Saffron has a special place in Indian culture. The Kashmir heights, in the north of India, are where saffron is traditionally cultivated. For the families that live in the region, it is an important source of income. We encounter the yellow-orange color in the top stripe of national flag of India, the Tiranga. Saffron is holy and its hue is that of the gods as it is the color of the rising sun – which is why both buddhist and hindu monks wear saffron-yellow robes. Furthermore, the unmistakable taste of saffron is a substantial element of Indian cuisine, where spices play a role of utmost importance.
Biryani – crispy rice meets saffron and marinated meat
The kitchen of northern India (Punjab) has elements of Persian roots thanks to the age of the Moguls. Next to cardamom and nuts we encounter saffron time and time again. A special rice dish is Biryani, which is commonly served at festivities and especially at weddings. The rice is aromatized with saffron and takes on the beautiful yellow color. It is served with meat – which may be chicken or lamb – which is marinated with cinnamon, cardamom, garlic and yoghurt. They are prepared separately, but are then layered in a pot where they are heated together. The different aromas give birth to an exciting contrast.
Cream cheese – emperor style – with a saffron kiss
A vegetarian specialty, which is prepared to please the taste of the Mogul emperor is Sahi Panir. ‘Sah’ means emperor and Panir is a type of solid cream cheese. For this recipe, the Panir is first deep-fried and then fried with saffron, cinammon, cloves and cardamom in a cream sauce. Almonds or cashew nuts complete this outstanding dish.
The sweet side of saffron
It is not only in savory dishes where one may find the red gold – it is in desserts too, that saffron shines. Khir is a type of liquid rice/semolina pudding which is elevated with saffron and – depending on the region – is variated with cardamom, coconut milk, raisins, cashew nuts, pistachios or almonds. This traditional dish is also mostly served during festivities.
Another well-known desert is Ras Malai, where small Panir balls are often seasoned with saffron. The Panir is served in a sauce of cooked milk, sugar and saffron. Finely chopped nuts and a few saffron threads are the cherry on top of this mouth-watering desert.
Discover saffron in the indian cuisine and treat yourself a culinary evening with friends and family with a Chicken Biryani or a Sahi Panir – depending on whether you prefer a vegetarian dish – and round up the meal with a magnificent Indian saffron dessert. You will feel just as royal as the Mogul emperors once did!