Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Safayd CholeTuri Wale (White Chickpea Curry)

Recipe 1in

Punjabi-style chole are a staple dish in many gurdwaras and mandirs in North India as they are both nutritious and filling and you can easily make a huge pot full of them to feed the faithful. But they are also very popular in parties if you need a dish with plenty of curry and of course restaurants, mostly because their taste goes well with many types of breads – roti, puri, naan, kulcha or parantha – although some people prefer rice. Just the smell of chole can be mouthwatering!

The main differences in Punjabi chole and the chole dishes from other parts of India are the thickness of the curry and the spices used. To be authentic, the Punjabi chole must be plump and soft, with a yellow tinge due to the use of haldi (turmeric) and should float in a red curry. And the softness should come from actual cooking time, not by using baking soda which can leave a slight chalky taste in the mouth.

The traditional way to making chole is to soften the hard dry bean either by boiling them in a pressure cooker or by soaking the chola bean overnight in a bowl of water and then boil them in a pot the next day. This is the usual way you make chole if you expect a lot of people, and requires more preparation and cooking time, but they are virtually impossible to mess up. If it’s just for a small family, it’s more convenient to use the canned chickpeas and the ten-minute recipe which I gave earlier.

This recipe makes chole with a deep yellow-red color and becomes more satisfying with some garam masala. You can sprinkle it with chopped coriander leaves and serve it with plenty of garnishes like raw onions and with long, spicy green Indian mirchen (chilli peppers).

Ingredients :     
400 gm chole (chickpeas)
1 large piyaaz (onion)
1 medium clump of adrak (ginger root)
1 medium kernel of lasan (garlic)
1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil
Tomato paste to taste
5 cups of pani (water)
Spices (to taste): namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), garam masala
Garnishes (to taste): dhania (coriander) – chopped leaves

1.Pour the dry chole in a pot and let them soak overnight. Boil them in a full pot of water for 45 minutes under medium low heat.
2.If you don’t have the time, you can boil them in a pressure cooker and wait you get 5 or 6 whistles before opening the cooker up. Pour through a sieve and save the water to make the curry.
3.Finely chop the ginger, onions and garlic. Throw them in a saucepan and brown them in the oil.
4.Add half a tablespoon of tomato paste, to enhance the taste, texture and add red color and stir in.
5.Throw in the boiled chole (make sure they are nice and soft) and then mix well with the masala over medium heat for 5 minutes to roast them and let the masala seep in, making sure that the chole do not stick or burn.
6.Now pour in ¾ of the saved water and bring the chole to a boil. Save the rest of the water in case it looks like there isn’t enough after the chole have cooked for 5 minutes and add if needed.
7.Turn the heat to low for 5 minutes to let the curry soak into the chole. When it has cooled down a little, add the garam masala and dhania and mix well.
8.Turn the heat off, cover the pot and let it sit for 5 minutes. Eat with roti, naan or rice.



Many sick people who have become weak are often given soups to help build their strength back up. In the US, this is often a meat-based soup, like chicken or vegetable minestrone, mushroom, tomato or other type. In India, we usually give the weak and sickly the water left over from boiling black channe (chickpeas) as it is naturally full of protein, has no starch and is only slightly salty.  The water from white chole (chickpeas) does not have the same benefit as is fully of a starchy residue which congeals when it cools down.

mamas recipe inside3

Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.