Delhi was my karma bhumi and my work took me to several areas of Delhi and one of them was the ITO (it is an acronym for Income Tax Office that lends its name to that area). There are several print media publication offices on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and that street is called the ‘fleet street’ of India, unofficially of course. There are some dhaba that line a road which runs perpendicular to the fleet street. Dhaba are, basically, eateries that usually serve local cuisine and they earlier used to be located mostly on highways. They used to be a kind of stop-over for a quick bite for travellers commuting from one city to another. (North India is known for its dhaba culture and I have shared a detailed post on this, earlier.) Things have changed and now it is quite common to find dhabas serving food inside cities and towns. The food served at a dhaba is usually served from no frills outlets therefore it is mostly easy on the pocket and popular among blue collared workers. However, if the dhaba owner serves food that is cooked and served hygienically and tastes good, word of mouth ensures that it is visited by people from all walks of life.
My brother, who was already working in Delhi, once took me to one such dhaba there and I was floored by the quality and taste of the food that was served to us. It could give a five star desi meal a run for its money. Although the dhaba used to serve delicious non vegetarian and vegetarian meals, our favourite used to be their special chhole (chickpea curry) with capsicum added to it. Capsicum completely changed the flavour profile of the regular chhole and they tasted beyond delicious.
We patronised the dhaba for many years but during one of our visits to Delhi, we found the quality of the food at the dhaba had drastically declined. And, after a few disappointing visits, we tried making the chhole at home and I am quite pleased to state that it is nearly as good as what we had at the dhaba. So, here is dhabe wale chhole (literal translation – chhole from the dhaba) I suggest serving them with either tandoori roti or with naan. Actually, you know what? Any flabread of your choice would work great. And so would rice 😀
1 Cup Chickpeas (dry)
2½ – 3 Cups Water (use more if required)
½ – ¾ tsp Tea (use ½ tsp if your tea is strong), it is optional but using it gives a nice colour to the curry
1 large Bay Leaf
2 Whole Black Cardamom
Salt to taste (I used 1 tsp)
2½ tbsp Mustard Oil (you can use any oil of your choice but mustard oil works best)
¾ cup sliced, Onions (90 gm)
1½ tsp Ginger Garlic Paste (I always make it fresh and never store brought)
1 Tomato (120 gm), grated or pureed
½ – 1 tsp Chili Powder (adjust to taste, I used 1 tsp)
1 tbsp Coriander Powder
1 tsp Garam Masala Powder
1½ tsp roasted Cumin Powder
¾ tsp powdered, Kasoori Methi
2 tsp Anardana Powder/ Dried Pomegranate Powder (adjust to taste)
1 Green Capsicum, diced in small pieces
50 gm Paneer, diced in small pieces
1 inch Ginger, julienned (optional)
A few tablespoons finely chopped fresh Coriander for garnish
Wash and soak the chickpeas in plenty of water for eight hours or overnight. (longer soaking hours help reduce the cooking time drastically)
Discard water and transfer the chickpeas to a pressure cooker. Add water, tea, bay leaf, cloves and black cardamom along with salt. Cook the chickpeas till they are done. (The chickpeas should be soft yet hold their shape) Adjust the amount of water at this point.
Heat mustard oil in a saucepan and bring it to smoking point. Allow it to smoke for fifteen to twenty seconds to get rid of its raw pungent smell. Reduce heat and after a few seconds, carefully add sliced onions. Increase heat and stir fry onions till they turn golden in colour and then add ginger garlic paste. Fry and cook till the ginger garlic paste does not smell raw and the onions turn golden brown.
Add spices – chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala, cumin powder, kasoori methi and anardana powder. Stir well and then add tomatoes (Instead of grating, I always prefer turning the tomatoes to puree using the grinder). Cook the ingredients on medium heat till the tomatoes are cooked well and you see oil around the edges of the pan.
Add chickpeas and stir well. Bring the contents to a boil and then reduce heat and cook till the curry begins to thicken. Stir occasionally.
Keep the heat on low and add capsicum. Simmer the contents and cook till the capsicum is just about cooked, approximately twelve to fifteen minutes (It should not be too soft else it will get mashed in the curry)
If the curry turns thick at this point, add a few tablespoons of water (keep in mind that the curry will thicken further as it sits) Add ginger juliennes and paneer and cook for a minute more. Taste the chickpeas and if they need to be more sour, add some amchur.
Switch off the heat and add finely chopped fresh coriander. And the chhole are ready! Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves along with Sirke wale Pyaaz (pickled onions) and lemon wedges.
Enjoy with flatbread of your choice – roti, naan, poori, kulcha, bhatoora or rice.
Serves 3 – 4
(Please check Notes below the picture)
Note – You can use a bouquet garni for the whole garam masala when pressure cooking the chickpeas. I always ensure to discard the whole garam masala so that someone does not bite into it while enjoying the chhole. (Biting into whole garam masala can be a very unpleasant experience)
Note – Please use proper measuring spoons and cups for measuring the ingredients. Do not use random kitchen spoons and cups or katori.
Note – Keep in mind that the capsicum goes into the curry towards the end of the cooking. Therefore, ensure that the chickpeas are cooked well before you add the capsicum. Because if the chickpeas are not well cooked and you add capsicum, then your cooking time will increase and the longer cooking time will make the capsicum lose its flavour and texture.
Note – We almost always have these chhole with some kind of flatbread, therefore I always keep the curry thick so we can easily mop it with our favourite flatbread. The dhaba, too, served it thick. However, add more water (use hot water) to loosen the curry if you intend to have it with rice.
Note – I always add a tempering of degi mirch (half a teaspoon) flash fried in hot ghee (I use one tablespoon) to the chhole, towards the end of the cooking, to wrap up the flavours. The desi ghee does wonders to the taste of the chhole. Try it 🙂
Thank you so much for your visit and see you soon again with another exciting recipe!