Friday, November 8, 2013

Cholé (Channa Masala)

I have, in my recipe collection, about 5 – 6 different ways to make cholé.  I have the version my mom used to make – with ground up onions, garlic, ginger, and tomato puree.  I have a Bengali version, where you boil the cholé with tea bags to give it a darker color.  I have a Bihari version where you add ginger, garlic, onions, potatoes and all the masalas to the soaked cholé and pressure-cook the whole thing together, and a few other hybrids from my talented friends.


My favorite though, is the one Shashi makes.  She boils the channa with dried amla (gooseberries) and adds this special masala powder she brings back from Delhi. The last few time that she has gone to India, she has brought back a packet for me too.  This masala is from a small store in her neighborhood, and comes in a tiny plastic bag with no other packaging – no name – no ingredients list, just a plastic bag with the masala.

Cholé Masala

I am running out of this masala powder and wanted to see if it was possible to replicate the taste of her cholé with a home-made version.  A few days ago, I made my own masala powder, and made cholé with it.  My husband couldn’t make out the difference!  After dinner, I asked him if he liked the cholé, and he said – “This is Shashi’s cholé – right?  Why won’t I like it?” - which makes me think I have come close to the original taste.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight or for 6 hours (I soak it in the morning before going to work, and make it when I get back home)
  • 4 – 6 pieces dried amla (dried gooseberry)
  • 2 pieces badi elaichi (black cardamom)
  • salt to taste
  • ½ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 small pieces cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ star anise (just 3 petals)
  • 4 -5 red chilies
  • 2tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. jeera
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tsp. slivered ginger
  • 2 tsp. amchur powder (dried mango)
  • few sprigs of coriander, chopped
  • sliced onions and green chilies for serving

Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash and drain the beans.  Add enough water, salt, dried amla, badi elaichi, and hing and pressure-cook on low for about 10 minutes, after the first whistle.  Drain and reserve the liquid.
  2. While the channa is cooking, dry roast coriander seeds, jeera, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and red chilies.
  3. Turn off the heat when the coriander seeds change color slightly, cook, and powder to a coarse powder.  Set aside.
  4. Heat oil and add jeera.
  5. When the jeera changes color, add onions.  Sauté for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add garlic and ginger. Sauté for a couple of more minutes.
  7. Add 2 – 3 tsp. of the ground masala powder and the amchur powder.  Mix well.
  8. Remove the badi elaichi from the cooked cholé.  Discard.   Add the cooked cholé with a little bit of the reserved liquid to the onion masala.
  9. Let this simmer for some time.  Check for salt and spiciness.  If necessary, add some more ground powder and salt.
  10. After about 15 minutes, mash some of the cholé with a potato masher and then turn off the stove.  Add some more liquid if necessary.
  11. Just before serving, garnish with slivered onions, chopped green chilies, and cilantro.

Serve with bhaturas, puris, or rotis.

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