The colors and flavors of Punjab
The Punjab region of Northern India has always been a major influence on the world when it comes to Indian culture. Much of the imagery of women in colorfully bright clothes, men in turbans, and cities of intricate decoration can be attributed to the Punjab region. It’s also where much of the cuisine I’ve tried here in America has come from.
As I’ve mentioned before in previous articles, what makes the cuisine so unique is the usage of the many different herbs and seasonings known to India, which is why so many of our ancestors sought trade with the country. Even Columbus’ expedition was originally to find a better way to sail to India.
Today I want to continue our exploration into Indian cuisine with a very simple (and vegetarian) dish ideal as a side dish or even a main course. Go to any Indian restaurant anywhere in the world, and I’m pretty sure Chana Masala will be on the menu. It’s a simple dish of chickpeas cooked with onions, spinach, and oil, seasoned to have a little bit of spice with a sour citrus note.
In India, you would actually find Chana Masala sold more as a street food than in the restaurants. It is also known to Pakistan where they add in potatoes or even chicken.
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1 can (15 oz) of chickpeas in water
- 2 tbsp of lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp of curry powder
- 1/2 tsp of coriander
- 1/2 tsp of cumin
- 1/4 tsp of cardamom
- 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp of cloves
- 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
- 2 handfuls of spinach, rinsed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a skillet or frying pan, heat up the olive oil on medium heat.
- Add in the garlic and onion, sauteeing until the onion is soft.
- Place the chickpeas with water into the pan with the onion and garlic.
- Stir well and allow the mixture to get hot.
- Add in all the seasonings and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly.
- Season with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Reduce your heat to low.
- Place the spinach into the pan and stir around until the spinach is coated and softening.
- Cover the pan and allow the Chana Masala to cook for 2-5 more minutes before serving.
Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans, in case you can't find anything in the store labeled "chickpeas".
I personally prefer canned chickpeas for this recipe, but if you would rather used dried ones, then soak and cook 1 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas as you normally would, and put them into the recipe with 1/2 cup of water.
If you wish to make the Pakistani version with potatoes, I would peel two potatoes and cut them into small chunks. Put them in the oil first before the onion and garlic. Cook them until they are soft and have a light golden color. Then add in the onion and garlic and carry on as I described.
If you would like to try this recipe with chicken, then simply cut your chicken into strips or small pieces, and sautée in the oil until they are almost fully cooked. From there you would add in the garlic and onion and proceed as described.
Some also like to add in tomatoes to this recipe for color and variety.
Traditionally Chana Masala is served with rice and yogart, but I personally like it alone. You can also serve it with naan bread.