|Curried Channa and Aloo|
Curry channa and aloo is probably the most popular form of channa in Trinidad. Channa is also called gram, chickpea or garbanzo beans and there are several varieties according to Wikipedia. Both channa and gram are what these pulses are called in india. Being that my ancestors were from india, this curry channa dish is a staple of hindu and muslim prayers as well as weddings in Trinidad and usually eaten with paratha also called buss-up-shot or dhalpourie.
Channa is a pulse and has a lot of health benefits; they are a good source of protein and are low in fat and high in fibre. I read somewhere that they are the most popular pulse in the Indian subcontinent. Makes sense, channa is pretty popular in Trinidad, where if it is not eaten in a channa or chicken roti, it is eaten in a very popular street food called “doubles”.
And if you are a non-trini (a person who does not come from Trinidad), you may be wondering; “What is doubles?”. Well as the legend goes, a street vendor outside of a high school in south Trinidad was selling a street food which was basically curried channa poured over a fried bread called ‘bara’. It was basically an open-faced sandwich. One of the vendor’s customers asked him to put two ‘bara’ instead of one and consequently after that would order a ‘doubles’ meaning two pieces of fried bara with the curried channa. And so, the most popular street food in Trinidad was born.
Anthony Boudain remarked on his ‘Parts Unknown’ series episode where he visited Trinidad, that the first thing people asked him was “Did you try the doubles?”. He did try doubles in north Trinidad but to be fair, if you really want to get a good doubles it’s better to go to south Trinidad; places like Debe or Princes Town.
Sorry but I divulged quite a bit from my curry channa post. Another way channa is eaten in Trindad is deep fried and seasoned with garlic and chadon beni also called bandania (a relative of cilantro). It’s an addictive snack and very popular. My great grandfather made a living selling channa in cinemas in brown paper cones.
So, the curried channa recipe I have below is fairly easy to make. Soaking the channa is preferable but not absolutely necessary as I always forget to soak my beans the night before. You can use any mild curry powder you have available but if you can find Chief or Chatak curry powder from Trinidad, that would make it more authentic in flavour.
Cuisine: Trinidadian Indian
Good for: Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch
Time: 6-8 hrs soaking time + 2 hours prep and cooking time
Suitable: Vegetarian, Low fat
31/2 c dried channa (also called garbanzo beans, chickpea or gram)
3 tb vegetable or coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp or more salt to taste
¼ tsp black pepper (optional)
3 tb chadon beni or bandania (or cilantro) chopped
3tb parsley chopped
5 pimentoes chopped
1 hot congo pepper chopped fine (optional)
1 head garlic minced
2 tsp fresh ginger minced
3 medium onions chopped
1 tsp roasted cumin (geera)
2 tb curry powder (preferably a Trinidadian brand)
5 medium potatoes cut in large chunks.
Water and hot water as needed
1. If you are using dried channa, first pick through them for any stones etc. and then wash them to remove any dirt.
2. Soak dried channa for 6-8 hours or overnight. If you don’t have time to soak beans see note in step 4.
3. Rinse channa after soaking and place in a pressure cooker and fill with water till it reaches at least 2 inches above beans. Bring to pressure and cook for 30 mins until beans are tender.
4. If you do not have time to soak beans, place then in pressure cooker with at least 3 inches of water covering, bring to pressure and cook for 1 hour.
5. If after following either steps 3 or 4, your beans are not soft when mashed with back of the spoon then place back on the heat, bring to pressure and cook for an additional 15 mins. Before you pressure you may need to add extra water if there is not enough in the pressure cooker.
6. Once the beans have been cooked, reserve.
7. Heat a heavy bottomed pot with high sides to medium heat and add the oil.
8. Mix the 2tb curry powder with 3tb of water and add to hot oil, being careful not to splash on yourself.
9. Cook this curry mixture until it has deepened in color. Add the cumin and stir.
10. Once the curry has been cooked, add the onions and pimentos and cook for several minutes.
11. Once onions have cooked till translucent add the garlic, ginger and hot pepper and cook till ginger and garlic have been cooked. (not long)
12. Make sure you have at least a few cups of hot water ready for later.
13. Add 1tb of the bandania (cilantro) and parsley and stir and then add the potatoes and boiled cooked channa.
14. Stir this for a few minutes making sure everything is coated.
15. Add hot water to cover everything.
16. Add the salt.
17. Leave to cook till the potatoes and done.
18. Just before taking off the stove add the rest of the parsley and bandania (cilantro).
19. This can be served with paratha or dhalpourie. It can also be eaten with normal baked bread.
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