Amritsari chana masala

Amritsari chana masala

I Love India
Martin Poole

When the name of a dish means something to a non-native speaker, you know it is special. Although chickpea curries abound in many regions across India, this famous version hails from Amritsar. The city is best known for its very beautiful Sikh Golden Temple, but also for the truly delicious food. Even the vegetables there have so much flavour because – it is claimed – the local water itself is sweet and tasty. Chickpea curry is the city’s iconic dish, finished with a knob of local white butter, red onions and julienned ginger and served with their famous stuffed bread. It is a fabulous combination… but I can tell you from experience that this curry is equally delightful with lightly buttered brown toast.


Quantity Ingredient
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium-large tomatoes, quartered
18g finely grated root ginger, (peeled weight)
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
11/2 teaspoon see method for ingredients, (fresh if possible)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 400g cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 teaspoon dried pomegranate powder, or tamarind paste, or to taste
handful finely chopped coriander

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
knob unsalted butter
a few ginger julienne
small sprinkling finely chopped red onion, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and a little salt and cook until it has browned on the edges. Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes with a little water until smooth.
  2. Add the ginger and garlic to the cooked onion and sauté for 1 minute or until they are just colouring. Add the ground turmeric, cumin and coriander, the chilli powder and garam masala and cook for 20–30 seconds before adding the tomatoes. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil is released into the pan, around 15 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds in a small pan, stirring very often, until they have darkened and smell aromatic, around 40 seconds. Grind to a fine powder and add to the pot.
  4. Add the chickpeas and a little more salt and give the pot a good stir. Add enough boiling water to come to the top of the chickpeas. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Taste and add the dried pomegranate powder or tamarind paste: you will need less if your tomatoes were sour; more if they were sweet. Finish off with the chopped coriander, taste and adjust the seasoning.
  6. Serve with a small knob of butter, ginger julienne and a scattering of red onion for the real Punjabi experience.
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