Pindi Chole/ Curried Chickpeas

Rawalpindi style curried chickpeas with mild spices and a tangy kick, garnished with tomatoes. This recipe calls for Kabuli channa/ Safed channa steeped in tea decoction which gives the unique brown hue to the final outcome. Kabuli channa reminds me of Rabindranath Tagore's 'Kabuliwala', the  story about a dry fruit trader from Afghanistan and  the little girl Mimi. As every regional recipe, there is a reason for this chole recipe to be prefixed 'Pindi'. During the Partition of India, a lot of people got displaced and with them, their food practices as well. Punjab province was divided into west and east, the west part being the current Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan. 'Pind' in punjabi means village and hence this simple, characteristic Rawalpindi style chole preparation takes on the name 'Pindi Chole'.

There are several speculations about it's preparation. Some say, no onion and tomatoes should be added. This dish is usually dry and has a distinct flavor from adding anardana powder. I've come across recipes with pureed tomatoes, channa masala powder, tamarind paste named as 'Pindi Chole'.  In my view, chole preparation with gravy and without the amber hue from the tea water should be called  just  'Chana Masala'. There is no point in tweaking a regional recipe by altering it's discrete taste, appearance and still call it by it's name. I added some minced onion for mild sweetness and reduced the heat content, which I always do. This recipe requires the chickpeas to be soaked. Hence, plan ahead.

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Serves 2-3

1 cup  dried Chickpeas/ Garbanzo beans (Kabuli/ Safed channa)

1/4 cup Onions, minced

2  Tomatoes, roughly diced

2 Green chillies , chopped

3 tablespoon Grapeseed oil

2 tablespoon Coriander powder

1 teaspoon Cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon Chilli powder

1/2  teaspoon Turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon Amchoor powder (Dry Mango powder)

1 tablespoon Ginger-garlic paste

1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala

1 teaspoon Cumin seeds * I used Shahjeera

1/2 teaspoon Carom seeds (Ajwain)

1/4 teaspoon Anardana powder (Pomegranate seeds powder)

1/4 teaspoon Baking soda *optional

Pinch of Kala Namak (Black Indian Salt) *optional

Salt to taste


Wash dried chickpeas under running water. Add 2- 21/2 cups water and soak chickpeas overnight or at least 8 hours. Soaking will facilitate faster cooking and rehydrates the dried legume. After the chickpeas have soaked, wash again and remove any discolored ones. Skim off any impurities or broken skin floating on the top.

Put a tablepsoon of tea leaves in the mesh tea ball. Alternately, use 2 tea bags or tie the tea leaves in a piece of cheese cloth.

Pressure cook the chickpeas, tea leaves and baking soda (if using) in 2 cups of water for 2-3 whistles. Baking soda helps hold the shape of the chickpeas. Don't overcook the legume. It has to be soft when crushed, but not mushy. Chickpeas and tea leaves can be cooked over the stove top as well; suit yourself.

Tea changes the color of the cooking water to dark amber. The cooked chickpeas absorb the tea color and has a light amber hue. Discard the tea leaves.

Drain the chickpeas and reserve the amber colored cooking liquid for later use. You will get a small bowl of liquid.

Mix together coriander powder, cumin powder, chilli powder, amchoor powder and turmeric powder, keep aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds and carom seeds. Let it sputter. Sauté onion, green chillies and ginger-garlic paste for about 2 minutes or till the raw smell disappears.

Add the mixture of powdered spices to the pan. Sauté for 3 minutes.

Pour half measure of the reserved liquid and simmer for about 3 minutes.

Add the cooked chickpeas and salt, simmer for 5 minutes.

Now add the remaining liquid and continue simmering. On medium heat, continue simmering and stir now and then. Simmer till all liquid evaporates and masala coats the chickpeas. The chickpeas will be completely cooked and soft with a dark amber color.

Now sprinkle anardana powder and kala namak over the cooked chickpeas. Top it with diced tomatoes.

Heat remaining oil in a small kadai till smoking point.

Pour the hot oil over the cooked chickpeas. Adjust seasoning as per preference.

Give a gentle stir and serve hot with rotis.

This preparation does not yield gravy. The tang of the amchoor-anardana powder and the sulfurous taste of kala namak gives a distinct mouth feel unlike any other channa preparation. A protein packed vegan preparation that tickles your palate!


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