As I write this post it’s raining in Melbourne, so it seems appropriate to talk about this classic north Indian dish of chana (or chole) masala – spicy chickpeas.
I bought this snack from a little covered stall in the market place, already ankle-deep in water, whilst I was waiting for a down-pour of monsoonal rain to pass one afternoon in Rajasthan in August. Somebody told me that it’s ‘rain food’ which I think is a lovely expression – meaning food that’s particularly delicious to eat when it’s raining (although chana masala‘s available any time of year).
What’s in chana masala? Chickpeas are the main ingredient, of course, and they’re cooked in a gravy made from red onion, garlic, green chilli, ginger and tomato, as well as coriander, turmeric, cumin, garam masala (hot spices), red chilli powder, black pepper and salt. Like many dishes, exactly what’s in chana masala depends on who’s cooking it. At its most delicious, I think, is when chana masala is served with puri, a deep-fried bread. Yum!
Have you noticed the plate that my chana masala is served in? I think it’s a patravali, a plate made from the large leaves of the sal tree, a tree native to the Indian subcontinent. Tiny wooden sticks are used to hold the plate together when they’re made by hand, although they’re also made by machine. The plates are completely biodegradable!