Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak is an utterly delectable Gujarati-style black chickpea curry, a beautiful medley of flavours. It is sweet, it is spicy, it is salty, it is tangy. It makes for just the perfect accompaniment to rotis and parathas, and goes well with dosas and steamed rice as well. When Shantaben, a Gujarati neighbour of ours, taught me how to make this Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak, I was amazed by its simplicity. How can a curry be so simple, yet so delicious, I wondered. But it was just that – beautifully simple, elegant and absolutely scrumptious.
My memories of Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak and Shantaben are inextricably tied to Thatha, my paternal grandfather.
My grandfather lost both his parents when he was around 3 years of age. His father died first, and then, his mother followed, in about a week’s time. It was Thatha‘s elder sister who took care of him, who brought him up, made sure he was educated and settled in a job. ‘We were living in hard times then. A bowl of day-old curd rice would feel heavenly to us, like a God-sent gift,’ he would always tell me. ‘You kids have too much. Too much choice, too much more stuff than you really need,’ he would say. As I grew up, I began to understand what he meant.
Thatha was in his 20s when he moved from the little village in Tamilnadu where he grew up to Gujarat, to pursue higher education. By then, he was already married to my grandmother, Paati. In Baroda, Gujarat, Thatha found himself a job in a textile mill (mills were big in Gujarat then!), and began to study Textile Technology. He began to send money back home to Paati and, slowly and gradually, started carving out a life for himself.
In the course of his career, Thatha moved to Ahmedabad (that explains my connection with the city!), and took on a better job in a better textile mill. Once he had saved enough for a down payment on an apartment in the city, he bought it. This house was palatial compared to the one he grew up in! When he thought he was making enough to comfortably manage a family in a city, Paati came to Ahmedabad to live with her husband. Three children came into the picture – all sons – and one of them was my dad. It was in this house that Thatha bought in Ahmedabad where I grew up and lived for a considerable chunk of my life.
Shantaben, an elderly Gujarati lady, lived in the apartment above us, in Ahmedabad. She had lost her husband when she was young, and had no children of her own. Thatha began seeing in Shantaben the sister who had lovingly raised him after their parents’ passing away. Shantaben began seeing our family as her own. It was at a meal at Shantaben‘s home – I don’t remember for what occasion – that this Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak was served to us. I was a teenager then, I guess. It was our first tryst with this beauty, and all of us loved, loved, loved it. When we told Shantaben about this, a few days later, she laughed. ‘This is something we make regularly, in Gujarati households. It is nothing special!,’ she said. ‘Come, I’ll teach you how to make it!,’ and whisked Amma and me away to her kitchen. We saw, we learnt, and the rest is history, as they say.
Here is how to make the Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak, Shantaben‘s way.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
- 1 cup black chickpeas aka kala chana
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 2 pinches of asafoetida aka hing
- 1 teaspoon mustard aka rai
- 1 teaspoon cumin aka jeera
- 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
- Salt, to taste
- A small piece of tamarind
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Red chilli powder, to taste
- 1 teaspoon garam masala, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon powdered jaggery, or to taste
- 8-10 sprigs of fresh coriander leaves
- About 1 tablespoon gram flour aka besan
1. Wash the kala chana thoroughly under running water. Soak them overnight, in just enough water to cover them.
2. In the morning, drain off the water from the kala chana, and add just enough fresh water to cover them. Pressure cook the kala chana for 4 whistles. Let the pressure come down naturally, and keep the kala chana aside. Do not discard the water in which the kala chana was pressure cooked – reserve it for use later in making the Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak.
3. Soak the tamarind in boiling water, for about 10 minutes. When the tamarind is cool enough to handle, extract a thick paste out of it, adding water little by little. Keep aside.
4. Chop the coriander finely. Keep aside.
5. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the mustard, and allow it to splutter. Add the cumin, asafoetida and the curry leaves. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.
6. Now, turn the flame to medium. Add the cooked kala chana and the reserved water (which they were cooked in).
7. Add in salt to taste, jaggery and tamarind paste. Mix well.
8. Cook uncovered on medium flame for 4-5 minutes, or till 75% of the water has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasonings as required.
9. Meanwhile, make a paste of the gram flour in a little water, in a small bowl. Keep handy.
9. When the gravy has cooked for 4-5 minutes, add in the garam masala and the gram flour paste. Mix well. Cook uncovered on medium flame for about 2 minutes more. Switch off the gas when the gravy begins to thicken, but is still a tad watery. If you feel the gravy has become too thick at this stage, add a bit of water. Remember that the curry will become even thicker on cooling.
10. Mix in finely chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rotis, parathas, pooris, steamed rice.
- I have always had this Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak as a no onion-no garlic preparation, and so make it the same way. We like it this way as well. If you want to, you may add some finely chopped garlic, ginger and onions after the tempering is done.
- Sugar can be used in place of jaggery powder.
- Remember to pressure cook the kala chana in just enough water to cover them. The water in which they are cooked is full of protein and, hence, it is a good idea to retain it and use it in making the curry.
- If you want to, you can add in some cumin powder and coriander powder, along with the garam masala. I usually skip this, as I like keeping this curry as simple as I can.
- Amma adds in sambar masala instead of the garam masala, in making this Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak. The result, although not strictly Gujarati, still tastes awesome.
- Tomato puree can be used in making this curry, in place of the tamarind paste. Alternatively, you could use a mix of tomato puree and tamarind paste. Squeeze in a dash of lemon juice at the end, if you feel the tanginess from the tomatoes and/or tamarind is not enough.
- I use home-made garam masala to make this Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak.
- I like to keep this curry quite runny, almost like a daal, rather than making it thick. Adjust the consistency of the gravy as per your personal taste preferences.
Did you like this recipe? I hope you will try out this Kala Chana Nu Rasavalu Shaak too, and that you will love it as much as we do!