Chana masala, more than anything else, speaks to the wondrous things Indian cuisine can do with vegetables. I don't think any other cuisine can make dishes as hearty, rich, filling, and, well, meaty with nary an animal protein in sight. If I ever became a vegetarian, I could see myself living exclusively on curry—even more than I already do.
Chana masala is a good staple recipe to add to your repertoire. It's begun like most curries, with ginger and onion, and then adds the spices to the mix to sizzle and marry in the oil, followed by tomato. Chana masala is best when it has an all-important note of sourness to balance the richness. Madhur Jaffrey, whom this recipe comes from via Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, calls for amchoor powder, a tart spice made from unripe mangoes. But I've always had good success with a squeeze of lemon juice instead.
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
- 2 medium onions, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, de-seeded and minced
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin or 4 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 cups tomatoes or or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 fifteen-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and green chile and cook until deep golden brown, stirring often to avoid burning. Lower the heat and add the spices, stirring them into the oil. Cook for an additional minute until very fragrant, being careful not to burn the spices.
Add the tomatoes and water to deglaze the pan, then add the chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the chickpeas are tender and the flavors have come together, 15-20 minutes. If needed, add water to get the right consistency. Add salt and lemon juice, a little at a time to taste. Serve with rice.