Masquerading under the moniker of Chola Bhatura, the quintissential street food king of Punjabi cuisine is the humble Chana Masala which loosely translates to North Indian Spicy Chickpeas, well not really. It basically means Spicy Chickpeas, I just added the North Indian bit.
I have always loved this very fragrant, very spicy dish. It is responsible for my love affair with the mighty chickpea. My mum used to make this with a lot of love and care, slowly simmered over low to medium heat for almost 2 hours and it was absolutely gorgeous in its complexity and flavours. She always soaked the chickpeas overnight with a dash of bicarbonate of soda or baking powder. And I continued that tradition for a long time before I developed the ease of canned chickpeas. Shame on me! Because, I do believe that dry chickpeas that are soaked impart a more robust, more authentic flavour to this wonderful dish than the canned chickpeas swimming in some sticky liquid (which has to be completely rinsed off). So one of these days, I might take a clean break from my hectic schedule to go old school and cook the "chana" as my mum used to make.
In restaurants, the chickpeas are always served with hot, puffed, fried Indian bread called "Bhatura". It is one of those wickedly delicious, very sinful breads that are not the most convenient and easy to make. So, I make them maybe once a year when inspiration and motivation strikes. There is no real replacement for the "Bhatura". The "Puri" comes close and is relatively easier and faster to conjure in your deep fryer. But the amazingly versatile Chana Masala goes just as well with bread or rice. My favorite is laying a bread slice on a platter, topping it up with hot chana masala and garnishing with chopped onion, coriander and an extra dash of spices and sweet tamaring chutney.
The version of Chana Masala that I have for you today is the one I grew up with and love the most. It is very close to what is dished up in parts of northern India.
Preparation Time – 10-15 minutes to assemble ingredients | Cooking Time – A maximum of 2 hours | Serves – 4-6