While Punjab as a whole is known for a dazzling array of delicacies and culinary styles, it is the ancient city of Amritsar that food lovers have the fondest memories of, mainly because of the sheer variety of exciting street food that it offers.
The amazing spectrum of culinary delights offered by Amritsar has its roots in the highly strategic location of this city. Established in the sixteenth century, Amritsar was located on the legendary Silk Route. Over the years, it emerged as an important urban settlement on the Grand Trunk Road. Travellers arrived in Amritsar from far-off destinations, carrying with them their recipes and culinary practices. In this way, Amritsar became a melting pot of an enormous variety of culinary influences and exotic flavours.
The dish we will be making today is one of the most popular street food items of Amritsar. It is called Amritsari Chhole. The secret to getting the flavour of this dish right lies in the artful blending of spices – and yes, a whole lot of spices go into the making of an authentic version of this dish.
There is one ingredient in particular that may take you by surprise: tea leaves. Yes, tea leaves! It not only gives the dish its characteristic dark brown colour – it also adds a completely different dimension to the flavour of the spices being blended.
Let’s start by gathering the wide range of ingredients that you will require.
Chickpeas (Chhole): 150 grams
Onions: 3, medium-sized
Tomatoes: 2, medium-sized
Green Chillies: 3
Red Chillies: 2
Dry Red Chillies: 2
Tea Leaves: 1 tablespoon
Mustard Oil: 4 tablespoons
Ghee: 3 tablespoons
Cinnamon (Dalchini): 1 one-inch stick
Black Cardamoms (Elaichi): 2
Bay Leaves (Tej Patta): 4
Cumin (Jeera) Seeds: 2 teaspoons
Pomegranate (Anar) Seeds: 1 tablespoon
Ginger (Adrak): 1 half-inch piece
Garlic (Lasun): 5 cloves
Red Chilli Powder: 1 teaspoon
Garam Masala: 1 teaspoon
Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: Half a teaspoon
Coriander (Dhania) Powder: 1 teaspoon
Coriander (Dhania) Leaves: 2 tablespoons
Salt: to taste
The quantities mentioned above are for serving four persons. Adjust the quantities proportionately to suit the number of servings that you require.
Soak the chickpeas overnight. The next morning drain the water and keep the chickpeas aside.
Peel, wash and finely chop two of the onions. Cut the third onion into slices (these will be used to garnish the dish before serving).
Coarsely chop the tomatoes.
Slit the green chillies.
Coarsely grind the pomegranate seeds.
Peel and wash the ginger and the garlic. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the ginger and garlic.
Coarsely chop the coriander leaves.
We will also need to prepare a spice bundle (called “Potli”). Take a small square piece of muslin cloth, around two inches by two inches. Place the tea leaves, dry red chillies, cinnamon stick, one black cardamom and two bay leaves in the centre of the muslin square and tie it into a small, tight bundle. Your spice Potli is now ready.
Let’s start by preparing the chickpeas (Chhole). Take the chickpeas in a pan and fill the pan with water till the water level is around an inch above the chickpeas. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil. When the water starts boiling, add the spice bundle. Cook till the chickpeas are done and you are left with chickpeas in a spicy stock. Remove the spice bundle and discard it.
Next, let us make the rich gravy for your Chhole. Take a large wok (Kadhai) and add the Mustard Oil and ghee. Heat on a High flame.
Add the remaining black cardamom, the red chillies, the remaining two bay leaves and the cumin seeds. Allow the spices to splutter.
Now add the crushed ginger and garlic. Continue to sauté for a minute or so.
Next, add the chopped onions and cook till the onion pieces turn light brown in colour.
Add the red chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder; continue to sauté for around three minutes. Add salt to taste and stir to mix well.
Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook till the tomato pieces turn soft.
Next, add the green chillies and sauté for a minute or so.
Now it’s time to add the chickpeas along with the spicy stock. Cook for around five minutes.
Add the garam masala and ground pomegranate seeds and stir to mix well.
Add a little water to get the desired consistency for the gravy. Reduce the flame to Medium and cook till the gravy thickens. Then turn the flame off.
Transfer the contents to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander leaves and onion slices.
Your traditional Amritsari Chhole is now ready. Serve it hot. This dish is typically eaten with another famous street food item: Amritsari flatbread known as Kulcha. However, when you make the dish at home, you can have it with Roti or Puri.
You can find more recipes at : https://www.purioilmills.com/recipes-in-english/