Monday, December 5, 2011

Chole Chaat...

Well, I’ve been eating lunch at the hot bar quite a bit recently, and as you may recall the last time I was frequenting the salad/hot bar I discovered the awesomeness that is Tomato Bhaji and Kale. This time around I’ve discovered something just as awesome Chole Chaat, which is another Indian dish.

Generally speaking I don’t like to buy lunch during my work day. I prefer to bring lunch from home and save myself the money. Also this way I can ensure that I’m definitely getting a lunch that’s nutritious rather then just convenient. However because of the crazy business of the holiday season I’ve found myself over the past few weeks with less and less time (not to mention energy) to prepare lunch meals in advance. Thankfully I discovered Chole Chaat, which has been a true lifesaver. Not only is it mind-blowingly delicious it’s also low calorie, and absolutely packed with protein and fiber which is perfect for getting you through those long hard days.

When I saw it initially on my first circle around the hot bar I was less then impressed. It just didn’t look all that appetizing to me to see a bunch of chickpeas floating around in a thick yellow-red sauce. However upon circling around a second time I realized there really wasn’t anything at all that I found to appetizing and so I gave the Chaat a skeptical second look. I read the ingredients on the tag and discovered they were all things that I liked, so with my belly grumbling with hunger and a total lack of something more visually appealing I decided to bite the bullet and plop a few spoonfuls into my bowl.

How amazed was I when I took that first bite? Wow - there are not words to describe it. The dish was absolutely phenomenal. It had a nice heat, not too spicy, a little bit of sweet, a hint of curry, and just an all around grand robust flavor. I gobbled it up and wanted more. I have since got this dish from the hot bar six times, and after about the fifth I decided it was time I write down the ingredients and re-create the dish myself. It’s a good thing I took that initiative by the way, because the food at the hot bar is always in rotation meaning the same thing is rarely there for long periods of time, and this week I happened to see that Chole Chaat was absent from the hot bar. No matter though, armed with my handy-dandy hand scrawled list I decided to embark on re-creating this tastebud tantalizing dish Friday afternoon. The only problem was what quantities should I use?

Now, I did a quick Google search for Chole Chaat, and several recipes popped up. However like with my Tomato Bhaji debacle none of them entirely matched the ingredient list I had in my hand. Many of the online recipes included ingredients not on my list, and most of those same recipes were minus one or two of the ingredients I copied down. Like with the Bahji what made it worse is I couldn’t seem to find any two online recipes that agreed on how to make Chaat. Everything varied recipe to recipe from the actual ingredients to the quantities. Again I checked my Indian cookbook, and while there were several Chaat recipes, one even labeled Chole it again differed from my list, and all of the online recipes I’d found.

While I initially found this a bit frustrating, after a few moments meditation on the matter I decided this just gave me more room to be creative. I jotted down a few notes from the online recipes, took my scribbled on sheet of paper into the kitchen and set to work. The following is what I came up with and it was instantly satisfying, gratifying and amazing. It may have more ingredients then the hot bar version, and it may not taste 100% comparable - though I think it’s at least 90% accurate to what I’d eaten - but it is phenomenal. This is easily my new favorite thing to eat, and as strange as it may sound it’s the perfect thing to eat for breakfast before heading in for a long day at work.

I know that sounds crazy, but trust me. It’s actually quite common for people particularly in Mexico, Central America and South America to eat a form of rice and beans with tortilla for breakfast and I really think they’re on to something. When the first meal of your day is one loaded with fiber and protein it keeps you much fuller, for far longer. It seems like when I’m at work I tend to get hungry at least 2 hours after arriving, regardless of what I ate before leaving the house. Not so with this dish. Chole Chaat combined with a helping of brown rice kept me full for a good five to six hours at work, and when I was hungry a simple non-dairy yogurt, a banana and a cup of tea were enough to keep me satiated till I got home. So not only is this my new favorite dish, it’s also my new favorite before work staple. In fact I love it so much I plan on making a big pot of it to have throughout the week.

Now before we get started I have a note about this recipe. It can be made two ways depending on whether you want a chunky sauce or a smooth sauce. I personally prefer a smooth sauce with this recipe because it makes it more uniform, but if you’d prefer a chunky sauce omit the step that blends the sauce.

Chole Chaat

45-60oz canned chickpeas
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion Grated
2 tsp Ground Coriander
2-3 tsp Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp Ground Turmeric
2-3 tsp Gram Masala
1 Tbsp Grated Ginger
4 Garlic Cloves Minced
3/4 tsp Sea Salt
*1-2 tsp Amchoor Powder (Optional but highly suggested)
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tbsp Sugar (optional)
2 ½ C Diced fresh tomatoes.
14oz Water
Cilantro to garnish

- Heat oil in medium sized pot on medium-high heat. Add in the minced garlic, grated ginger and grated onion. Saute over medium heat until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes.

*** Note - If you plan to blend the entire sauce it isn’t necessary to grate the onion you can chop it. However if you are not blending the sauce you will want to great the onion as it makes for a smoother sauce. You get all that great onion flavor without all the big overpowering chunks. This is a little trick I picked up from my ancient Greek Cookbooks and it works really well. ***

- Add in coriander, cumin, turmeric, gram masala and saute another 3-4 minutes until spices are well incorporated and fragrant.

- Add in diced tomatoes and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until tomatoes have broken down and a sauce has formed.

- Once tomatoes have broken down transfer the sauce to a high-speed blender along with 1 cup of chickpeas and 14oz of water. Blend on high until completely smooth, about 30-60 seconds.

*** Note - For the chunky version, do not transfer sauce to the blender. Only blend 1 cup of chickpeas with 14oz of water. Then pour that mixture into the pot of sauce ***

- Return the contents of the blender to the pot. Add the remaining chickpeas, paprika, red pepper flakes, sugar, and amchoor powder. Stir to incorporate then cover and bring to a boil.

*** Note - Whether you use 45oz of chickpeas or 60oz will again depend on how much sauce you want. If you want a good sauce to chickpea ratio then use 45oz, if you want it less saucy use 60oz. This calculation is for the smooth version though. For the chunky sauce I think 45oz will be sufficient and 60oz may be a bit of overkill.***

Sauce After Blending with 45oz Chickpeas

- Once boiling, stir again, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until chickpeas are heated through, and sauce has thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

- Serve over rice or my favorite kale, or even better rice and kale, and garnish with cilantro. Eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner and most importantly enjoy!

*** Note - Amchoor Powder is made from raw green mangoes that are sun dried and then ground into powder. Used in many curries, dals, chutneys, and vegetable dishes to impart a tangy, fruity flavor without also adding moisture. Amchoor can be found in Indian groceries, or gourmet spice shops. It is definitely worth finding. ***

*** Note - Sugar-free if you leave the sugar out. ***


  1. OMG!! I made this for dinner this evening, we LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it.....easy and fast to make!...Oh did I say we LOVED it!!!! S.T.

  2. Made this last night,,,served the left overs tonight to my step-son....he also LOVED!, LOVED!!! this...I am sure I will be making this again! S.T.

  3. Indian food is the best! - M