Delhi is famous for its incredible variety of street food, from chaat - which literally means finger-licking good - to sweets to seasonal specialities. One of my favourites, and yet a recent discovery, is Pateele wale chhole. Pateela means deep vessel, and chhole is a Delhi shorthand for legumes. In this case, the chhole refers to dried white peas, and the pateela refers to brass pots - wide mouthed and wide based, in which the chhole is cooked. This is served with kulcha, one of the few leavened breads of India. Kulche, plural of kulcha, are white, spongy, flat and oblong in shape and apart from a slightly sour tang from the leavening process, practically tasteless. They do have the advantage, however, of being fat free and a perfect accompaniment to anything that's tangy.
My mom in law loves this dish and used to frequently buy it from one of the streetside vendors for lunch. The vendors somehow always get the taste just right, and as they wheel their carts into place, your mouth starts watering from the remembered deliciousness of the dish. I recently had this after a long time at an office lunch party and my tastebuds thrilled to the taste and told me I had to figure out how to make this at home.
Turns out, it wasn't that hard. Of course, it takes a little patience - for one thing you have to soak the peas overnight. But otherwise they're a breeze to make. And easy to customise as to level of heat, since each portion is dished up and garnished individually. And they are delicious with rotis, bread, toast or just by themselves as a healthy snack. Tart and tangy, a little spicy and salty, they are addictively chatpata ( which means tart and tangy, a little spicy and salty!). Somehow they bring out the meaning of the word chaat even while being healthy - the best kind of food!
1 cup dried white peas, soaked for 8 hours and then boiled/ pressure-cooked in salted water until soft, almost pulpy
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander seed ( dhania) powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
1 lemon, cut into wedges
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
Heat the oil in a wok. Once hot, turn the heat down and add the coriander and cumin powder. Stir and continue to cook for 1 minute, till they start turning a darker shade of brown. Drain and add the peas, reserving about a cupful of the water they were cooked in. Add salt and the reserved water and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spices and salt are well-blended with the peas.
To serve, dish up in a bowl, top with some of the chopped onions, then garnish with the coriander leaves and as much of the chillies as each person cares for, and add a squeeze of lime.
Tip: To make them less gassy, add a tsp of baking soda while boiling the peas. You can also add julienned ginger to the garnisg for the same purpose.