Bengali chanar kalia (not Bengali chanar dalna) a dish that is reminiscence of rich cultural heritage of bygone era, a delicacy that has its strong roots in Nawabi culinary legacy of Bengal. Hence the name kalia, just like our famous Macher kalia or fish kalia.
Cotton soft fresh homemade cheese are mashed and kneaded well with little sprinkles of aromatic spices, bonded together with corn flour and then shaped into roundels. These are then pan fried and dunked in onion-ginger cumin garam masala based gravy. Light and subtle, flavourful enough to entice the fish lover Bengali bhadralok and goes equally well with phulko luchi or Bengali kaju-kishmish pulao.
I was first introduced to this lovely dish of chanar kalia in one of the food festival, themed around the delicacies of Zamindar house of yore, hosted by the city’s renowned Bengali restaurant. , where it was served as a part of lavish vegetarian spread. Since then I had tried this dish umpteenth time at home and always make it a point to serve this in festive occasions or large gatherings. The excellent reviews I got from my guests had encouraged me further to make this a star in all my food Pop-Ups, I host. Needless to mention this chanar kalia had since then received lots of admirers.
Chenna / or the cheese (but is very different from the way cheese is understood in western world) is the one ingredient which is omnipresent throughout the Bengali cuisine and culture. Give a pound of fresh chenna to a Bengali cook / chef and he /she will mold it into endless varieties of sondesh / sandesh or fudge, rosogolla / rasgulla, kalakand, chamchams, rasmalai, chanar payesh / pudding one can think of. So as this chanar kalia, koftas, kormas, paneer kofta pulao and so on…
Bengali Chanar Kalia Vs Bengali Chanar Dalna
As I have mentioned in the beginning that this recipe of Bengali Chanar Kalia is different from the regular Bengali Chanar Dalna that we usually prepares with chunky potatoes, essentially a no onion – no garlic recipe and is differently flavoured too. In Bengali homes, fresh chenna is to what paneer in Punjabi homes. Procedure is same, that is curdling the milk part, but here in Bengal we dont make paneer, we make chenna, soft cheese curds . You squeezed out all the moisture from it and give it a shape, that is paneer for you.
Here is – how to make fresh paneer at home.
Bengali Chanar Kalia Vs Paneer Kofta Curry
Though this dish of Chanar Kalia looks like Bengali version of Paneer kofta, but in reality both are not same. Here unlike paneer koftas, you do not add binders in form of plain flour, or mashed potatoes and so on. Chenna needs to be kneaded perfectly, the way you will do it for making roshogolla, with little sprinkle of cornflour or arrowroot. Then small, flat and thin roundels are made out of it, which is then fried and dunked in gravy. A perfectly made Chanar kalia taste juicy and little bit spongy, not like paneer kofta, and this is quite tricky and challenging a bit. For the same reason, this dish will taste best with freshly made chenna and not paneer.
Here is – how to make fresh chenna at home.
Fresh homemade chenna are kneaded well with little sprinkles of aromatic spices, then shaped into roundels. These are then pan fried and dunked in onion- ginger cumin garam masala based gravy.
- 300 gm Chenna (fresh home-made)
- 2 tsp Cornflour (not heapful)
- 1 tbsp Onion paste
- 2 tbsp Ginger paste
- 1 tsp Bengali Garam masala powder (see note)
- 1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp Cumin paste
- Whole garam masala (that includes few cloves, green cardamoms,cinnamon stick and bay leaf)
- 1 tbsp Raisin Paste
- 2 Green Chillies
- salt to taste
- Oil for shallow frying
Sprinkle cornflour over the freshly made chenna, mix it thoroughly and knead it the way you will do it for roshogolla. Please check the link given above the recipe section for reference.
Knead it to make soft dough. Cover it with moist cheesecloth and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
Divide the chenna dough into equal portions and make flat and thin roundels of small / medium size.
Heat enough oil for shallow frying and fry the chenna roundel still golden brown. Blot them on a tissue paper to get rid off the excess oil. Keep them aside.
In the same oil (take out the extra oil if you think it is excess for gravy) add the whole garam masala.
Next add the onion paste and fry till it turns brown. Throw in the green chillies, cut from the middle.
Add the ginger paste and saute further till its rawness disappear.Now add the cumin paste, red chilli powder and turmeric powder and fry for few more minutes.
Sprinkle the garam masala powder over it, add the raisin paste, salt to taste, mix well. Add 2 cups of water and let it reach to its boiling point.
Gently drop the chenna roundels, cover and simmer on low heat for5-7 minutes till it soak some of the gravy.
Take it off from the heat and serve the hot chanar kalia with phulko luchi / poori or Bengali pulao
Bengali Garam masala contains equal proportion of cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon