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Palak Paneer

March 01, 2001|JESSICA STRAND

Palak paneer is a sort of Indian creamed spinach full of chunks of fresh, unripened cheese. Here are a few of the many versions.

* Bombay Cafe: Here the spinach is steamed with lots of garlic, pureed and lightly sauteed with green chiles, ginger and a touch of cayenne. Then, of course, in goes all that wonderful homemade cheese--slightly firm, just soft enough to fall apart as it hits your mouth. (Palak paneer, $7.75.) Bombay Cafe, 12021 W. Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 473-3388.

* Bombay Palace: Onions and garlic are lightly browned, then tomatoes, spices and grated ginger root are put in, and finally chopped, boiled spinach is added. At the end, it's all mixed with whole yogurt, cream and fried cubes of cheese. (Palak paneer, $8.50.) Bombay Palace, 8690 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 659-9944.

* All India Cafe: Here it's a light puree of spinach, green chiles, ginger, garlic and whole milk, simmered until silky-smooth. You can get this in a vegetarian combo plate or a la carte. (Palak paneer, $6.95.) All India Cafe, 39 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (626) 440-0309.

* Electric Lotus: This version is thick because it's been cooked for over an hour--there's no cream in it, just homemade cheese, plus cumin, coriander, ginger, garam masala and a little tomato. It's delicious for soaking up with olive naan. You can also get it made with tofu instead of cheese. (Palak paneer, $5.50.) Electric Lotus, 4656 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 953-0040; 8222 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 653-2121.

* Pradeep: This place specializes in calorie-conscious Indian food. The palak paneer is a combination of mustard greens and spinach cooked for nearly five hours, making for a sweet, thick mixture. Then it's flavored with cumin, cardamom, garam masala, red pepper and a touch of turmeric and fenugreek (methi). Finally small cubes of cheese or tofu are mixed in. (Palak paneer, lunch $7.59, dinner $8.99.) Pradeep, 1405 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 393-1467.

* Natraj: This version--available a la carte or at the bargain buffet lunch--is rich with ingredients: onions, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cumin, cream, butter, a secret blend of spices and fresh cheese. Scoop up a bite with a crisp pappadam wafer. (Palak paneer, $8.95.) Natraj, 998 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-9197; 24861 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Hills, (949) 581-4200.

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