I love Indian food and we had the luxury of many wonderful restaurants in London ranging from the simple curry houses to sophisticated Michelin starred restaurants. It was often our go to for take out when we wanted something flavorful to just show up. When we lived in Argentina, such tasty options were not available, so I was delighted to learn about a cooking class with a lovely woman, Juhi Manwani, who had emigrated to Argentina from India. It was a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon with a group of friends and I came away with not only some tasty recipes, but the knowledge of the Asian markets in the Belgrano neighborhood where I could get the ingredients that were not readily available in the local supermarkets. Ginger, fresh and dried chilies, cilantro, cardamom, lemongrass, coriander, cumin, fish sauce, coconut milk, and the list goes on, including peanut butter, which was hard to find otherwise and frequently brought back from trips home to the US. Local restaurant owners in “Barrio China” frequented these markets to procure the spices, fresh fish and pork needed for their Thai, Indian and Korean specialties. It was a revelation for me, and allowed me to create and cook things we like that were not readily available, such as my Thai curry pastes, Peanut Noodles and various Mexican dishes. It was typically a weekly stop after golf on Tuesdays with our driver, Pablo, who would collect the bags while I popped to the next store, since I often had to go to 3 or 4 to obtain everything on my list, with one store not having cilantro, another not having fresh chilies, etc.
I enjoyed making the dishes that I learned in Juhi’s class, but more than anything it inspired me to be a bit more experimental. I always loved Chana Dal, which is chickpeas cooked in a tasty sauce loaded with spices and tomatoes. Juhi taught us how to make Cholle, which is very similar. Basically both Chana and Cholle mean chickpeas in different languages, with Cholle being more specifically Punjabi. I used to make it often when we were Argentina when I craved some big flavors and tweaked it a bit over the years by adding some additional spices, attempting to get it more like the Chana Dal I always ordered in London. I had sort of forgotten about making it at home, since we can easily get good Indian food in Chicago (and most other major cities) and we order it for take out fairly frequently, until a friend from Houston asked if I had any recipes for an Indian rice side dish. This came to mind, and while it’s not a rice dish, it can be served with rice for a delicious vegetarian main course. I made it up for quality control before sharing and found that it was just as delicious as our local Indian restaurant’s, and in my humble opinion, even better. It’s so easy, and the ingredients and even the spices are readily available in most supermarkets, so I’ll be making it again and again. Enjoy!
CHANA DAL (Indian Chickpea Curry)
- Medium Dutch Oven or Sauce Pan 4 Quart or larger. I like to use my 5.5 Quart Le Creuset Dutch oven that I bake my sour dough bread in.
- 3 Cans (15.5 ounces) Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans) Drained & Rinsed
- 1 Cup Onion, minced 1 medium, or 1/2 large
- 2 Cans (15.5 ounces) Chopped Tomatoes
- 1 TBSP Garlic, minced 3-4 cloves
- 1 TBSP Ginger (fresh), minced 3" piece
- 2 tsp Jalapeno (fresh), seeded & minced 1 small, or 1/2 large
- 2 tsp Ground Coriander
- 2 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- 8 Cardamom Pods
- 1/4 Cup Cilantro Leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
- 2 TBSP Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed 1 lemon
- 1/2 – 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 2 TBSP Canola Oil or Light Olive Oil
- Heat the oil in the pan over medium heat.
- Add the onions and sautee until they are very soft and golden brown, making sure to stir frequently. Do not let the onions burn, making sure to adjust the heat if they are frying rather than sauteeing.
- Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeno and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the coriander, cumin, garam masala and cardamom pods and give a quick stir.
- Add the chickpeas, tomatoes and their juice and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir well and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Taste for seasoning, and add another 1/2 tsp of salt if needed. If it had reduced too much, add 1/2 cup water.
- Garnish with additional cilantro. Serve as a side dish or as a main course with Basmati Rice and Naan bread.
- All ingredients and spices should be readily available in most grocery stores.
- You can serve this immediately after cooking, but I find that it is best the next day when the flavors have had more time to meld and the spices soften a bit.
- Do not eat the whole cardamom pods, you will find them rather unpleasant. You may wish to place them in a Bouquet Garni bag so that they can be easily removed before serving.
- This is very flavorful and slightly spicy, but I don’t think overly so. If you prefer more heat, I suggest serving some sliced fresh jalapeno or fresno chilies along side so people can adjust to their own palate.
- To tone down the spice, add Raita, which will mellow it out a bit and add a nice tang.