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Authentic Chana Masala!

February 16, 2010

I wanted to explore Indian cooking more, but the only Indian cookbook I had was Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine.

Vikram Vij is the classically trained chef/owner of one of my favorite restaurants, Vij’s, in Vancouver. (And right next door he has Vij’s Rangoli, a more casual restaurant for lunch, dinner, or takeout.) His cookbook is excellent and I love being able to recreate some of Vij’s food at home, but the recipes are definitely gourmet Indian cuisine.

I wanted a book that had great recipes for the basics. I wanted one that was authentic, but not too intimidating. I was thrilled to receive 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer for my birthday. (Thank you, Mark and Erica!) It’s a beautiful book; I will have a lot of fun learning more about Indian food.

Yesterday I made the chana masala. I made ghee in the morning and got the chickpeas started. I ground the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in my old Krups coffee grinder. (I haven’t ground coffee in years, so it is now my spice grinder. I got rid of any lingering coffee odor by grinding some raw white rice in it.)

This recipe makes a fairly hot chana masala. I’d say it’s definitely a 2, possibly approaching a 3 on a scale of 1 – 4. If you don’t like hot foods you could decrease the cayenne pepper. It will still be very flavorful with the other spices.

I ordered the mango powder (Amchur) from; everything else was available at the grocery store. You can substitute lime juice for the mango powder, but I bought some because it seems to be a fairly common ingredient in Indian cuisine.

Raghavan provides recipes for making Ginger Paste and Garlic Paste to use in the recipe. I attempted the Ginger Paste; first in my blender, then in my mini food processor, and I finally tried using my immersion blender. It never really turned into a paste. Maybe he has a more powerful blender. I decided to mince the garlic, and next time I will also just mince the ginger.

The recipe is supposed to serve 8. Really? Perhaps….maybe if it’s part of a multi-course dinner. Served with a bit of rice and a salad, it’s closer to 4 servings.

I definitely recommend this recipe! You can use canned chickpeas for a quicker version.

Chana Masala (Chickpeas with a Spicy Tomato Sauce)

(printable recipe)

(Adapted from the recipe in 660 Curries)


2 tablespoons ghee (use canola oil for a vegan version)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1 tablespoon mango powder or fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
½ teaspoon turmeric
4 cups cooked chickpeas
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1½ teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon regular table salt)
½ cup finely chopped red onion


1. Heat the ghee, or oil, in a large pan over medium-high heat. Put the whole cumin seeds in the pan and cook, stirring, until they sizzle and turn reddish-brown, about 10 seconds.

2. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in 1 cup of water and the tomato paste and all of the spices.

Partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. The water will evaporate and you will have a thick sauce.

4. Add 2 more cups of water, the chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, and the salt.

Here’s how it looks at this point, before it thickens:

Cook, uncovered, for 15 – 18 minutes until the water evaporates and the curry thickens.

5. Serve with rice or naan. Sprinkle each serving with some of the remaining cilantro and some of the red onions.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Byron permalink
    February 16, 2010 8:49 pm

    You even went so far as to make your own Ghee. I’m blown away Kath!

  2. February 17, 2010 6:41 am

    I thought about making naan…maybe next time! 🙂

  3. April 16, 2010 4:18 am

    it looks lovely- and i like the use of amchoor- (mango powder).

  4. jamie permalink
    May 30, 2013 11:55 am

    This was incredible. I made a large batch to bring with me on a camping trip and it was a HUGE hit. The only problem with this recipe is that it’s so amazing we didn’t have any leftovers.

    • May 30, 2013 5:54 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Jamie! You’ve got me thinking it’s been too long since I’ve made this. 😉


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