I don’t usually cook Indian food much because I don’t keep a lot of the necessary ingredients around my kitchen (I never seem to have all 20 of the spices listed in a typical Indian recipe, haha) and honestly I have never really put the effort into getting the ingredients from an Indian grocery store and learning the basic recipes. I have been to the local specialty store that sells Indian and Pakistani groceries, but I ended up buying a lot of snack mixes (those bags of spicy, crunchy, deliciousness) and nothing else. That stuff is so yummy.
Someday I would like to take the time to really learn Indian cooking, but for now there is just one dish that I do love to make. It’s my favorite Indian food of all time (a very popular one), chana masala!
Chana masala is a curry of chickpeas (chana means chickpea in both Hindi and Urdu) from the region of Punjab. Punjab is half in India and half in Pakistan, so actually this is a northern Indian dish and a Pakistani dish too.
If you’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant before, you’ve probably seen chana masala. It’s usually kind of orange colored, with the red color coming from fresh tomato and the yellow from curry powder. In my recipe, the sauce is a darker red. When I have used fresh tomatoes, it has always been too watery for my tastes, so I like to use tomato puree instead. My recipe is not really authentic, but has a very spicy, deep flavor that I love (from cinnamon, another nontraditional ingredient).
One part of the authentic chana masala preparation that I do include in my recipe is the tangy flavor. Every time I enjoy this dish at an Indian restaurant, there is a bright, almost-lemony-but-not-really kind of taste that absolutely characterizes chana masala for me. The ingredient that produces this flavor is amchoor powder, made by grinding up dried, unripe mango slices.
You can get this mango powder at an Indian grocery store. If you do go to a specialty store for one ingredient, it should be this one, because although you can substitute it with lemon juice, it’s really this flavor that makes the chana masala go from good to super awesomely delicious and great.
I started the curry by cooking the spices (including the amchoor powder) in butter along with onion, garlic, and ginger.
The other spices I used were pretty common ones in non-Indian kitchens (curry powder, ground cinnamon and ginger, and black pepper).
I added a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas and a can of tomato puree, which may also be labeled “tomato sauce,” although it should just contain tomatoes and maybe salt or something.
Also I added two dried chili peppers for extra spiciness. If you don’t want your curry as spicy, leave this out or just add one.
After it cooked for a while and the sauce reduced down, I served it over rice.
You can serve it over plain basmati or jasmine rice, or over coconut rice. I love coconut rice. It’s not sweet, it’s just mildly coconut-flavored either from coconut milk replacing some of the water or coconut flakes added to the raw rice before cooking. I added a Tablespoon of finely shredded unsweetened coconut per serving of basmati rice before I cooked it.
Coconut rice is popular in Southeast Asia and India, and it goes so nicely with spicier curries because of the refreshing flavor that the coconut provides.
The pictures in this post only show about a third of the amount that the entire recipe makes. So this might serve three or four people as a side dish (Indian meals, like Korean and Chinese meals, are usually made up of rice, one or two meat dishes, and a number of vegetable-based side dishes).
Chana Masala (Chickpea Curry)
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ teaspoon amchoor (dried mango powder)
1 Tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon each ground ginger and cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 can tomato puree
2 dried chili peppers (optional if you like it spicier)
Rinse and drain the can of chickpeas in a strainer.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and then add the garlic, fresh ginger, onion pieces, and the spices. Stir and cook over medium heat for about a minute.
Add the can of tomato and the chickpeas, add the dried pepper if you are using it. Stir together, turn the heat to low and put the top on.
Let it cook for about thirty minutes. Make rice while the curry simmers, and serve together. You can also garnish with fresh cilantro (coriander) if you want.