07 October 2009
I love Indian food. It is delectably aromatic and bursting with warmth and spice. I especially like that the cuisine provides such a myriad of filling and tasty vegetarian and vegan options. Even my family, accustomed to the meat-heavy Filipino and Hawaiian "local" culinary traditions as well as typical American fare, relish many of the animal-free dishes common to traditional Indian cooking. I had not even become acquainted with South Asian cuisine until I went to college; my Indian roommate from the dorms first introduced me to it during a visit to her mom's house one weekend. Another ex-roommate, who happens to be not only Indian but also a longtime vegetarian, was the first person to really get me to explore and appreciate the amazing variety of vegetarian food she grew up eating, and since meeting her and trying her mother's tried-and-true kitchen favorites, I've become a huge fan of the cuisine. And what's nice about having met so many individuals from various parts of India is that they can point out so many aspects of the cuisine and culture that are common to South Asia as a whole, as well as elements unique to the region from which their families derive. I have only met a few people who don't actually like the food, and it's only because they can't handle the heat or are extremely picky eaters in general.It's been awhile since I've cooked Indian food, so today I thought I'd cook up Chana Masala, one of my veg ex-roommate's staples whenever she went back home on weekends. It is essentially chickpeas flavored with tomatoes, onion, and a masala containing many of the spices one would normally find in Indian food.I almost went the lazy route and opened a can of cooked chickpeas, but wanted the full flavor of the ingredients to permeate the beans as they cook and opted to soak dried chickpeas instead. After sauteeing an onion with minced garlic, I threw in chopped tomatoes (fresh, rather than canned), the soaked and drained chickpeas, salt, and water, letting the whole thing boil before reducing the heat to a simmer and covering the pot. After about 40 minutes, I placed a heaping scoop of cooked basmati in a bowl and nestled the chana masala beside it. I added chopped cilantro for a touch of freshness (and a bit of color, too), then sat down to a comforting meal.