Paneer is a fresh cheese common in South Asian cuisine. In northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent, it is generally called Chhena. It is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids.
To prepare paneer, food acid (usually lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or yogurt) is added to hot milk to separate the curds from the whey. The curds are drained in muslin or cheesecloth and the excess water is pressed out. The resulting paneer is dipped in chilled water for 2–3 hours to give it a good texture and appearance. Preparation of paneer diverges based on its use and regional variation.
Dating back to ancient India, paneer remains the most common type of cheese used in traditional South Asian cuisines. The use of paneer is more common in Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh due to the prominence of milk in their cuisine. It is sometimes wrapped in dough and deep-fried or served with either spinach (palak paneer) or peas (mattar paneer).
The well-known rasgulla features plain chhana beaten by hand and shaped into balls which are soaked in syrup. The sana / chhana / chhena used in such cases is manufactured by a slightly different procedure from paneer; it is drained but not pressed, so that some moisture is retained, which makes for a soft, malleable consistency. It may, however, be pressed slightly into small cubes and curried to form a dalna in Maithili,Oriya and Bengali cuisines.
Some paneer dishes include, Sandesh, Mattar paneer (paneer with peas), Saag paneer or palak paneer, a spinach-based curry dish, Shahi paneer (paneer cooked in a rich, Mughlai curry), Paneer tikka (a vegetarian version of chicken tikka, paneer placed on skewers and roasted), Paneer tikka masalaKadai paneer, Chili paneer (with spicy chilies, onions and green peppers, usually served dry and garnished with spring onions) Paneer pakora (paneer fritters), Palak paneer, Rasmalai, Rasgulla, Paneer capsicum (paneer and bell peppers in raisin crème sauce), Khoya paneer, Paneer bhurji.