Oct 9, 2011

Eat and Meditate - Chole/Chana Masala

I was saving this post for tomorrow, but since the Vegan Mofo Iron Chef Challenge #1's secret ingredient is Chickpea and since the challenge ends soon, I can't stop myself.

Have you ever tried making Chana Masala or Rajma without Onions and Garlic? I just did and it's quite awesome! Why would I do something like that? Sometimes it's nice not to end up with skin smelling of onion/garlic for the next three days. It does happen if you eat more garlic than anything else and most often when you eat out. I don't know why but restaurants really love their garlic and may be they think that without the addition of the same, food won't taste good. Even Italian food in India ends up tasting only of garlic. I just can't stand it anymore.

Being a South Indian, our daily cooking is all vegetarian and also doesn't involve onion and garlic. Of course now with the bastardization of traditional cooking with the invention of the microwave, non-stick and what not, even the ingredients added to traditional foods are changing. Of course some call it invention, but excuse me for not liking onion in my sambar unless it is an Onion Sambar.

My great-grandmother to this day won't touch food with onion and garlic. I did ask my grandmother why it wasn't added in food then and why to this day she also is just like her mother (except on Sundays..haha). She said in those days, left over water from fish farming was added to grow Onions and Garlic. But I think somewhere the roots of these decisions lie in Ayurvedic cooking where onion and garlic were considered Rajasic and Tamasic (the energies in these foods don't allow you to meditate). Even if you do certain meditation courses, they will tell you not to eat onion and garlic. Apart from the South Indians, Jains also follow these guidelines and also omit all root vegetables for many more reasons.

So this recipe is something that my great-grandmother, grandmothers and mother would enjoy. If you wouldn't tell anyone that it didn't have any onion and garlic they wouldn't believe it.

Oh and it also has no oil and is gluten free of course!

Serves 2 to 4

You need:
1 cup Chickpeas/ Garbanzo beans (If using dried, soak for 8 hours,drain and cook in fresh water)
6 ripe tomatoes
1 inch piece of ginger (omit this for the jains)
2 green chilies (optional)
3 pieces of Tamarind soaked in just enough warm water for ten minutes
1 tsp Cumin Seeds / Jeera
1 tsp Coriander Powder
2 tsp + 1/2 tsp store bought or home made chole/ rajma masala (I used Everest Masala for this)
1/2 tsp asafoetida / hing
A small piece of Jaggery
Rock Salt

Puree the tomatoes with the ginger and green chilies if you're using them.

Heat up a wok / kadhai and add the Cumin. Toss it around a bit and it should start emitting a beautiful aroma. Quickly add the coriander powder, rock salt and chole masala. Stir is around a bit and make sure it doesn't burn.

Add the tomato puree carefully. You have to let this cook really well. This step is the key. Stir is once in a while to make sure it's not burning at the bottom, if it is, add very little water and turn the heat down. It comes to an almost ketchup stage after about 12-15 minutes. It should be much more darker in colour and should be spluttering small bubbles all over.

Looks like a million-eyed monster face!

In the mean time, squeeze 'the life' out of the tamarind and use only the pulp. Add this to the tomato gravy once you are satisfied with the thickness of the gravy. Add the cooked chickpeas and the jaggery with about half cup water.

Let it cook away till the gravy reaches the desired thickness. Add salt and 1.2 tsp more of the chole masala.

Take it off the heat, squeeze half a lime and garnish it with some fresh coriander.

Serve hot with brown rice or rotis.


  1. It looks delicious. I have been eating so much onion and garlic, and as a yoga teacher, I think my students have been paying the price. Poor things. So I decided last week to omit them for a while, and see what happens. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Kristen! It'll be nice to see if you notice any changes. And now on, I will add more yoga/meditation-friendly recipes. :)

  3. Yummy mofo post! I wish I was doing this too, looking at all the wonderful posts you girls are putting up.:( Maybe I will join next year!

    Great going!

  4. Haha I love your million eyed monster face interpretation, Rithika! :D

    Recently someone told me that another reason why people don't eat onion, garlic and basically anything that grows underground is because they have many more life forms (bacteria and such) living on them and when you use these, you kill those life forms. What a beautiful, compassionate way of thinking.

    I love garlic so I like using it in a lot of my foods (not the traditional South India ones though) but I can easily stay without onion for days together (even though I do like it too). If I do go for many days without either, it's mainly thanks to my laziness of peeling and cutting them. :oP Ever since I've been influenced by Dr. Nandita, I have stopped peeling almost all other veggies that I use (even things like turnip, beetroot and chayote) so I am rarely inclined to use things which require this added step.

    Hmm maybe I should do a post about the ways laziness has inadvertently led to healthy choices on my part. :oP

  5. Oh yay! The commenting worked this time!! :D

  6. @Susmitha: Yes the Jains follow that belief. They also don't eat greens for a whole month during the monsoons. Very interesting to learn how each religion has made their belief systems around food.

    You should do a post with a lazy theme! :)

  7. wow....you have an explosion of flavors going on there!! It must have been so very delicious, and I love that you can use a tortilla to make it.... indian food


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