Chhole is to North Indian cooking, what mac & cheese is to American cuisine. Chhole are undemanding to cook on a weeknight and fancy enough to be a proud component of a party spread. Easy to scale up, chhole's ability to pair with white rice, puri, paratha, naan, bhature, kulcha, bread, pav and even quinoa, pita and brown rice is a blessing.
Chhole are also an important part of the vibrant street food scene in India. Chhole tikki (chhole poured over potato cakes or cutlet topped with diced onions), chhole bhature (pillowy soft deep fried bread), samosa chaat (smashed samosas smothered with chhole) are some of the heavenly delicious dishes involving chhole.
When I went about developing this recipe, a crucial question in front of me was how to pit the convenience of canned chickpeas versus the discernible improvement in taste coming from soaking and cooking dried chickpeas. After trying many recipes from several cookbooks and running an experiment, here's the conclusion I reached. In a time crunch, please feel free to use canned chickpeas, but boil them for 15 minutes first with spices (the way we cooked soaked chickpeas but for a longer time). And on a weekend or the cooking day, start with dry chickpeas and the flavor gods will reward you.
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Dry Whole Spices
2 black cardamom pods
2 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick about 2" long
Other Spices and alliums
2 tablespoons peeled, grated ginger
4 medium garlic cloves peeled and roughly mashed (you can grate garlic too)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon salt divided
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1.5 teaspoons dry mango powder aka amchur ir 1 teaspoon lime juice
pinch of garam masala
2 cups diced roma tomatos cut into 1/2"pieces or 1.5 cups diced canned tomatoes
1 1/2 cups finely chopped red onion
1 green thai chile pepper diced
1 1/4 cups dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight (or for 6 hours at least) OR two 15 1/2-ounce cans of chickpeas
A big bowl to soak chickpeas
This recipe gives instructions for using dry garbanzo beans as well as canned garbanzo beans. Only the following step differs.
For dried chickpeas :Add the soaked chickpeas to a heavy-bottomed pan and cover with 6 cups of water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 black cardamom pods, then bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour over medium heat. After boiling, drain the chickpeas and save the water. Set aside.
For canned chickpeas: Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add them to heavy-bottomed pot along with 4 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 black cardamom pods. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Drain the chickpeas and save the water. Set aside. Though boiling canned chickpeas seems like an extra step, I do it to remove the canned, metallic taste and to impart a creamy texture.
Place a heavy-bottomed sauté pan on one of the stove burners and pour in the oil. Turn the heat onto medium and when the oil is hot, slide green cardamom, bay leaf, and cinnamon pieces into the pan and 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds (jeera). Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add onions and allow them to become translucent and brown at the edges, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Follow with garlic, ginger, and green chile pepper and sauté for 2 minutes.
Pour tomatoes and add pinch of sugar. Stir from time to time, letting the tomatoes lose their moisture. Once they've gotten to that point, stir continuously to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Soon the tomatoes will start secreting oil. This whole process from adding tomatoes to secreting oil should take about 10 minutes.
Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder, 2 teaspoons coriander powder, and remaining salt. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add chickpeas and 2 cups water reserved from boiling (if water saved from boiling is not enough, supplement with regular water).
Add 1.5 teaspoons dry mango powder, also called amchur. You may substitute with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add a pinch of garam masala and mix. Serve hot with rice or warm naan.