This is a spicy and tangy kala chickpea curry from the Himachali cuisine (Himachal Pradesh region), and is a part of festive(Dham) food.
Kala channa aka dark garbanzo beans is a common bean that is used often in Indian cuisine. It is a powerhouse of proteins, folate, fiber, and minerals. This bean can be used in many recipes like Jaisalmeri Channa or Kerala style Kadala Curry, or can be used to make a quick snack, sundal. Sprouted Kala channa can also be used in salads or in recipes like Sprouted Kala Channa Dosa or Kala Channa and Paneer Pulao.
‘Khatta’ means sour. This kala channa has the tangy/sour dominant flavor and is named based on its flavor type. This flavor is contributed by the tamarind (imli) and/or amchoor (dried mango powder) powder.
Kala channa ka khatta is one of the foods prepared during festivals in Himachal Pradesh called DHAM. The spicy and sour flavors make it a comforting side rejuvenating the taste buds. This humble curry is fit for any day too!
The following ingredients are required to make this curry.
Dried kala channa - this is the darker version of garbanzo beans. The beans are soaked and cooked in this curry.
Spice powders - garam masala, coriander powder are used in this recipe and they add to the spicy aroma and flavor of the curry.
Salt - adds flavor
Thai green chili - adds to the heat. This curry is spicy, adjust according to heat tolerance.
Black pepper - Adds to the heat and flavor. Whole black pepper is used.
Red chili powder - adds to another layer of spicy kick.
Tamarind - this adds to the sour flavor in this curry.
Amchoor powder - aka dried mango powder, contributes to the sour flavors.
Turmeric powder - Adds to the color and nutritional value and is well known for its medicinal properties.
Oil - any neutral flavored oil can be used.
Spices - Dried red chilies, fennel seeds, cumin, bay leaves, fenugreek, black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and asafetida are used and these add to the layers of complex flavor in this humble curry.
Besan/garbanzo flour - Besan or bengal gram flavor is traditionally used to thicken this curry. I have substituted with garbanzo bean flour in this recipe.
Rice flour - This is used to thicken the curry.
Jaggery - this balances the flavor profile.
Mint - optional, this recipe is made without mint.
About the flavor profile of the curry
This is a spicy and sour curry. The heat and the tang are well balanced with salt and added jaggery. Addition of jaggery doesn’t make it sweet. A little jaggery balances the flavors in this curry.
One important note
Dried kala channa is soaked for 8 hours and can be cooked in a pressure cooker or Instant pot. After cooking the kala channa, reserve the drained liquid as the curry is completely cooked in the cooked channa water which adds to the nutrition as well as phenomenal flavors.
Rice flour or besan, or a combination of these two are used to thicken the curry. This makes this curry gluten-free. Whole wheat flour can also be used instead but it would have gluten in it. I substitute besan with garbanzo flour in traditional curries, like Garbanzo Flour Pithale or Savory Garbanzo Flour Waffle Chaat. It is easy to make it at home if you have a heavy duty dry ingredient blender.
Is this recipe vegan?
This traditional recipe is vegan. No dairy products are used in this recipe and oil is used for cooking.
What to serve this with?
This is served with rice usually and makes a comforting meal. But we love this curry with everyday chapathi which makes yet another easy, healthy, and tasty meal. Try this and I know you will agree too.
This recipe uses onion and garlic. This can be skipped if a no onion no garlic version is preferred, and it is equally tasty. Tamarind gives the sour flavors. Amchoor powder can also be used if you do not have tamarind. Or a combination of tamarind and amchoor powder can also be used just like in this recipe.
The leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four or five days. The curry can also be frozen for up to three months. I am yet to test beyond this timeline. Defrost the curry, heat it up and serve with cooked grains or chapathi for quick meal fix on busy days.
Kala chana - 1 cup, dried
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Onion - ⅔ cup, chopped
Red chili powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Turmeric - 1/3 tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Amchoor powder - 2 tbsp
Tamarind - 1 tbsp
Garbanzo flour/besan - 2 tbsp
Rice flour - 2 tbsp
Oil - 2-3 tbsp
Cinnamon - 1.5-in piece
Black cardamom - 2
Bay leaf - 2
Fennel seeds - ½ tsp
Cloves - 2
Dried red chili - 2 to 4
Green Thai chili - 2 to 6
Cumin - ½ tsp
Fenugreek - ½ tsp
Asafetida - ⅛ tsp
Water - 3.5 cups
Soak the dried kala channa. Drain and rinse well. Add three cups water and cook in a pressure cooker for three whistles. Drain the cooked channa and reserve the liquid.
Extract the tamarind juice in about 1/2 cup water and set aside.
Heat oil in a pan, add the fennel seeds, whole black pepper, cumin, bay leaves, cloves, whole black cardamom, cinnamon, and asafetida. Let it bloom for 30 seconds.
Add the onions and green chilies and sauce until onions turn translucent. Then add the ginger garlic paste and cook for one to two minutes.
Add the chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric and cook for a minute.
Add the garbanzo flour and rice flour, cook for 2-3 minutes until it is roasted well.
Add the cooked kala channa, combine, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until all the flavors weld together.
Add the amchoor powder, mix, and mash only a little of the kala channa. This enhances the flavor. Add salt, reserved water, and tamarind water.
Mix and simmer for 7-8 minutes.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with rice and/or chapati.