In the UK, the majority of people drink cows’ milk on a daily basis. We have it in our tea, on our cereal, in cheese sauces, milkshakes, ice creams and more. There are alternatives that are available in the West – goats’ milk, soya milk and rice milk, for example. However, think of buffalo milk and our first thought is probably authentic mozzarella cheese, rather than drinking a glass of it.
In India, it is a different story. As the largest producer of buffalo milk in the world, it is very much on the menu here. Other top producers of buffalo milk around the world are Pakistan, China and Italy. If you look at this list you soon realise these are all countries in which people eat healthy diets. And buffalo milk, being low in cholesterol, contributes to this trend. It does, however, have a higher fat content (and thus more calories) than cows’ milk, but in a country where many people work long, hard days this isn’t a bad thing. In the state of Punjab, were many people work the land, buffalo milk is particularly popular.
There is the economic opinion that places cows above buffalo because they produce higher quantities of milk. However, this argument does not take into account the fact that buffalo are more suited to living in many parts of India and eat a wider variety of vegetation than their dairy cousins. Buffalo milk contains higher solids and double the fat than cows’ milk, making it thicker and creamier. It can also be preserved naturally for longer periods of time – making it far more suited to India’s climate. Here are some Indian foods that use buffalo milk.
Khoa: This is a product that is widely used in Indian cuisine as the base for a variety of Indian sweets. It is made by simmering full-fat milk in a karahi for several hours. It can be made using either cows’ or buffalo milk and is what we can thank for the sweet delights that are gulabjamun, barfi, halwa and more.
Paneer: This Indian cheese features on many an Indian restaurant menu. It is basically milk that has been ‘set’ by adding vinegar or lemon juice. It is similar to tofu in its ability to take on the flavours of other ingredients. It can be made from cows’ milk or buffalo milk, and the way to tell what milk has been used is the colour of the paneer. If it is white, buffalo milk has been used; if it is a creamy yellow, then it has been made using cows’ milk.
Ghee: Some would argue this is the most important of all Indian ingredients. It is a type of clarified butter that is used to temper spices, brushed on rotis and naan and splashed on the top of dals and curries. It can be made from cows’ milk, but the buffalo version is more commonly used in cooking.
For great Indian dishes, one of London’s fine-dining Indian restaurants is the place to go. You can guarantee everything on the menu is cooked using authentic methods – and with love.