Most Punjabi menus are made according to the season. The universal favorite is chole-bathure which is a round-the-year item and is available at every wayside dhaba anywhere in Northern India. But, the pride of the Punjabi winter cuisine is sarson-ka-saag (mustard leaves) served with blobs of white butter accompanied by makke-di-roti and lassi (churned yogurt).
The other popular dishes, which belong exclusively to Punjab, are mah ki dal, rajma (kidney beans) and stuffed parathas. Punjabi cuisine is characterized by a profusion of dairy products in the form of malai (cream), paneer (cottage cheese) and curds.
Though chicken is a favorite with non-vegetarians, fish is also considered a delicacy, especially in the Amritsar region, which is also known for its kulcha, baked bread made of refined flour.
Tall glasses of lassi, made of yogurt, tempered with either salt or sugar, are a popular cooling drink of Punjabi origin but it is quite popular all over the country. Phirni, a sweet dish made of milk, rice flour and sugar and chilled in earthenware bowls is a typical Punjabi dessert. Punjabi sweet dishes like gulab jamuns and burfi have a strong percentage of khoya again made from milk.
Then there is also paneer-a must in the vegetarian Punjabi menu. Several delectable items are made out of this rather bland derivative of milk. Creations like the Kadai Paneer and Makhani Paneer are basically Punjabi but are well loved all over the country.
One thing that makes Punjabi cuisine so special is the tandoor. Besides being a versatile kitchen equipment it is much more - a social institution. In rural Punjab, the community tandoor, dug in the ground, is a meeting place, just like the village well, for the women folk, who bring the kneaded atta (dough) and sometimes marinated meats to have them cooked while chit-chatting. Until a few years ago, this phenomenon existed in urban neighborhoods too. Even today, a few neighborhoods have a communal tandoor.
Punjab's other grand contribution is the dhaba - the roadside eatery that has become a prominent feature on the national and state highways. Earlier frequented only by truck drivers, today it is in vogue to eat at a dhaba-urban or roadside.