Kerala Kadala Curry (Kala Chana)


As a kid, I really did not like this dish. Now that I’m a mom, I am not surprised one bit that I didn’t like this as a kid, ha! I always preferred chole, the softer white chickpeas in a delicious gravy that I ate on special occasions at Indian restaurants. Chole is traditionally a North Indian dish, so it’s something I never got to eat at home growing up. I lamented whenever I had to eat the darker chickpeas that had more of a bite to them. The flavor, color, and texture of these chickpeas were all wrong, in my very sophisticated pre-teen opinion. Nowadays, I find myself craving the dark chickpea curry more and more. It’s amazing how our palates change as we grow!

“Kadala” is the Malayali word for chickpeas. If you’ve been following my recipes for a while, you’ll know that Kerala cooking more often than not requires coconut. We use coconut as a base for much of our curries instead of tomatoes. Kadala curry usually incorporates fried “thenga kothu,” or thin slices of fresh coconut. Since I’m not a professional at choosing and cracking open good-quality coconuts, I substitute the frozen, ground coconut for this recipe. Of course, fresh coconut is always best if you can find it, but frozen coconut will serve you well too.

This curry is traditionally served for breakfast with puttu (a steamed rice flour and coconut dish), idli, dosa, or palappam (a fermented coconut milk and ground rice pancake – find my recipe here ). You can also eat it with naan, paratha, roti, or rice. It’s quite hearty, full of protein, and naturally vegan. I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients (6-8 servings):

1 cup black chickpeas – soak for 8 hours or overnight
2 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp red chili powder*
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 cup grated coconut (I buy frozen)
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin (you can also use shallots which are more authentic for Kerala cuisine)
1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped finely
2-3 green chilies, chopped*
10 curry leaves (cariapala or caripatha) – ok to omit if not available
1 tsp mustard seeds
1-2 tbsp coconut oil (or oil of your preference)

1/4 cup full fat coconut milk (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

*Adjust the chilies and chili paste to your preference!

1. Add the drained chickpeas to your pressure cooker. Add 2 cups fresh water. You could also use the water the chickpeas were soaking in if you prefer.
2. Pressure çook for about 10 whistles. If your cooker does not whistle, I would cook it on medium pressure and medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and stir. Assure the chickpeas are cooked (soft, but they can still retain a bit of a bite – al dente of sorts – if you don’t mind it).

3. In a blender or magic bullet, blend the ground coconut with a little water to make a smooth but not runny paste.
4. In a frying pan , dry roast the spices (garam masala, red chili powder, coriander powder, and turmeric) for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Set aside in a dish.
IMG_16605. In the same frying pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat and add mustard seeds. Cover and let seeds splatter.
5. Add the onions (or shallots), ginger, green chilies, and curry leaves. Sautés until onions are translucent.
6. Add back the the garam masala, red chili powder, coriander powder, and turmeric. Sauté for 3-5 minutes over low heat until fragrant and the spices darken.
7. Add the coconut paste from the blender. Mix well and sauté on low-medium heat for 5 minutes.
8. Add the frying pan contents to the cooked chickpeas in the pressure cooker. Mix well and allow it to teach a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. You can add a little extra coconut milk here to cut the spice and add thickness if you want.
9. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
10. As it cools, this curry will thicken.




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