Chhena (Hindi: छेना); (Odia: ଛେନା) or chhana (Bengali: ছানা) is fresh, soft and unripened curd cheese made from full cream cow milk or buffalo milk.
Chhana is a base ingredient to make many Indian authentic sweets specially for Bengali dessert such as Rasgulla, sondesh, kalakand, pantua, Chhanar jalebi, rasmalai, etc.
Chhana is made by boiling the milk and then curdling by some acidic agent (vinegar, curd, whey, lemon juice and citric acid). Then milk solids collected in a cheesecloth and drained excess water. Finally the mixture is kneaded well before use, so that it acquires a very soft and smooth texture.
Though paneer and chhana, both are made of milk, but still there are certain differences between chhana and paneer.
- Chhana is delicate and soft cheese where as paneer is comparatively hard.
- Chhana is mainly required for making sweets (sometimes savory such as chhana kofta curry) and paneer is used for cooking savory dishes only (paneer butter masala, malai paneer tikka, crispy paneer fingers)
- Chhana is not pressed for long time but paneer needs enough time to drip off all moisture.
- We put chhana in ice chilled water to stop curdling process but in making paneer don’t need to put in chilled water.
How To Use acidic agent:
Vinegar: Add 2 tbsp vinegar with 1 tbsp water for 1 litre milk. Stir nicely. Put the solution in hot milk. Don’t dilute vinegar too much else the milk won’t curdle. If the milk is not curdled well, make the solution once and put in.
Whey: Whey is remaining greenish water after the milk has curdled and strained. If you are gonna use this whey to curdle the milk, then keep this water in room temperature for one day before using as curdling agent. Because it has to acidic. For 1 litre milk add 3-4 tbsp whey.
Lemon juice: Take 2 tbsp lemon juice along with 1 tbsp water and pass through a sieve. Then put in hot milk.
Citric acid: Take 1/2 tsp citric acid and dissolve in 1 tbsp of water (for 1 litre milk). Then put in hot milk.