Chick peas in a spicy gravy
The first time I tasted Chole bhatura was in Jaipur. We went on a joy trip with our kids as we had a sudden urge to explore North India. It was a very eventful trip as my son was just a toddler and I had the rare privilege of enjoying his excited company in a fast moving train. To add to my agony, the trip was in winter with unbearable cold weather. It was more shivers and less exploration. We were carrying the little boy and dragging our daughter on rugged landscapes, in crowded public transport and cold hotel rooms and they oscillated between pure crankiness and dramatic hyperactivity. That made me realize the mad scale of our ambition.
Testing the limits of our tolerance, I thought that trip would end up as the most disastrous vacation in our history. On the contrary, it was a unique culinary experience, tasting the most expensive masala dosa in Agra, a complete Punjabi meal at a roadside dhaba in Chandigarh, an orange juice with the sulphurous tang of rock salt (kala namak) in Mathura and a repeat of chole bhatura in Shimla.
Now, let me go back to the first bite of bhatura with channa masala that introduced me to the new world of curried chick peas. It was our first morning in Jaipur and we decided to have some authentic Rajasthani food. Outside our hotel was a small food stall and we went there anticipating a taste of the great desert cuisine. To our surprise we were served katchori (deep fried dumpling) and jelabi (a syrupy dessert) for breakfast.
I looked at my husband with distrust if they were just kidding but he confirmed it is habitual for them to eat snack like food for breakfast. (That reminds me of a friend from that part of the world who was surprised when I said that we eat Dosa for breakfast and he exclaimed, “So what do you eat for dinner? Corn flakes?” I just shut up!)
Back at the food stall, I begged the server for another option and he said they had Punjabi chole bhatura. So, that’s when I tasted chole many years ago, without any expectation and hey, it was mind blowing! There was a burst of flavours in my mouth that I had never experienced before and transformed me into an instant fan, an ardent fan for life. I registered the intricate blend of spices which contributed to the rich taste and carried the sensation back home.
In those days of meager information exchange and no internet, it was not easy to find a genuine recipe for chole/channa masala. After a year or so, I finally, got it from a cook book and tried it. I would openly declare, it was a big failure and nowhere close to the original taste! But can I give up so easily? Tried it again and again making adjustments. Many years later, a friend who is a fast food expert from Mumbai, gave me a demo and after that I never looked back.
Here is the recipe I follow after making a lot of alterations on the way.
- 2 cups Channa/Garbanzo Beans/ Chick peas
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 4 tsp. vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp ginger, garlic paste
- 1 tsp mango powder
- ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
- 1 tsp. red chili powder
- 1 tsp. coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp. garam masala powder
- 3 tsp. of chana masala powder
- Salt to taste
- few sprigs of coriander leaves
- Pressure cook Channa/Garbanzo Beans with 2 teabags to impart some colour.
- Heat vegetable oil in a heavy bottom pan and splutter some cumin seeds.
- Coarsely chop and mince onion in a blender.
- Add mango or pomegranate powder and mix well with the minced onion.
- Saute onion mixture in the oil until it turns brown.
- Add ginger garlic paste to it and cook till the raw smell disappears.
- Next add tomato puree and stir. Allow it to cook well and when oil separates add red chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powder.
- Dry roast cumin seeds and powder it. Add this to the above mixture and cook well.
- Add channa masala and garam masala and saute for a while.
- Transfer our cooked channa into the thickened masala mix and add some water in which channa was cooked.
- Boil well until channa absorbs the flavour and the gravy thickens.
- Add required amount of salt and boil.
- Garnish it with coriander leaves.
Cook well after adding each ingredient.
Chole is the perfect combination for Bhatura, the deep fried puffed bread. My bhatura flattens after a while like my poories. How do they keep them puffed and retain the shape in the restaurants? Specially in the small road side eateries where they stack them in glass display cabinets…how do they stay put for such a long time? I keep wondering….