Pindi Chole/Chana (Ek)

December 4, 2007 at 6:24 PM (channa/ gram, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, India, legumes/pulses- whole or split, Pakistan, Punjab, Rawalpindi)


    Yes, I know I ought to be blogging about pecan pie, mashed potatoes, Lithuanian mushrooms and beets, Hungarian lima beans, or…uh…..mole poblano…but, after all the leftover turkey (which was subsequently made into soup and turkey salad sandwiches) and, in short, the slew of western food which has totally thrown my system out of whack, I’m back to cooking food that I crave and enjoy on a daily basis…for a bit at least, so bear with me if you’re hanging on for one of those aforementioned recipes!

    I had never heard of Pindi chana until a few months ago, when a locally-owned-and-extremely-large grocery store had a sale on packs of Kitchens of India convenience food for $1.50 each. No biggie really, except each one also contained a free CD of Indian classical music- a possibility of four different ones! Wowee!!! Well, I thought it would be fun to try and get all four, and in the process I tried every dish in their line. I wasn’t terribly impressed with any of them (kind of bland), but one of them wasn’t too bad after I “doctor’d it up” with some garam masala and extra ground chiles…anyway, I eventually managed to find all four CDs (you can sleep easy now my readers), and then I made a point of doing some research on this dish called Pindi chana

    Or Rawalpindi chanaRawalpindi is a city in the Punjabi province of present-day Pakistan, with an extremely long history of several invasions and changes in power. The city contains many fine examples of architecture- ancient Buddshist, Hindu, and impressive Moghul shrines, two lively bazaars to wander about, as well as countless restaurants, food-stalls, and street-vendors from which to sample the local fare.  

    And I imagine that the variation in chana recipes is endless…which is what I discovered when I went Pindi-chana-recipe-hunting. Some said that kala (black) chana should be used, others said kabuli (white)…some said that it should be made with amla (Indian gooseberries) for souring and to achieve a dark colour, some said tea bags are the thing. Some used tomatoes, some stated that tomatoes shouldn’t be used at all. And then, there is a dispute over onions: only raw to accompany the final dish, and then no…browned as part of the masala, as well as raw for a final sparkle. Oh, it just goes on and on….the only thing I know for certain is that I won’t know anything until I visit this city, which I would really like to do someday. And when I get there, I’ll be sure to try every offering of chana I see and report to you here what I find out. But, I couldn’t possibly believe that just ONE recipe is being prepared all across a city of 3 million….can you?

    I decided to try a recipe which Ashwini of Food for Thought stumbled upon in a most unlikely place: the booklet that accompanied her new pressure-cooker!  I chose to try it first because it was the most different from all the others that I had read. After the first whirl, I found that it also tastes absolutely different from any other chana/chole recipes I have ever tried, and I like it very much, so much so that I’ve made it four times now! That’s blog-worthy I think.

    Over the course of these recipe-runs, I found myself making a few changes in method- nothing that compromises the original intention of the recipe, no- namely a way to do both a brief oil-extraction of the masala while avoiding the overcooking of the chickpeas, and waiting until the end of the cooking to add the garam masala to avoid evaporating off all of the precious (and volatile) oils of elaichi…

Pindi (Rawalpindi) Chole (Chana)

2 C dried Kabuli chana (white chickpeas)
2 heaping teaspoons of black tea, coarsely powdered*
2 badi/moti/kala elaichi
5 cloves, ground**
3 small sticks of cinnamon (I use about 3-4 inches of cinnamon- like a finger-length)
3 T ghee and/or peanut oil (the original recipe uses 8 T…use any amount you prefer)
4 green chiles
1/2″ of fresh ginger
1 T whole cumin
1 1/2 T whole anardana
1 1/2 T coriander seeds, ground
1 T amchoor
1 1/2 t black pepper, ground
salt to taste
1-2 t garam masala
coriander leaves
sliced onions

1)Soak the chickpeas for 24 hours; drain, rinse once and drain again; place these, along with the tea, kala elaichi, cloves, cinnamon, and water to cover 1-2″ in a pressure-cooker; cook for 12 minutes at 15 PSI; remove from heat and allow to cool and pressure to fall (or cook in a large saucepan until tender). Drain, reserving liquid. Remove and discard kala elaichi and cinnamon.

2)Meanwhile: halve the chiles, de-seed, then quarter lengthwise; cut across into 1/8″ strips. Peel the ginger, then slice into thin rounds; stack the rounds and cut into fine shreds. Dry-roast, separately, the cumin and anardana seeds; grind and combine with the other dried spices, reserving the garam masala alone in another bowl.

3)Heat the oil to smoking, then add green chiles and ginger; stir once and add the ground spices; stir once again and add the reserved liquid from chana; keep at a slow boil, stirring frequently as it reduces and lowering heat as you go, until thick enough to coat the stirring-spoon.

4)Add the drained chickpeas and salt to taste; stir carefully over gentle heat until fully-hot. Remove from heat and stir in the garam masala.

5)Serve topped with sliced raw onions and coriander leaves. What is this served with? I don’t know…I usually eat it with rice. And I must say that the flavour is even better the day after it is made!

*The original recipe calls for 1 tea bag. I thought it should be darker still, plus I mostly buy loose tea so that I can pretend to read fortunes in a cup. The extra fiber doesn’t hurt either, and I do recall reading about a tea-leaf salad somewhere

**The original recipe calls for 5 whole cloves to be cooked with the chana and then fished out afterwards. I got tired of trying to find them and decided to grind them up.

P.S. You may be wondering (or not) if I’ll be trying other Pindi chana recipes in the future and blogging about them? You bet! But the story will always go from free CDs to Ashwini’s complimentary booklet from a pressure-cooker, and then onwards…




  1. musy said,

    Hey Pel, this is quite close to the traditional recipe. The only difference is that the old recipes use only anardana for sour flavor (anardana is a favorite from that corner of the world). But then, as long as it tastes yummy, do you care 😀 Also the very old-fashioned recipes never used chai for brown color, using a good amount of anardana did the trick, along with nutmeg powder. I use a lil’ star anise too. Here, we don’t get Tej-patta, but that is also a traditional ingredient in pindi chhole. But no coriander leaves 😀

    Try it with tandoori roti, its bliss! OK, we don’t have tandoors here, but can make a thick roti, right 😀
    This post of yours made me come out of my “hiatus” ! Great going, buddy!

    Well, thanks old pal! 🙂 I knew a few “breadcrumbs” like these would lure you out! So, let’s see if I have this all straight:

    No amchoor…
    more anardana (this time around I roasted it darker- became quite fragrant and lovely)…
    no chai!…
    use nutmeg (I imagine just a bit? Like 1/4 t you think? Maybe 1/8 t)…
    use star anise (oooooh! that’d be totally yum… 1/2 t ground, or do you boil the chole with a star or two?)…
    use tejpatta (praise Jesus and hail Mary!, I have another use for them…can I put in like 2-3????)…
    no coriander leaves (that’s good, because as much as I love them I get tired of the little flecks sticking to everything)

    Yep, I could make thick roti…even pide/pita (home-made) would be close….and of course there are the paronthes that I can whip out now like nothing, thanks to you!

  2. Anita said,

    My mum used to tie the leaves in muslin before adding to the chole…then she got lazy , and would add them loose…till we objected to eating the leaves. Must bring out my chole too (I almost did last night…but then got lazy…honest…telepathy or something).

    What else did you have to endure to get this fabulous collection of music?

    Oh, let’s see what I recall….saag panir, or was it palak panir? bland as hell…..makhi ki dhal/ dhal makhani, as Manisha mentions… I think it tastes mostly of tomatoes and coriander seeds……was there a rajma? I think there might have been….anyway, I’d rather eat my own food…however I do like Jyoti brand canned food…you ought to see Danny and I fight over even division of the dhal makhani!!! Now there’s a recipe I’d like…Jyoti’s recipe for it I mean…I’ve tried a few found recipes for it, but there is something in their version which I cannot identify! It’s a spice that totally evades me…it could be ghee from cultured butter though…does that have a strong presence in a dish?

  3. Manisha said,

    Dang. That post “Dinner and a CD” will need to be trashed now. 😀

    I only bought one – maa ki dal or dal makhani. It was OK. For $2 and a CD, I thought it was pretty good. Lazy me! And excellent product innovation, too! They don’t tell you which CD is in the pack and make you buy all if you like the music! I was glad when I got the Hariprasad Chaurasia one cos no-one plays the flute like he does!

    I’d seen this recipe on Ashwini’s blog. You mean we should all make chana/chole and try to flummox Bee? But she might explain it away as everyone is cooking for Anjali’s event. We will have to try harder, I think!

    I had to look flummox up in the dictionaire…! I was all corn-fused (that’s what we say around here…hehehehe). Yeah, the Hariprasad Chaurasia one is my fav- you lucked out TLO! Very relaxing to have in the background for doing things around the house, taking a bath, or just sitting there thinking. I should try all three sometime, anyway…Anjali. Yes. Alrighty then; she is having a chole roundup eh? Well…if Ashwini enters this recipe, then I’m out, but it’ll be interesting to see what pops up there nonetheless.

  4. musy said,

    Oh, besides nutmeg it should also have a lil’ ground dried amla/gooseberry an a pinch of kala namak.

    Amla…I had read about that and I had a ton of it until I dumped it all into some coconut oil to smear on my hair, but I know where to get more!!!! 😉 And a pinch of kala namak. I’m always forgetting about that now that I have an everlasting stock of chaat masalas at hand. So, amla and anardana for souring…..both plain and kala namak for salting? P.S. Musy dear, have you ever considered posting this quite-marvelous-sounding recipe? You are the token Punju you know, you have responsibilities!!!!!!! 😀

    Thanks a heap Muse. 😉

  5. TC said,

    I agree, this Pindi Chana is really something!

    Which garam masala did you use?
    Your much-talked-about-but-not-posted saffron infused one?

    Yep! It astounds me just how many different formulas there are- totally changes the dish depending upon which one is used! 🙂

  6. Suganya said,

    That collection is worth all the hassle you ahve gone thru. i have never made pindi chole. Sinch you have already done all the research, I’ll take it from here 🙂

    All the research? I think I have only just begun! 🙂 But, this is a very tasty recipe that will always receive compliments…

  7. bee said,

    which anjali’s event? i make crap chole, and crap rajma, so i don’t dare blog about them. maybe jai will, but he doesn’t make them often either.

    pel, this pindi chole sounds too turbo-charged for wimpy me.

    Yes, I noticed how you tend to stick with delicate, pale flavours. 😀 You really must try Gopi’s rajma…I like more-traditional preparations, but the simplicity of this dish is almost shocking, but oh so very good! I’m sorry that you didn’t like this dish, but it was a toss-up between that and fried grasshoppers… 😉

  8. Ashwini said,

    Those CDs are worth a few bland dinners my friend! So glad you liked the recipe. To think I dismissed it at first because it was in a cooker booklet 🙂
    Now Pel you must return the favor and post your saffron wala garam masala so I can experiment with it too.
    Waiting for more posts on chana…

    Oh, the price I pay for good food! Such sacrifices to be made… alrighty though, it’s a deal…I’ll post the garam masala recipe- it is too good to hoard!

    And thanks again, even for having the urge to try out that recipe in the first place! 🙂

  9. Meera said,

    I have to hunt for Kitchens of India now for those CDs !

    Nice recipe!

    Hey, I just noticed that I am on your blogroll…I feel so honored! and you really really made my day!!!:-)

    Your blog is too full of excellent food to not be noticed at some time! I see you’ve made puranpoli as an entry for JFI, that always draws a crowd; I should get to work myself on my own last-minute entry…I just hope all of this doesn’t send the price of toor dhal too high!

    If you can’t find those Cds let me know: I have extras of Hariprasad Chaurasia.

  10. musy said,

    Your are very right about spice proportions: 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 star anise and 2-3 tejpatte :). Add the star anise and tejpatte after you’ve boiled the chhole. Boiling star anise and badi elaichi etc with chhole can lead to very overpowering flavor. Also, the kala namak is added only as a subtle flavoring (a pinch or at the most two). Will blog it at some point, just dunno’ when 😀 Now that you mention this, i must tell you that Rajma and chhole are my ever favorite and yet i’ve never blogged about them! i wonder, why 😀

    1/4 t nutmeg
    1/2 t ground star anise
    2-3 tejpatta
    badi elaichi after…well, its usually in Punju G.M., so….is 3 t of G.M. enough probably? Or do add some (ground) in addition?
    kala namak- just a pinch or two

    You probably think of rajma and chole as everyday sorts of dishes…kind of like how I think of dishes that I’ve grown up with. We take them for granted and it doesn’t occur to us to blog about them until someone speaks up and says: “yoo-hooooooo! We find that dish really interesting!!!” Many thanks to you Musey…I’ll give the chole a spin next week or so…I have just one katori-ful of chole left to devour and then I’ll make rajma I think.

  11. bee said,

    i tried gopi’s rajma yesterday. very very good. will add my own wimpy twist and blog about it.

    Hehehe…look forward to it!

  12. musy said,

    Garam masala, now that’s something that i just use 1/2 t of when i make these chhole. The whole masalas pack enough punch of their own. Also, star anise is not very commonly added, but i like that spice in chhole.

    Rajma and chhole used to be weekend lunches long ago 🙂

    We used to have tuna-melt sandwiches; I think you had the better deal… just 1/2 t G.M.? Star anise is a Musy thing…gotcha. Well…soon, I’ll try to sort this out. My people will be contacting your people for furthur clarification most likely. 😀

  13. AVV said,

    I find that when I roast Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, badi elaichi and anardana until they are almost charred then there is no need to add tea leaves – loose or otherwise to acquire that dark black/brown shade. Another trick I use when I’m pressed for time is to add two heaping tsp of Roopak brand Chat masala. A lot of Indian Groceries stores carry this brand. I get my stash when I visit Delhi (at their flagship store) and the last time I was in Memphis I bought a couple of bottles from the Indian store in Cordova (don’t recollect the name).

    Thanks for the tips! That actually sounds a lot like a recipe that I’ve used quite a few times now- (and have fiddled with a bit). All are a good reason to give up tea leaves….except in tea! 😉

  14. suresh khilnani said,

    Hello everybody, I do not know how I found this site, I was looking for a recipe for Pindi chana and BINGO, I have learned to cook over last several years,my wife loves it, I have tasted Great pindi chana in Delhi, where I grew up, I have just returned from New York, one of my friends took us out to dinner and ordered Pindi chana, it was really delicious,brought all the chilhood memories back ,I have learned from all my Punjabi friends how to cook Chole,must use roasted Anardana (No Tea).I live in Los angeles, california, we get just about everything. I have tried several variations of chana,I also tried your recipe, with little modification, came out with flying color, thanks. suresh

    • elaichietcetera said,

      Thanks for visiting Suresh! Yes, indeed, I have since learned how important roasted anardana is to Rawalpindi-style chhole! That flavour is exquisite, right? If you have the time, I would love to hear about how you prepared your chhole.

      • suresh khilnani said,

        I cook Pindi chana or regular chole’ at least once a week,I must use Anardana,it
        not only adds dark color but also makes it little tangy, YUMMY. I must buy the whole anardana, not the ground one they sell, usually, Mdh sells it ground, only SHAAN brand sells it as whole.I also add the roasted anardana to my” Karaahi Bhindi,’ which is one of my favorites, your cooking utensil is also very important.
        I like to use our old indian cast iron, heavy pans,result is excellent. I would like to know more about this site,its location,etc, thanks. suresh

      • elaichietcetera said,

        Hey Suresh, good to hear your reply. I currently live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; I have had an interest in Indian cooking since I was very young- 10-12 years old, and I use this site to post good recipes of interest that I’ve found in old cookbooks that I own, as well as some of my own that I’ve created.

        I totally agree with you on the use of iron pans- I, too, have several that I use often, and that I think of almost as fondly as friends! So durable… Anardana is much easier to roast when whole, I agree! But…I have managed to roast the powder, but one has to be very quick in turning it! 🙂

        Do you add jhaiphal/nutmeg to your Pindi chhole?

  15. nags said,

    oh boy! now this i must try! i have also been told your mirchi ka salan is out of this world. so, will be back!

    • Elaichi et Cetera said,

      It’s a pretty tasty chana recipe- not authentic Rawalpindi-style, as I’ve learned since, but very good! The mirchi ka salan is awesome and spot on though… 😀

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