Chhole Rice is a Punjabi specialty ! . It’s synonym to a Punjabi as its Dosa to a South Indian. You go to any road side Dhaba on the roads of Punjab and you will always find this dish first thing on the menu. And the correct way of enjoying this rich curry is with dollops of butter on top… mmmm… Am recalling all those nights when during winters Mum used to prepare Chhole rice if there were any visitors at home. It serves as a complete meal when served with rice and you don’t have to worry about any side dish when its there. Just serve it with freshly boiled rice and chilled cucumber raita and its done !. And ohh , don’t forget to keep a bowl full of sliced onion and lemon aside to keep the real taste intact
Chickpeas is a legume very high in fibre, protein and iron. Due to its low GI, chickpeas are excellent for weight loss diets. I somehow believe that in India we don’t do full justice of this extremely healthy food, specially in North India. The way we make Chickpeas, involves a lot of oil and Masala and other ingredients that make the curry very rich and dense with calories. So although we know we are eating something healthy, it just gets neutralized by the negative effects of this excessive fat et al. It’s good to see people using chickpeas now in various cuisines and forms, other than the usual Chhole curry. Even I have started adopting it to make various versions, almost all of which are delicious without much use of oil and spices. It takes time for your taste to develop, but eventually it does, for good :)
In one of my last posts, I posted a recipe for Chhole Masala which use less oil and is made in a different way. That’s very light on stomach too. So instead of making this rich Punjabi chhole curry I prefer making that one with rice for my daily life. Its only when some special occasion comes in or somebody is coming home then I make this version. But at the end, the result is just worth all the efforts and wait. Whenever I make it, we love it and always end up over eating.
I used to make it in a slightly different way, until my friend M gave me her Dabba full of chhole to try. And I just loved that typical Punjabi taste. I forced her to write down the recipe for me and tried it the same weekend. Pure nostalgia is all I can say about it. It tastes exactly like my Mum used to make.. We had it with spinach Paratha and boiled rice, and yes the bowl full of sliced onion was present there too :)
There are some important things to be noted to get this Punjabi chhole recipe right:
- The first and main secret behind the dark colour and earthy taste is adding a tea bag while boiling the chickpeas.
- Adding half an inch of cinnamon stick while boiling imparts that mildly sweet taste to the curry
- Chickpeas should be overcooked than usual. For example if you cook it till 4 whistles, do it 5 this time. You don’t need to mash it with potato masher or by hands after its cooked, just a strong stir should be enough to break it slightly
- The amount of water used is not too much, the gravy should be rich and thick but not runny at all
- Last but not the least and curse me to say that ;) – butter is essential to use without which you won’t enjoy the true taste of Punjab. Home-made butter will suit this the best
Recipe source: Own
Recipe type: Main course curry
Cuisine: North Indian
Serves: 4-5 people
What you need?
For boiling chickpeas:
- 1 ½ cups chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans, Kabuli Chana or Chhloe)
- 1 tea bag – any would do, I used Tetley
- 1 tsp Salt
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
For the tadka:
- 2 medium sized onions, finely chopped
- 3 medium sized tomatoes, finely chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced or chopped small
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- ½ tsp garam masala powder
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp amchur powder (dry mango powder)
- 2 green chillies, slit length wise
- 2 tbsp oil
- 4-5 black cardamoms
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 5-6 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 and half tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 and half tsp coriander seeds (dhania)
- 1 and half tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
- 2 dry red chillies
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves
- 1/2 cup Paneer cubes ( optional )
- 1 tbsp thin ginger sliced in juliens
How to make?
- Wash and soak the chhole (chickpeas) in enough water ( 3-4 cups ) overnight.
- Add more water if required and in a pressure cooker add chhole, salt, tea bag, cinnamon. Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles ad open when the pressure eases off. Tkae the tea bag out and keep aside
- In a pan, dry roast all the spices mentioned above till brown on a low flame. Be careful not to burn them, let them cool and grind them into a fine powder. Keep aside.
- Now in the same pan, add oil. Once the oil becomes hot, add garlic and ginger, fry till brown for 10-15 seconds. Add onion and fry till they become transparent.
- Now add chopped tomatoes and green chilies, with little salt and cook it covered for next 5-7 minutes
- Add all the spices, and mix well. Cook it further till the whole mixture come together and oil will start leaving sides of the pan.
- Then add the boiled chhole into it and check seasoning. Simmer for 8-10 minutes on a low to medium flame till the gravy thickens a bit and become smooth.
- Finally, add the amchur powder, mix well and turn off
- Garnish with sliced ginger, fresh coriander leaves and Paneer cubes.
- Serve with onion rings, sliced lemons and rice or naan.
My notes and tips:
- When you add water to chickpeas, do not over do it. Don't add too much of water since we don't chickpeas to swell up a lot. And don't throw the water, use the same water to boil the chickpeas.
- If you dont have tea bags, and want to use loose tea leaves, just take one teaspoon of tea leaves and fold them together in a muslin cloth and tie a knot. Keep it inside the pressure cooker with the chhole as per the directions given above. Once its done, take out the muslin cloth and throw the tea leaves.
- On Dhabas you will always get small onion bulbs dipped in vinegar with this dish, they make a great accomplishment. I have seen some people adding a tsp of vinegar in the curry itself, I haven’t tried it yet myself, and never found the difference in taste when ate it. But they say it gives a mild earthy touch to the dish, so you may try that
- If you want to skip tea bag, you may do that but then you would not get this dark brown colour at all.
- You may also add some potatoes to this curry, which is usually used in Pindi Chana recipe. Roast some potatoes cubes on pan separately and add to the curry just before its done, mix well and serve hot.