Soon after I graduated from college, I moved to Chennai (in the state of Tamilnadu in Southern India) for work and promptly fell in love with the food. Given that a large number of Tamilian Brahmins are vegetarian their cuisine is exceptionally sophisticated. Back in those days I also ate meat and so fully indulged in the wonderful carnivorous fare from both Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. In fact, one of our favorite restaurants was Kalpaka, right next to the Music Academy in Chennai. This little gem of a restaurant was known for its Malayali (the people and language of Kerala are called Malayali) Syrian Christian food AND it was cheap. Needless to say, we went there often.
I had almost forgotten how good Kerala food was we went on a family vacation to Kerala last winter. Unfortunately, I had also forgotten how most of their specialities are meat or fish based. So even though we had a much more limited menu to choose from we still ate well. Sambar, Avial, Stew and Kadala Curry with Appams, as Dora the Explorer would say “Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Delicioso!”. The Kadala curry, made with Black Chickpeas especially was a standout. So when I got back stateside I tried to replicate the dish. I got a start from the recipe here that I played around with. Appams were a different story. I crashed and burned on those. If any of you know how to make Appams well, please let me know.
Anyway, here is the Kadala Curry recipe that can be enjoyed with boiled rice, chapati, paratha or sliced bread. NOTE: I make no claims to this being anywhere close to an authentic recipe, e.g. I use bay leaf which is seldom used in South Indian cooking. As they say in Kerala, this is my recipe, zimbly (simply).
INGREDIENTS (for 4 people)
1 Cup Black Chickpeas – soak overnight in water that completely covers them and then some.
Take the following and dry roast and grind to make a powder
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 dry red chili
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 4 Tbsp grated coconut
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 onion – diced
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
10-12 curry leaves
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp chana dal
1 Tbsp Mustard seeds
Pinch of asafetida (hing)
Salt to taste
1. Cook the black chick peas with a little salt and a bay leaf till they are tender. If you are using a pressure cooker, 2-3 whistles should do the trick. You will want to make sure that the chickpeas are fully covered with water and a little more. If not, then start with 4-5 cups of water and cook covered. Discard the bay leaf.
2. Heat a tbsp of oil and fry the onion till it slightly browns.
3. Grind the spice powder, a handful of cooked chickpeas and onion to make a fine paste. Add water if needed.
4. In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp oil and toss in the asafetida, urad dal, chana dal, curry leaves and mustard seeds.
5. When they sputter, add the paste from step 3. Add 1 cup of water. Cook for 5 mins.
6. Add the rest of the chick peas.
7. Add turmeric powder and salt to taste.
8. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 20 mins.