My relation with Amritsar has been an on again-off again one. Like any other historically significant city, I have always been enamoured by Amritsar. But almost like Nainital, so many of my trips planned to the place have been jinxed for some reason or the other. The first time I planned a trip to Amritsar (along with Lucknow) was back in December 2011. We were to visit Amritsar first , then drop by at my friends D and D’s place(s) in Lucknow (T would also have come down from Delhi) and bring a grand end to the year. But barely days before that some family emergency cropped up and we had to grudgingly shelve the plan.
The next plan was made 4 months later in April. T had already visitied Lucknow, so this time we kept it only to a 3-day break to Amritsar. I had put down my papers at my workplace in Calcutta and the time before joining my new workplace (in May) was perfect for a darshan of the Golden Temple. I reached Delhi on the 1st of April only to learn that T was down with diarrhea. Out tickets were booked for the 4th. I kept my fingers crossed and prayed fervently that she gets well fast. But things started getting worse, and despite the sport that T has always been, you just can’t force someone to take a 5-hour-long train ride in such circumstances. My optimism started giving way, but there was this tiny flicker of hope that things would fall into place by 3rd evening. And then came the climax. On the given day, T called me up to say that she was feeling somewhat better and might just make it, but by then it was too late because I had fallen prey to what she was recovering from! So the second time too Amritsar met with a jinx.
I finally managed to go there last year with my parents and Rika-Jekubaba (paternal uncle and aunt). In between gaping at the Golden Temple in utter awe and falling sick at the Wagah Border and consequently getting lost, we managed to raid almost all authentic Punjabi food stalls that crossed our paths. It was in one of these stalls that I tasted this Amritsari Chhole which I had been planning to recreate ever since. Whether or not you’ve been to Amritsar and have had authentic Punjabi cuisine, I’m sure this Chhole would not disappoint you!
Recipe partly adapted from Veg Recipes of India
Chickpeas/kabuli chana, soaked overnight in water: 1 cup
Cinnamon stick: 1
Black cardamom: 3
Bay leaf: 1
Black tea leaves, wrapped tightly in a muslin cloth: 3 tsp
Onion, chopped finely: 2
Tomatoes, chopped roughly: 3
Ginger, chopped: 1.5 tsp
Green chillies: 4 + for garnish
Cumin powder: 2 tsp
Coriander powder: 2 tsp
Amchur powder/dry mango powder: 2 tsp
Red chilli powder: 2 tsp
Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
Chaat masala powder: 2 tsp
Rock salt, to taste
Oil: 1.5 tbsp
Ghee: 1 tbsp (optional)
1. Pressure cook the chickpeas that had been soaked overnight along with bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, tea leaves, 2 green chillies and some rock salt. Cook on high for 3 whistles, then lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes more. Let the steam release on its own and ensure that the chickpeas have been cooked perfectly. Drain the chickpeas and reserve the water.
2. In a non-stick pan/kadhai, heat oil and to it add the onions. Sauté till translucent. Add 2 more green chillies and ginger and cook on medium high hear for 2 more minutes.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes sauté till the tomatoes become soft and pulpy. Add a little bit of the reserved water if the mixture is scalding at the bottom.
4. Now add the powdered spices — cumin, coriander, red chilli, amchur, garam masala and chaat masala — and mix them well into the sauce.
5. Add the cooked chickpeas, mix well and sauté for 5 minutes. Now add the rest of the reserved water. Season well, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes till the gravy thickens.
6. Once the chhole is done, drizzle some ghee, turn off the heat and serve hot with roti/naan or paratha.