Poke around the dhal section of any Indian grocery store, and you’ll find kala channa (pictured to the right above) stacked among a mystifying selection of legumes. They look dwarf-like next to Kabuli chickpeas (pictured to the right). But offer an earthier flavor and a richer color than their more common culinary cousins. Be sure to soak these thick-skinned peas overnight.
KADALA CURRY (CHICKPEAS)
Kala channa are the chickpeas of choice in Kerala. They’re referred to as kadala locally, and used to make a hearty vegan dish flavored with coconut milk, coriander, and a mix of other spices. Although Kadala Curry is typically served at breakfast alongside puttu (a steamed cake made of rice flour and shredded coconut), leftovers are often spooned over plain rice.
1 cup uncooked kala channa
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cups water plus 3 tablespoons
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
10 to 15 curry leaves
1/2 cup diced tomato
3/4 cup coconut milk
Place chickpeas in a medium size pot. Cover with water. Swish around and drain water.
Cover the chickpeas with water and soak for 12 hours. Drain water.
Add 1 1/2 cups of water. Add the cinnamon stick and salt.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and cook until the chickpeas are tender (about an hour and a half.)
Place the coriander, cayenne, fennel, and turmeric in a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
Transfer ground spices to a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of water and stir to form a paste.
Heat oil in a medium sized saute pan over medium low heat. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, and curry leaves. Cook until the onions turn translucent (about 10 minutes).
Stir in the spice paste and cook for 1 minute, stirring continuously.
Add the tomato and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook until the tomato softens.
Add the chickpeas and cook for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to low. Stir in coconut milk and cook for 5 minutes.