Jeff & Linda's Kitchen of Diversity
Balti Chana Dhal
The chickpea we are accustomed to using in the West with its large light brown seed is only one of four major types. The first domesticated chickpeas are smaller with a dark brown, tough seed coat. Evidence for their cultivation extends back over 7000 years. These ancient chickpeas are still extensively grown in India, where they are often hulled and split, with the resulting split-pea like pulse being one of the most commonly used for dhals. Called Chana Dhal, this variety has a nuttier and more savory flavor than the standard large variety.
Here Chana Dhal is combined with Green Masala paste to make a dish utterly different from the Balti Lobia.
Makes 8 servings.
1 pound split Chana Dhal
1 cup finely diced Onion
¼ cup Green Masala Paste
2 tablespoons Sugar
Aromatic Salt, to taste
Pick through Chana Dhal to remove any stones or other foreign material. Cover generously with cold water and soak for at least 6 hours. Drain and rinse.
Bring two quarts of water to the boil. Add rinsed and drained Chana Dhal. Stir every few minutes to make sure that they do not stick to the pot bottom or to each other. Bring water back to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for roughly 45 minutes. Skim off any scum as it forms. When Chana Dhal is tender, drain.
Place cooked Chana Dhal back into the pot. Add the remaining ingredients, and gently cook for at least 10 minutes.
Try a pungent onion like Australian Brown, Stuttgarter, or Yellow of Parma. You can also grow your own Chana Dhal (Baker Creek offers both black and green varieties). Unlike the hulled and split Chana Dhal that you'd buy from your Indian grocier, these will be whole. You can still use them, but will need to increase the soaking time to overnight, and the cooking time to 3 hours or until tender. The dish will look different but will still taste great.