Musical Cooking - Paneer Tawa Masala

Weddings in Bombay are a barometer of the city's love for food. On an average guests might commute for an hour after work to reach the venue, stay for about thirty minutes, then travel another hour or two to get back home; but they will still enjoy dinner to the hilt!
It's no wonder then that reception menus are often not only delicious but also creative.

At my cousin's wedding some five years back, the most popular dish was a mixed vegetable fry prepared entirely on the 'tawa' (griddle). A man stood in front of a huge griddle with vegetables laid along it's corners. He had a gravy sizzling on the tawa and then added to it the vegetables requested by the guest. After mashing and sauteing them all together in a noisy display, he swept the blend up with his spatula and plopped it on their plates with a flourish. Hardly surprising that the little nook drew all the crowds!


The dish is called Taka Tak Bhaji, after the rhythmic sound the cook's spatula makes on the griddle; or (the less charming in my opinion) Tawa Bhaji. It can also be made with chicken, shrimp or my choice today, paneer.

PANEER TAWA MASALA/ TAKA TAK (Cheese in tomato gravy)
(adapted from the book 'Prashad' by Jiggs Kalra)
(serves 2)
1 cup paneer*
1-2 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp ajwain
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2-3 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3/4 cup tomato gravy*
1/2 tsp garam masala
finely chopped cilantro to garnish

Crumble paneer coarsely. Heat ghee in a pan and add ajwain. Saute on medium heat until they begin to crackle.

Add onion, ginger-garlic paste and chillies. Saute until the onion turns limp. Add the spice powders, stir and then add paneer. Mix well.

Finally add the gravy and saute until everything is well blended. Turn the heat up and saute (bhuno) till all moisture dries up (work those arms!).

Sprinkle garam masala and finely chopped cilantro. Serve hot with roti or naan.


Tomato Gravy -
My favorite recipe is from the book but it is a long and intimidating process, so I modify it for quick results -
In a stockpot add three tomatoes, 2-3 slit green chillies, 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, 3 cloves, 3 green cardamoms and 1-2 cups of water.
Simmer on low heat until reduced to pulp. Your kitchen will smell divine at this point :-)
Let cool, then discard skins, whole spices, chillies etc.
Mash pulp and strain into another pot. Bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) and cream as desired. (If gravy is too sour adjust with honey.)
I find this gravy very versatile. So I make a large quantity, freeze it and use as required in dishes like matar paneer, vegetable korma, gobi ka kheema etc.

* The original recipe uses paneer cubes and also has more paneer to gravy ratio
** If you don't have time to make the gravy from scratch use canned tomato puree and flavor it with spices



Blogger KA said...

Your taka tak bhaaji looks really great! One can probably feel like the chef at Benihana after making this :-)(I for one will definitley feel like that..)
Great pictures

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time hearing about taka bhaji, Looks mouthwatering....and the pictures are very tempting...Thanks for the recipe

7:19 PM  
Blogger Monisha said...

Hi Ashwini -
Wow, how neat is that! made-to-order Indian curry, I can almost see people standing in queue beside the tawa going 'yeah! I'll have the paneer but no spinach and yes, some more bell peppers please !'- I think the concept is amazing and so is your Paneer Taka Tak !

7:57 PM  
Blogger Prema Sundar said...

Hi Ashwini,
I too remember japanese benihana after reading the taka tak bhaji. nice and picture looks great.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures and nice recipe, A MUST-TRY-ONE !!!

I keep mentioning in all your comments how i like all your recipes and have to tell this again. Each one is so unique and all the recipe i have tried from your blog are a big hit among friends & family.

And hey! Iam yet to try those delicious brownies, shall try it soon and let u know.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Sudha said...

Ashwini, the dish looks simply yummy..this is new to goes to my to do i love paneer...thanks for sharing.

12:39 AM  
Blogger FH said...

They call it Peshawari Paneer Taka Tak for the noise they while cooking with2 steel spatulas!! I was reading abt it last night!! Looks delicious, thanks!!

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ashwini, those are just fantastic pictures!! I just love 'em :-)

great write-up too! several years ago, we went to a wedding in Bombay and I tell you, we just ate, and ate and ate! I could barely move myself out of the chair.

I so adored the pictures, I jumped to the comments page, without even reading the recipe :)


9:37 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

KA - that's a good comparison! Only I have seen Benihana guys do some really risky stuff rather than just sauteeing :-)
Madhu, Prema, Sudhav - thanks
Monisha - that dish was so popular! Getting to choose only those veggies you like to eat in a delicious curry is everybody's dream come true :-)
Priya - you are kind; I am glad you liked the dishes...let me know if you try this one
Asha - I didn't know about the Peshawar part, thanks!
Saffron - are you back? Yes not being able to get up from the chair sounds so Bombay :-)

10:20 AM  
Blogger Krithika said...

Yes tava items are so popular. Your taka tak paneer looks fabulous !

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great pictures Ashwini. Loved your taka tak bhaji. I have attended only one wedding in Mumbai when I was a kid. So can't remember anything.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Shah cooks said...

something about the tak tak sound linger lingers in the memory, doesn't it? ur baji looks good. i add an egg to it to make a paneer burji.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Mahek said...

your photos and the paneer tawa masala look so great that i felt like just putting my hand out and eating it.
its meal time here and that enhances the craving for such delicious food.
thanks for the recipe

2:13 AM  
Blogger Nupur said...

Mouth-watering pictures, Ashwini. You have outdone yourself!

6:24 AM  
Blogger Manjusha Nimbalkar said...

Hey Ashwini,

Tawa paneer bhaji looks simply yummy. Did you make those nans too ? If yes, waiting for its recipe. Pics look great too.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Krithika, Shilpa, Mahek - thanks
Shaheen - :-) loved that play on words
Nupur - thanks, you are very kind
Manjusha - Sorry, no the naans are frozen :-)

12:04 AM  
Blogger Vaishali said...

Those made-to-order Bhajis were a craze in Pune too. Only that they were seen more at company parties (e.g New Year's bash). My request always used to be 'Sab kuchh daalo'. :)
I have a recipe for Paneer Takatak by Tarla Dalal. She uses Pav Bhaji Masala in it. That too tastes great. Your way of making Tomato Gravy is new to me, though. I am sure gonna try it once back in India. And everybody has said already, pictures are indeed great.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Chandrika said...

Looks yummy, Ashwini! Am sure it tastes yummy too...

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love Paneer. This recipe looks sooo good. yum yum. Thanks,

8:42 AM  
Blogger Latha said...

Hi Ashwini,

Your pictures are amazing! Such class! And the paneer looks delicous. We love paneeer at home, will give it a try soon and let u know.


9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Have been a silent admirer of ur blog for long time even after trying out few of ur dishes esp moongambat, brownies and the next was the tomato gravy.. I made it today, and as u mentioned the house smelt great while it was being made. I loved it so much, that have asked for the Prashad book to be sent from India. Tks a lot.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Chandrika, Hema - thanks
Latha - let me know if you try this
Annu - I am so glad tawa paneer got you out finally :-) You will have loads of fun with the book, its excellent.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the taka bhaji looks delicious ashwini. Makes me want to attend a wedding in bombay... :) great pictures

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Really nice recipe, will try it soon.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Thanks Deepa, let me know how you like it

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow , that looks totally yum.... Love Paneer ....And really like the pic of the tava..

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just love your photos & recipes, Ashwini.Thanks so much for sharing. Please tell me, do you get paneer from Indian stores or can you use a substitute like Farmer's cheese or cottage cheese?

10:09 AM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Anon yes frozen paneer is available in Indian stores. Nanak brand is quite good.
I wouldnt use cottage cheese in this recipe.
You could also make paneer at home if you prefer; there are quite a few recipes online.
Good luck!

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This recipe looks waiting to try it out. I had a question though in regard to the gravy.

Wehn you say you add toamtoes and otehr spices with water and boil, how do you do that? do u add whole toamtoes or cut the tomatoes and after it boils, do you put the mixture in the blender?

Pls let me know.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Anon, I use medium size tomatoes and cut them in halves. Spices are whole.
Peel the tomato skins and discard spices when the liquid becomes sauce like in consistency.
The tomatoes are reduced to mush so usually there is no need for a blender. Mash them in a strainer and use the strained liquid. Hope this helps.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ashwini,

I tried this dish and it came out very well, thanks to you.

Could u also psot some recieps that uses teh same tomato gravy. I really liked the way the toamto gravy was made and would love to have more recipes using the same.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Anon glad you liked the dish. I add the tomato gravy to almost all Punjabi dishes that call for it. I will try to post a few soon.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Sonia said...

Hi Ashwini,
I am regular user to ur blog. I just love ur blog as u have created with simple and beautiful photographs and recipes.
I love to try ur Paneer Tawa Masala. Will surely try it. and let u knw abt my trial.
Thanks you 4 sharing us.
Keep it up.
Bye, Tc.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Ashwini said...

Sonu let me know how you like the dish.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Finally, I made it! Its a bit confusing - I somehow missed the part where - after frying paneer change the pan and reheat oil in new pan!! I went line by line without reading it completely - thats why! It was delicious this way too, but the original part where paneer is a bit crispy was missing. But thank you so much.. for the delicious recipe :-)

6:19 PM  

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