Chana Masala (Indian Chick Pea Stew)

>> Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chana Masala (Indian Chick Pea Stew)

Chana masala is a stew made of chick peas (or garbanzos) from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan - the vast territory at the top of India, touching the Himalayas. This is my friend Sheilja's homeland.

When she was a girl, her mom was determined to send her to an English boarding school up in the Himalayas, far from her family. Her mother wanted her to have the best possible chance for a good life, and a solid education was the path, even if it wasn't the traditional path for women in her family.

Sheilja went on to college in West Virginia, then worked in New York City before settling down in the Chicagoland area. She speaks perfect, nearly unaccented English, too. What a fascinating life!

channa masala Indian food

Punjabis sure know how to cook. This filling and healthy traditional Indian stew is completely meatless, but I promise you won't miss the meat for the highly flavored and slightly spicy party of flavors in this bowl. The garam masala and chole masala spice mixes give it a distinctive taste - in a pinch, you can use an equal amount of generic sweet curry powder.

Because many Indians cook with a variety of dried beans, lentils, seeds, and corn, you can often find a pressure cooker in the kitchen. This cuts down the prep time for Indian food enormously. But if you don't have one, soaking and then boiling the dry legumes is a perfectly good option, or allowing them to cook all day or overnight in a slow cooker before making the recipe.


2 cups dry chickpeas, rinsed and picked over, or 2 15-oz cans garbanzos, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and minced
2 tbsp grated ginger root
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground punjabi chole masala
1 tbsp ground garam masala
1 tsp tamarind paste, or 1 tsp sugar and the juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

Cooked rice for serving (optional)
Chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)


Cook the dry beans in a pressure cooker according to the manufacturers directions, or soak them for 1 hour and then boil about 2 hours until tender. Drain well.

Heat a large skillet and toast the cumin seeds until slightly browned and fragrant. Set the seeds aside. Heat the oil, then saute to garlic, onion, pepper, and ginger until tender. Sitr in the rest of the ingredients, including the chick peas. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Serve over rice with a side of warm naan or chapatis.

Serves 4-6.


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