Kala chana (कला चना) is my “go to” potluck/picnic dish. It is easy to prepare, travels well and when served with tamarind sweet-sour chutney and/or fresh coconut chutney, it stands out in flavors. While this salad can be made with other beans like chickpea or black eyed peas, I prefer to make with kala chana (literal translation means black chickpea). Kala chana is a smaller chickpea like bean native to India. It has a nuttier taste and retains its shape due to tougher outer coat.. Read here to learn more about it. The preparation here is like a bean salad but in India, we don’t think of this as salad. Often, we would cook bean and spices together and served it warm for morning breakfast or afternoon snack along with onion-ginger-cilantro-tomato relish and chutney. Each person decides to top the beans with the relish and chutneys according to their taste.
Here I am preparing a big batch of kala chana to take it to the 50th birthday celebration for a friend. I start off with soaking kala chana overnight and then I boil with little water (1 cup for 2-3 cups of dried beans) in pressure cooker for 20-30 minutes. After pressure is released, i add salt, roasted cumin powder, ground black pepper & red chili powder to taste and let it cook on medium heat to burn off the water. Let the beans cool. Add diced onions, diced tomatoes (optional), chopped cilantro, minced green chili pepper, grated fresh ginger, juice of 1-2 limes to taste. I have not included measurements because you can adjust proportions to your liking. It is difficult to go wrong. Here, I also added a tablespoon of fresh grated turmeric root.
Mix and serve with tamarind chutney (recipe available here) or fresh coconut chutney or both.
Kala chana is available in Indian stores and you can also buy online at here.