Does anyone have an authentic chana masala recipe?
- junglekitte May 5, 2010 11:11 AM
I tried the recipe from "The Food of India: A Journey for Food Lovers" last night and was disappointed. :*( Does anyone have a really awesome recipe they can recommend?
In my family, we have recently become hooked on Trader Joe's frozen chana masala. I've made chana masala various different ways - my mom's slightly Maharashtrian take, my Punjabi friend's mom's recipe and so on. And they each have their place. But OMG, Trader Joe's has to be the holy grail for us. So I've been tweaking my usual recipe a lot lately and here's what I did last night that makes me feel I'm close:
2 medium yellow onions - peeled and grated or very finely chopped
1/2 28 oz can of fire roasted whole tomatoes (just what I had on hand)
2 fat cloves of garlic - mashed or finely grated
3 - 4 cups of cooked and drained chickpeas (didn't measure so this is a guesstimate)
2 large tej patta (indian bay leaves)
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
3 whole pods of cardamom
1.5 tsp ground cumin
2 - 2.5 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric ground
1/4 tsp red chili powder (cayenne) - this is toned down for my kid, so can increase to your taste
1/4 to 1/2 tsp amchur powder (dried green mango powder)
small pinch sugar (shhh..)
1.5 serving spoon oil
about 1 tbsp butter
water or broth from cooking beans about 2 cups
Salt to taste
Heat oil in saucepan. Add bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods. When cloves swell up, add onion and cook on medium heat stirring once in a while until onions are soft and starting to brown in places. (In my normal brown curry base recipe I take the onions to a much more caramelized state.) Add the butter when onions start sticking and you wonder if you have enough oil in there. :-) Add the ground spices and garlic and cook stirring for 5 more minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, mashing them with your spatula/spoon. Do add half of the juice as well. Let this cook down another 5 minutes. Then add the chickpeas, water, salt to taste and the amchur powder and let it boil for at least 5-10 minutes. At this point taste seasoning and adjust the salt, acidity and when no one is looking, add a pinch of sugar if needed to balance it all. Ideally, serve the next day. ;-)
Edited to add: Part of my tweaks has been to omit fresh ginger and garam masala. Some restaurants serve chana masala garnished with a (briefly sauteed?) julienne of ginger. Note also that some of the spices (bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and cumin) in the recipe above are typically part of garam masala. I guess I prefer to control these individually rather than as part of an already ground masala.
Oh and another thing I learned was that if you are soaking and cooking the chickpeas from scratch, then you can make the masala in your pressure cooker pot (mine is stainless steel) directly and add the soaked but not yet cooked channa and pressure cook the whole thing together. I don't know how much of this is real and how much can be attributed to what I "think" must be happening, but the channa seems to get more flavor inside it that way.
IMHO the trick to yummy channa masala is making it not overly masala-fied, but sour and chile hot. Some people like it more liquidy and mashy, others like it a bit dry and the end result. The chickpeas can become a little bit broken, but should still mostly be intact. My chana masala is really simple. Boil your channa and have them ready, say 1.5 cups dried channay will expand to 3 cups after soaking and cooking. The chickpeas should be just cooked. You can reserve a bit of the cooking liquid. Alternatively you can use canned chickpeas.
Then fry 2 finely chopped onions until golden. Add in 1 tsp whole cumin seeds, 1 tbs crushed garlic, 1 tbs crushed ginger, 2-3 finely chopped fresh green chiles, allow to sizzle. Pour in 1.5 cups pureed fresh tomatoes. Stir this until all the moisture has evaoporated out of the tomato and the oil rised to the top. Add in .5 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp each garam masala, ground cumin, and red chile powder. Let this sizzle, add in your chick peas, plus about 1/2 cup cooking liquid and salt to taste. Allow to simmer covered for 20 mins or so, adding more cooking liquid if necessary. When done, add in one heaping tbs of dried mango powder, and one more tsp of garam masala. Cover and keep on low heat for 5 more minutes. Garnish with lots of fresh chopped cilantro and chopped green chiles. You can also garnish with raw sliced onion. You can eat this with regular chappatis but I love this with puris.
I make it this way, but I have also made it by adding in 1 cup of tamarind water and skipping the aamchoor and the cooking liquid. This is nice, too.
Although I don't bother to do this myself, I know people who put a regular tea bag in with their chickpeas when they boil them to give them a dark color, but then the rest of the recipe looks similar to mine. The teabag thing popular cuz is based on the way channa masala is served in Punjabi places in Dehli.
SweetTooth: I suppose my recipe here is generic Punjabi-ish and looks similar to yours except no whole garam masalas. I have also had this garnished with finely julienned raw ginger. What is a Maharashtrian recipe for this like? I am guessing the pinch of sugar is a Maharashtrian touch?
I have tried the tea bag version, based on my mother's Sikh friend's recipe. It doesn't chagne the taste, though it changes the colour.
However, if you are using tamarind, that gives a dark colour to the chana masala so the tea bag is redundant.
I definitely recommend using one of the souring agents mentioned: amchoor or tamarind or anardana (powdered pomegranate seed) and black salt (kala namak) to give that tangy characteristic taste of chana masala. Heck, even use all three if you have them (smaller quantities of course).
Chana masala or chhole is the food of the gods. My gold standard is from one specific street vendor in the Delhi University who sold his wares off the back of a bicycle, he carted a small stove with him. Hot chana, freshly made puffy bhatooras, and a sliced onion garnish. I have never tasted anything so good in my life. Used to have this regularly. Wish I had asked him for some details, though most likely he would have guarded his secrets.
I would love to see a maharastrian recipe for this as well, having never eaten this in a home when I'm in mumbai, but my kids love channa masala.
one trick i often use is to mix in some grated ginger mixed with lemon juice at the end. Almost an indian gremolata kind of thing. The lemon juice adds a nice sour touch and the raw ginger kind of perks it up.
Also, though you can use any of the souring agents, they are not interchangeable. I don't love tamarind with channa--i love tamarind, but find it has kind of a "muddy" taste which goes better with black-eyed peas or dhal. I prefer the clean sourness of lemon juice or amchoor with my channa.
Perhaps the times I did use it, I didn't use enough. It is likely that those were the days when I used that concentrated paste I used to buy at the Indian grocery. I've now switched to the real deal - salt cured tamarind pods that come pressed together in a cake. Ghg, I'll try this next time in my channa and see if I like it.
My chholay have never come out muddy from tamarind water either. I always make it from dried pod flesh, never the paste. The sourness is nice and bright. Tamarind taste dulls if you cook it for too long and on high heat though, which is why it shouldn't be added till the end of cooking during that last 20 mins to let the chholay absorb the masala on low heat.
Growing up I didn't much care for my mom's Maharashtrian style chholey, so I've lost track of her recipe. Will ask her and get back to you. You're right about your's being the generic Punjabi recipe. Rasam may be on to something with the tea bag probably being a Sikh thing - anecdotal evidence from my childhood would support that theory.