The fascination for paneer can be traced back to Indus valley civilization when the milk was curdled with a variety of sour ingredients like variety of leaves, barks, berries or even yogurt. The ancient civilizations used paneer mainly due to the following reasons.
- Milk and milk products were considered very scared due to extreme reverence given to cow in ancient tradition and civilization.
- Milk being at the top of the Ayurveda food hierarchy.
- Milk and milk products were highly valued for its soothing, serene and nutritious qualities.
- The versatility of usage of paneer as it can be combined with different spices easily.
The era of Afghan rule in India laid the foundation for the modern day paneer. “Peynir” or general form of cheese was introduced to north India in the 16th century A.D. by the Afghan rulers; the word paneer comes from this Persian word “Peynir”. Also, there was a western influence as well on the usage of paneer as a raw material. When Portuguese settled in Calcutta in the 17th century, they brought their traditional fresh cheese “Queijos Frescos”, they introduced the technique of curdling cow’s milk in the Indian subcontinent. The Muslim sweet-makers started turning “Channa” on the lines of the Portuguese recipe which was used to make famous Bengali sweetmeat – Rasagolla.
The yesteryears fascination, as well as reverence for paneer, can be associated with today’s consumer. Paneer is widely used in Indian subcontinent most widely in north India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. The main reasons of usage of paneer in the modern era; other than the nutrients value are.
- Paneer is mild in taste or plain in taste which makes it a very good platform to absorb a variety of stronger spices and flavours used in the Indian sub-continent.
- The soft nature of paneer gives it the versatility of usage to prepare multiple dishes. Indian sub-continent and Indian household is very diverse in taste preferences, which demands different variety which is satisfied by paneer usage.
- Paneer is considered to be a “rich vegetable” giving it a rich feel in the dish served to guests.
- Unlike cheese paneer does not melt while heating thus making it very easy to cook.
The yesteryears variations in usage, value perception, and vast appeal can be traced today as well with the modern day consumers. Today’s consumers respect paneer for the same reasons of yesteryears considering it as a valuable food ingredient with versatile quality. Moreover, paneer today has become a very good source of protein for health-conscious consumers. The health benefits of paneer for the consumer of today are immense.
Rich source of protein: Paneer provides a very good option for protein for vegetarians.
Lessens breast cancer risk: Paneer contains calcium and vitamin D which reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Good for Bones: Calcium found in paneer helps to build as well as maintain strong bones.
Improves digestion: Paneer is a very good source of Phosphorous, which plays a major role in the formation of DNA and RNA. Phosphates also help in digestion, excretion, and in the production and extraction of energy in the cells.
Excellent food option for pregnant women: Paneer provides for calcium and phosphorus needs to support bone development for pregnant women.
Best food for health enthusiasts as well as athletes: Whey protein which is favourite proteins for athletes, bodybuilders, sprinters, and various sports enthusiasts is found in Paneer.
Good for healthy Heart and also maintains blood sugar levels: A good source of Magnesium, helps in maintaining blood sugar levels and prevents heart attacks, constipation, psychiatric disorders.
Improves biological functions: Zinc found in paneer is about 4% of the daily recommended value. It helps in improving the immune system, digestion, diabetes control, fights stress and anxiety, cures night blindness, improves ocular health, prevents appetite loss, prevents prostate disorder as well as fights various infections.
Rich source of B complex vitamins: Vitamin B12 – needed for proper brain functioning.
Since the consumers have started realizing the goodness of paneer along with with its versatility the demand of paneer is increasing day by day. Traditionally north Indian market consumes a high quantity of paneer in the Indian market. However, the cross-cultural exchanges between people of different states due to interstate job opportunities, connections through social media; paneer has made inroads in untapped markets. The southern Indian market is highest growing paneer market in India and it will be no surprise that the paneer will have huge volumes on pan India basis.