Amritsar is a town in the northern state of Punjab in India. The food from Punjab is very popular around the world, famous for its naans, kulchas, butter chicken, biryani, tandoori chicken and dal makhni (dal made with black lentils).
Tandoor cooking, or cooking in a clay oven with high temperatures, and wood-fired ovens are extremely popular in Punjab, especially in the villages. Most families use tandoors for everyday cooking. Tandoori chicken and tandoori roti have now become globally recognized Indian food.
Vegetarian cooking tends to include a lot of lentils and masalas (spice powders) which include cardamom, turmeric, bay leaves, cinnamon and so on. The food is typically quite spicy, and meals almost always include a raita, a cooling yogurt side dish.
This form of chole is spicy and is eaten commonly with kulchas as street food, and is very popular. Sometimes it is served with a tall glass of cold lassi or buttermilk.
The chole requires a special spice mix, but its easy to make at home, and well worth it. You could substitute store-bought Chole or Channa Masala, but making it from scratch gives it a lovely authentic flavor.
I got inspiration from this website, foodfellas4you, which is a wealth of information on this kind of food. Her recipes are authentic and she has lovely step-by-step instructions too.
First, let’s make Channa Masala. If you have the time, please make a batch of this and store it in the freezer. Store-bought channa masala will work if you must use it, but this is the authentic stuff.
- 1/4 cup cumin seeds
- 10 pieces of cardamom
- 5 bay leaves
- 6-7 dry red chillies
- 1/2 cup coriander seeds
- 1 cup dry pomegranate seeds (anardana, widely available in Indian grocery stores)
- 2 tsp cloves
- 10 small pieces of cinnamon
- 1 tbsp pepper powder
- 1/2 cup dried fenugreek leaves, or 2 tbsp fenugreek powder
Roast all the ingredients in a saute pan, without oil. Saute until fragrant and blended. Grind to a fine powder in a blender and store in an airtight container. It will last up to 6 months.
Now for the chole.
Chole (Spicy Chickpeas)
- 3 cups garbanzo beans/ chickpeas, soaked overnight. (If using cooked canned beans, skip step 1). Reserve the water.
- 1 tbsp black rock salt (known as himalayan black salt. if unavailable, regular rock salt is fine too).
- 1/2 cup sliced onions
- 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
- 2-3 green chillies, slit length-wise
- 3-4 tbsp Channa Masala (from the recipe above, or store bought. Alternatively, you could use just regular garam masala).
For the tempering:
- 1 tbsp ghee, clarified butter, or a neutral oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- A pinch of asafetida
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Cook the garbanzo beans with the rock salt. The rock salt gives it a different flavor, and makes it a little tangy. Regular salt works fine, if you can’t find rock salt.
Heat some neutral oil, such as sunflower oil, in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Next add the cooked garbanzo beans with the water that it was cooked in (or the liquid from the cans, if using canned beans). Add the tomatoes, green chillies and the channa masala. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours, until the mixture is thick and smooth. As the skin of the garbanzos fall off and dissolve in the gravy, it thickens and becomes soft and silky.
Heat another smaller pan and add the ghee. When hot, add the ingredients for the tempering. Stir for a few minutes, until fragrant. Add the tempered ingredients to the garbanzo beans. Stir to combine.
Serve hot with rice or naan or kulchas. (Recipe for kulchas coming up in the next post). Enjoy 🙂