According to Wikipedia: Cultural appropriation is a concept in sociology, dealing with the adoption of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is sometimes portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture. This is a hot-button issue these days, particularly on college campuses. While I generally try to stay away from terribly controversial topics in this blog, I want to say that especially where food is concerned, this is complete bollocks. If I were limited to cooking and eating foods which were theoretically only within my cultural competency, I would likely die of boredom or worse. So I say “guilty as charged” that when it comes to food – and jewelry – I practice cultural appropriation and am proud of it.
This dish is a wonderful example of a basically humble food (the chickpea) that is elevated to an incredibly flavorful and satisfying dish. It is eaten as a snack by itself or with Basmati rice as part of a meal. If you are vegetarian, just add a vegetable dish and if you are an omnivore, it is wonderful with grilled meats or chicken. It can be garnished with a dollop of yogurt or eaten as is. This dish is not vegan because traditionally it is made with ghee (clarified butter), which is how I make it, however, if you wished to keep it vegan, using a neutral-flavored vegetable oil should work. It can be made ahead and gently reheated when you are ready to serve it.
Punjabi Chana Dal from the Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff and tweaked by me
Yield: 6 servings, although if I’m eating it the recipe only serves 3!
1 cup whole dried chana (chickpeas or garbanzo beans) The chana is a little smaller and softer than the garbanzo, but either would work.
1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup peeled onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger (I use the stuff in a jar)
1/4 teaspoon each: garam masala, ground turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste (optional)
Juice of one lemon or more, to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)
- Soak the chana overnight in 3 cups of water.
- When the chana has finished soaking, drain and rinse them. Place 4 cups of water in a 4 quart pot and bring to a boil, adding 1 teaspoon of the salt. When the water has come to a full boil, add the drained chana. Allow the water to return to the boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the chana for 45 minutes.
- Drain the chana into a colander over a bowl. You will be using some of the reserved liquid later.
- Place the ghee in a large frying pan with a lid over low heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger and stir until the onions just begin to brown. Then add your spices and the additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir through for about 1 minute. Now add the well-drained chana and mix through the spices and onion mixture. Saute for 7 minutes. The smell will drive you crazy – it is sooooooooooooo good.
- Now add 1.5 cups of the reserved chana cooking liquid. Stir through. Raise the temperature to high to bring the mixture to a full boil. Cook uncovered for 2 minutes.
- Now cover the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes. Most of the cooking liquid should have been absorbed and the chana are tender but not mushy. [I have never had to add more liquid or cook the chana for longer, but depending on the chickpeas that you used it could take a bit longer to cook. If necessary, add a few more tablespoons of the reserved liquid and cook for another 10 minutes to get the chana to the right consistency.]
- Add the fresh lemon juice and enjoy.