Boy do I love chana masala. Pedestrian? Maybe, but there's something about chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce that just never gets old. I have tried many variations, but so far one has stood head and shoulders above the others, the one made by the Baluchi's restaurant chain in NYC. Seek kabab appetizer, chana masala main, basmati rice, naan, and Indian pickle on the side if I ask nicely: I could probably eat that every day for a year and still enjoy it.
I wish I could identify what it is about Baluchi's recipe that makes it taste so good. I have tried mixing and matching various recipes and come up with something close, but it's still not the same. There's some kind of "zing" to the sauce that makes it addictive, and I don't think it's capsaicin or lemon juice.
In case anyone is interested, "my" recipe is listed below. If you see something about it that looks like it could be tweaked, I'd love to hear it--but since you probably haven't eaten that dish at that restaurant, I guess it would mostly be stabbing in the dark.
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds (crushed)
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 1 pinch asfoedita
- 1 tsp. ajwain seeds (whole)
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds (whole)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 can chopped tomatoes (~14 oz)
- 1-inch piece ginger, grated
- 1-2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. amchoor (mango) powder
- Chopped cilantro
Warm pan on medium heat. Toast garam masala, crushed cumin, cayenne in dry pan, stirring continuously, until it smells toasty. Empty toasted spices into container.
Add oil and let heat. Add asfoedita and let sizzle for 10 seconds. Add ajwain and whole cumin seeds and toast for 20 seconds.
Add onion and fry until golden brown. Add garlic and fry until golden brown.
Add tomatoes, ginger, and toasted spices and cook until thick and darkened.
Add chickpeas, salt, and amchoor powder. Add a little water and simmer for around 20 minutes. Add some of the chopped cilantro during the cooking period.
When the chickpeas look ready, turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for another 10 mins. or so. Before serving, add fresh black pepper and some more chopped cilantro.