Peshawar is perhaps one of the oldest cities in Pakistan and is situated in a valley along the Khyber Pass. It used to be one of the cities along the old and famed Silk Route known for its cuisine and has even lent its name to a variety of Naan (Peshawari Naan – flat bread stuffed with dried fruit and nuts) and Peshawari Chole (spicy, curried chickpeas).
Chole or Channe are both words used in North India for chickpeas, usually the white variety whereas the deep brown variety is known as “Kaala Chole/ Channa” where Kaala means black and Channa (not Chana Dal or lentils) refers to chickpeas. Though cooked across different parts of Northern India, most of us are more familiar with the typically Punjabi style Chole curries.
Before partition of India and Pakistan prior to Independence, Punjab was a region that covered area that lies in both countries across the international border. So it’s not surprising that Chole is cooked in a few different ways and most of these dishes have names indicating their connection to a place on the map. So there’s the Pindi Chole (from Rawalpindi in Pakistan), Amritasri Chole and Peshawari Chole, to mention but a few. While the basic way of cooking Chole is more or less the same across these recipes, the difference is usually in spices used depending on local availability.
Knowing this, the story told about Emperor Shah Jehan and Chole becomes believable. Emperor Shah Jehan loved his food and was known to preside over banquets featuring as many as 50 dishes! Unfortunately, his son Aurangazeb declared his father incompetent to rule and had him restricted to his quarters. Though it is difficult to believe the Emperor suffered history accounts otherwise. The story goes that he was asked to choose one thing he could eat every day of his life, the Emperor apparently said “ Chana”. There is some doubt whether this Chana referred to lentils or chickpeas, but I’m going with chickpeas for this post as the prison cook supposedly assured the Emperor that he could use them to cook up something different for every day of the year!
I’m picking the Peshawari style of cooking Chole today to feature Tata Sampann’s spice powders and mixes/ masalas. They recently sent me a hamper of their Turmeric Powder, Red Chilli Powder, Punjabi Chole Masala, Dal Tadka Masala and Paneer Masala to try out. The spice powders come in convenient 100gm packs while the spice mix powders/ masalas come in a 100gm box of 5 individually sealed single (or double use for small batch cooking) pouches. This struck me as a really good way of ensuring that the masalas stay fresh and do not lose their aroma and flavour.
Tata Sampann produces and markets pure and authentic lentils, chickpea flour and spice powders and ready-to-use spice mix powders/ masalas. Their range of spice products includes Coriander Powder, Turmeric Powder, Chilli Powder, and ready-to-use spice mix powders/ masalas like Dal Tadka Masala, Paneer Masala, Punjabi Chole Masala, and Garam Masala.
I understand that Tata Sampann Spice Powders are made from the best quality spices which retain their natural spice oils and this is why their spice powders and masalas have a delightfully fresh aroma and flavour. I certainly found this to be true across the spices and masalas I was sent. Their red Chilli Powder for example, is made from a blend of Teja and Byadagi chillies and the Turmeric Powder is made from Salem turmeric.
I found the Turmeric Powder in particular had an aroma as good as the home grown, dried and powdered turmeric which a cousin gives me every time we visit. Given that the spices are full bodied and flavoursome unlike many other brands, I would also advise being a bit restrained with using them so it’s not overdone in your dishes. My Peshawari Chole turned out quite delightful with full bodied flavours reminiscent of the best Chole I have eaten which was a couple of months back in Old Delhi. I don’t say this often about products I review, but I found the spice powders so good I believe I’m going to be using them regularly in my kitchen.
I chose to feature Tata Sampann’s Turmeric Powder, Chilli Powder and Punjabi Chole Masala in this recipe for Peshawari Style Chole Wraps. According to the information on the Chole Masala pack, this masala is made with Coriander, Chilli, Cumin, Salt, Amchur, Anardana, Bay Leaf, Fennel, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Ginger Powder, Cloves, Asafoetida, Mint, Mace, Fenugreek (Leaves), Cardamom. That list definitely takes care of the individual spices I would have used to make the Peshawari Chole.
Traditionally the Peshawari style of cooking uses a variety of spices but their cuisine is quite mild and not very spicy. This also holds true for Peshawari Chole unlike most other Chole recipes which tend be on the more spicy side. The chickpeas for Peshawari Chole are generally cooked with tea bags or a tea leaves tied in a small pouch. Strong Indian black tea would be good for this. This gives the chickpeas a brown colour and a somewhat smoky flavour.
Here I have cooked the Chole to a somewhat dry consistency without gravy as I’m using it in wraps. If you would prefer to serve it with gravy as a side dish to serve with chapathis, rice or pulao/ pilaf, there are instructions for that in the recipe.