Every Big Fat Punjabi Wedding shouts from the top —"Punjabiyan di shaan vakhri!" And, it's not just the grand entrance, bling jewellery and the multitude of Pajeros and Audis that adorn the show. The food plays what is perhaps the biggest starring role of all. Ask a Punjabi, "How was the wedding ?" and the first thing you'll hear is an assessment of the food: "Khana bahut badhiyaa/bekaar tha." Let's take a look at the dishes that signify a Punjabi wedding. In fact, no Punjabi wedding can be complete without them.
1. Achari Paneer Tikka
You'll find Chachaji, Mamiji, Bittoo, Sonu bhaiya, Kuldeep, Pinky bua, Badiwaali maasi and even Nonu queued up at the achari paneer tikka live counter. It's the show-stealer at any Punjabi wedding. And, if it's being served piping hot off the griddle to everyone (with a dollop of mint chutney), no points for guessing who is the most sought after member of the banquet staff.
2. Pindi Chana
This is an indispensable staple. Tandoori roti, naan, tava roti, poori or even fried rice — pindi chana goes well with everything, adding a dash of excitement to the white plate. It's quite popular among the kids too.
3. Tadka Dal
Though we have never seen anyone having it (except some badey buzurg uncle log), this understated and relatively light dish is a saviour when relatives are forcing you to have dinner and you have already gobbled up too many starters and cold drinks (you know what we mean).
4. Palak Paneer
Tasting palak paneer is mandatory in any Punjabi wedding (even if you get overwhelmed with all the paneer on offer). Some relatives get a kick out of informing one and all if the paneer was fresh or not. If someone wants to have dinner with just one subzi , it's the safest bet.
5. Missi Roti
Because a wedding calls for a special roti, what better than this heady concoction of wheat flour, gram flour, salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder and coriander seeds? Want to show that you are taking extra care of someone? Offer them a missi roti. It works.
6. Papdi Chaat
The one dish that can make Punjabi women get up from their seat and head towards the chattar pattar section. Moms and daughters bond over it, and it's the wedding photographer's call to action.
7. Jalebi Rabri
The combination of rabri and jalebi (seemingly unlimited quantities of it) is what tempts people to gatecrash Punjabi weddings. Second and third helpings are de rigeur and you can often overhear calls for extra rabri. If you get this dessert right, your wedding will have good things said about it.
8. Pineapple Raita
So what if it's sweet? Pineapple raita gets as many eyeballs as the bride's younger unmarried brother in a Punjabi wedding. Not having it within easy ladling distance might just have the groom's grandfather booming, "Pineapple raita ni rakhwaaya kya?"
9. Gulab Jamun
A hot gulab jamun with ice-cream after dinner can cast a spell on relatives and friends and totally wipe away any misgivings they may harbour about their exorbitant spend on the wedding gift. It'll make it all worth their while. Just make sure you have enough gulab jamuns to accommodate extra helpings.
10. Tawa Subji
This special counter can be conspicuous in its absence, so ignore it at your own peril. Bharwa tindey, bharwa bhindi, stuffed karela — all come out of hibernation on the wedding day, making people experiment with spicier forms of these vegetables. Don't be surprised if your tawa subzi guy is hounded by people with special requests.
11. Dahi Bhalle
This is the go-to stall until the queue subsides at the paneer tikka one. It's an essential snack, side dish and coolant. If you are serving for some one else, don't forget to spoon some extra saunth (tamarind chutney) on top of the dahi bhalle.