Pindi Chana…the most famous export from Rawalpindi, Pakistan…My family is from pre-partition Punjab – or what is today, Pakistan…And most of the cooking done at home is from the ‘refugee era’…when they had to make do with what was available or rather what they could afford…to say life was tough would be an understatement…In those early years of struggle, most of the so called ‘authentic’ Punjabi food entwined slowly but surely with recipes from UP and Delhi.
I have no stories about how the cook would make things at my great grandparents’ or my grandparents’ house…all of those stories got lost in dealing with life and building a new life in a ‘new’ land…By the time our generation came along, what we got was an easy, relaxed version of plain simple good food with no claims to authenticity.
What I do have, are precious stories about how everyone escaped the war that tore this country apart and landed here, in Delhi…how life had to be rebuilt from scratch – all told in a matter of fact way…not to gain sympathy or ‘feel sorry for us’ way but, you know…life…lemons…lemonade…I would sit there, night after night, begging my grandmother to tell me one more time the stories of the times gone by, instead of those stories about our Gods and Goddesses…and that is where I got my first real superhero stories J
Coming back to food…most of the people know of Rawalpindi, thanks to Pindi Chana…and there are millions if not billions of versions of the so-called ‘Authentic Pindi Chana’ out there…this is ‘our’ authentic version!!!
My Mom is from Rawalpindi and although she was a baby when they moved to Delhi, she is extremely particular about this dishJ…Again, I am sure she picked this up from the collective stories she heard while growing up here, away from ‘their land’…But, Hey, this is as authentic as I go!!! J
A couple of No’s to start with…NO and I mean an absolute NO to tea leaves/tea bags, garlic, aamchur, onions or tomatoes…a good to have is a ‘lohe ki kadhai’ (cast iron kadhai)…if you don’t have one (like me!) use a regular kadhai but pls. don’t use a non-stick Teflon coated kadhai. That would be sacrilege!!!
Pindi Chana (Tangy and Spicy Chickpeas)
For the Spice Powder:
- Anardana/ Dried Pomegranate seeds, 2 tsp
- Coriander seeds, 1.5 tsp
- Cumin seeds, 1 tsp
- Cloves, 4-5
- Black Cardamom, 1
- Cinnamon, 1”
- Black peppercorns, 10-12
- Salt to taste
- Chole/Safed chana/ Chickpeas, 1 cup
- Bayleaf, 1
- Cloves, 2-3
- Black Cardamom, 1
- Cinnamon, 1”
- Black peppercorns, 4-5
- Salt, to taste
- Oil, 5-6 tbsp
- Green Chilies, Whole, slit, 5-6
- Fresh Ginger, About 2 tbsp finely shredded /julienned
For the spice powder: Dry roast all the spices, cool and then dry grind them together.
For the chanas:
Wash and soak chanas overnight.
Discard the water and boil the chanas in fresh water with all the whole spices and salt.
Drain the chanas and reserve the water. Fish out the whole spices added to the chanas while boiling and discard – their job is done!
Mix the spice powder made earlier with the drained chanas in a bowl.
Heat 3 tbsp oil in a kadhai to almost smoking point and then pour it on the chanas and mix. Keep aside.
Heat the balance oil in the same kadhai, fry ginger juliennes till golden and crisp and remove. Light fry the green chilies, remove and set aside.
Add the masala mixed chanas to the remaining oil in the kadhai. Stir for a few minutes on high heat (don’t let the masala burn).
Add some boiled chana water and cover and cook for about 15 minutes.
Remove the cover and dry out the water to the consistency you want – ideally served almost dry.
Garnish with the fried ginger and green chilies.
Serve with Bhaturas or Pooris (no one in our family likes it with Kulchas) and raw onions.
- Remember Pindi chana is not mushy so resist the temptation to over boil/pressure cook or to mash while stirring. The boiled chanas need to have a bite to them.
- Some people add tamarind pulp as well towards the final bit of cooking. Mom says that’s acceptable for a thick curry version but not for a dry version.