Long time ago, I use to work at a computer institute as a counsellor. Nearly every other day we would send the peons / office assistants to get us Chole Bhatura from Haldirams, a famous eatery near our office. We would spend a good hour at lunch - which in India is a sacrilege, a long lunch there is 15-20 minutes - sharing the spicy chole bhaturas amongst friends over harmless office gossip. Lunch time was our favorite time there. This dish brings back all those memories.
In the past I have tried to re-create this dish rather unsuccessfully. The chole would turn out good but the bhaturas would fall flat, literally, and the taste was never the same and neither was the texture. And then my friend Madhuri came to my rescue. She gave me this recipe for the most delicious tasting bhaturas and also the tea bag tip ( the tea from the tea bag gave the chole the desired color for this dish). And as she promised the bhaturas puffed up, were crispy and had that tang to it from the addition of the yogurt. Thank Mads for the most delicious bhatura recipe.
Note that the channa needs to be soaked overnight. So go ahead and enjoy a plate of hot bhaturas with spicy chole , it is not that hard to make.
3 cups channa / chickpeas / garbanzo beans
2 large onions, finely chopped ( reserve 1/2 cup for garnish)
1 tbsp ginger - garlic paste
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick, 2 - 3 inches long
1 tsp jeera / cumin seeds
4 tsp chole masala / channa masala ( available at any Indian grocery shop)
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp tomato paste or 3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup cilantro chopped (reserve some for the garnish)
3 tbsp oil
salt to taste
a pinch of baking soda
1 tea bag
water to cook
3 cups maida / all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour / atta ( for the healthier version )
2 slices white bread / whole wheat bread
1 cup yogurt
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp oil
For the Bhatura
- In a medium to large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and baking soda and mix it well together.
- Soak the two bread slices in water and press between palms to drain the water. Now crumble these slices into the atta / flour mixture. Rub the soaked bread pieces and the flour together.
- Now add the yogurt and and knead the dough till it forms a soft ball. Rub the oil on the dough surface. Keep it covered and set aside. It is recommended that you make the dough at least 3 hours earlier, but I usually make it the night before and keep it in the fridge and the next day roll them out and fry them. They taste even better this way.
- When it is time to fry the bhaturas, take the dough out of the fridge to let it thaw a little. Heat oil in a wok / kadai , meanwhile make small roundels of the dough and roll out circles of up to 6 inches wide - it should have the thickness of a poori or a tortilla - deep fry the rolled out bhaturas in the hot oil. When you gently slide in the bhatura make sure it is fully submerged in the oil, it should then rise and puff up. Turn it over and fry the other side for a minute or until the color changes to pale brown. The oil should be really hot but not up to smoking point. Remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and drain on an absorbent paper towel. Fry the rest of the bhaturas in the same way.
For the Chole
- The night before, soak the chickpeas in water.
- Next day drain the water and cook the chickpeas in some fresh water ( see note below ), cook the chickpeas either in a pressure cooker or in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add a pinch of baking soda and a tea bag to the cooking water. The teabag gives the cream colored chickpeas a much desirable darker shade. When cooked, set aside.
- Heat the oil on medium high heat in another large, heavy bottomed saucepan and put the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds in it. Wait for a few seconds till the cumin seeds start to brown and then add the ginger - garlic paste and chopped onions and saute till the onions brown a little.
- To the browned onions add the turmeric powder, red chili powder and chole masala. Now stir well and let the masala and onion mixture fry in the oil for another 10 - 15 seconds. This step releases the full flavor and aroma of the spices.
- Now add the tomatoes or tomato paste, cooked chickpeas, tamarind concentrate and 1 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes on medium heat. Now add salt, cilantro and adjust seasoning. The consistency of the chole should neither watery nor dry. It should have a little gravy. Remove from heat and serve with hot fried, puffed-up bhaturas.
Plate the chole, and on it sprinkle some of the reserved chopped onions and cilantro. You can also drizzle a little tamarind chutney / imli chutney on it (optional). Place some hot bhaturas on that plate and also serve up some mango pickle with it (optional).
Note : Soaking the beans not only washes the dirt from it and reduces the cooking time but it also breaks down some of the oligosaccharides, the indigestible sugars that causes gas in beans. Discard this water and cook the beans in fresh water the next day.You can also use garbanzo beans can for whenever you want to make chole instantly and do not want to wait a day.