the word “simple”! i am a big supporter of fennel but never thot paneer and fennel went together. will surely try this recipe!

    Remember to not substitute ginger powder with fresh ginger, or fennel powder with whole fennel!

  16. Dear,
    Fasting has been part of our life mother used to make the same fried potatoes for fast/vrat..and the “Ekadashi Vrat” is quite an affair in our home too.My grandmother had separate vessels for cooking/chopping non-veg foods and veg foods and she never mixed them even for storing purpose.”Kaliya” sounds so familiar as we Bengalis too make kaliyas but with fish and loads of onion/garlic/ginger and of course coriander powder.. however Kashmiri kaliya sounds different though as per ingredients and upto an extent method.But just wondering about the name “Kaliya”..anyways this creamy milk preparation with paneer sounds so intriguing and delicious.Hugs and smiles

    Kashmiris know kaliya as a dish with a milky broth, and there are both, vegetarian as well as meat version, for it. I love both!

  17. Oh boy, just found your site by accident while looking for haak rus, which I’ve never tried. Ended up looking at this recipe (I love paneer). It looks delicious and I’m really excited to try it. Perhaps tonight, if it stops snowing and I can get out to buy some paneer.
    Thanks for sharing!

  18. Hahaha, well that didn’t take me long. We went out in the snow (we’re in New Jersey) to get the paneer, and also managed to get tejpatta leaves. We’ve just finished eating, and I immediately wanted to come back and thank you for sharing such a wonderful recipe. It was perfect, something I’ll make again and again. Thank you so much! I’ll definitely be exploring your site over the coming weeks. Thanks again for sharing.

    Welcome to the blog, mofaha!
    Almost like instant gratification, the recipe, right? Glad you enjoyed it!

  19. Well well well, this just look delicious and wholesome.
    So glad I stumbled onto such a great desi food blog. Both rustic and chic, will come by often


  20. I love your blog and receipes. Would love to have the receipe for the very green palak that you served with the Tchaman

  21. Hi

    Love your blog – the posts, pics and everything. A very very drool worthy read.

    i had a quick question. In the recipe, you use both T and t for indicating measurements. Are these for tablespoon and tea spoon respectively, or are these all tea spoon.
    I know this sounds like a silly question, but the first time I try any new recipe, I’d like to follow it to the ‘t’…did not mean for it to be funny…. but will admit I am giggling !!!

    Warm wishes

    You guessed right: t=teaspoon, T=tablespoon! 🙂

  22. I am so happy to see this recipe! It is rare to find Kashmiri recipes. I have fond memories of eating this and haak long long time back! I was never sure of the paneer recipe…I have to make it now!

  23. A lazy rainy day here in UK. Kids at School and me at home working. I wanted to eat something really rich and tasty but didnt have the energy to cook. I knew you had a no onion no bhuno panner recipe in your blog and made it and am sending this to let you know that I had the most satisfying meal in a very long time. This Tchaman Kaliya is amazing with a bed of hot rice. You know how some meals satisfy your soul…this one did. Thanks a ton.You have no idea how much joy you brought me today.

    Hey there, Lavy! I find myself in that frame of mind often and you will find that most recipes here fit the bill!

    Happy to have been of help at your time of need! Let me know when you try another recipe…

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