The romance between Delhi and its chole bhature is a love story like no other.
Every year, as the biting cold settles over the capital, hundreds turn to their favourite bowl of spicy chana (chickpeas) and deep-fried puris to keep them warm.
There are many versions of the tale of how this delicious snack made its way here. And like every love story, there are twists and turns in this saga as well.
But before we get to that, for novices, what really is chole bhature?
Heaven on a plate
The streets of Delhi have gone down in history for their chole bhature. Hundreds queue up everyday to get their share of the delicious dish that comprises two parts, one being the spicy chickpea curry and the other the bhatura, a type of fried bread. The union of the two can be described as ‘made in heaven’.
The duo is often paired with lassi or a pickle or even a sprinkling of onions to elevate the taste.
But how did the dish make its way through history to the stalls of Delhi?
The Partition of 1947
Let’s trace our steps back to when India was emerging from the clutches of colonial rule, but at a great cost for its own people.
The Partition of 1947 wasn’t simply a line drawn to separate the Indian union into two. It was rather a division of families and love, of cultures and norms.
Families were shattered, lives were lost, and daily routine came to a standstill. But as history has suggested time and again, good ideas can arise from even the most helpless of times.
The story goes that due to the mass exodus, there was an influx of refugees on both sides. Hindus were scrambling to get to the part that was now in India, while Muslims trudged to the new Pakistan.
In this chaos, a gentleman named Peshori Lal Lamba, who had migrated from Lahore, brought to India not just his hope for a better life, but also a recipe that would go down in Delhi’s history.
He set up the Kwality restaurant in Connaught Place and along with his iconic chole, began serving sandwiches and other snacks.
While some say that Lamba introduced Delhiites to their beloved dish, others claim it was another gentleman Sita Ram, who started Sita Ram Diwan Chand, which interestingly also serves what people call “the world’s best chole”.
Legend says Sita Ram migrated from West Punjab to Delhi with his son Diwan Chand and sold the first plate of chole bhature for 12 annas. Today, the business is run by his grandson Pran Nath Kohli.
Take whichever story resonates with you best, but regardless, you would agree that like many other cuisines and dishes, the Partition influenced chole bhature as we know and love today.
Not just the North, but the South loves it too
While chole bhature has come to be something of a hero in the North, surprisingly, South India too has joined the bandwagon. Udipi restaurants now boast of serving the tastiest chole and one must agree that a dish that has managed to gain favour in both the North and South must be one to reckon with.
In fact, so loved was it that on 2 October 2012, a Delhiite Shashank Aggarwal created Facebook pages and blogs for chole lovers across the world to share their love for the dish. And this slowly led to the celebration of Chole Bhature Day every year on this day. All over, people began preparing chole and posting pictures of them combining it with side dishes to create tasty varieties.
But we say, why wait for a reason to prepare it? Here’s a simple recipe by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor that you can try.
Chole Bhature recipe (Serves four)
- Chickpeas (kabuli chana) soaked overnight and drained 1 cup
- Tea bags 2
- Salt to taste
- Ghee 2 tablespoons
- Cumin seeds 1 teaspoon
- Green chillies slit 2
- Ginger-green chilli paste 1 tablespoon
- Coriander powder 1 tablespoon
- Cumin powder ½ teaspoon
- Red chilli powder 1 teaspoon
- Chole masala 1 teaspoon
- Dried mango powder ½ teaspoon
- Dried pomegranate seeds (anardana) roasted and coarsely crushed 1 tablespoon
- Garam masala powder 1 teaspoon
- Fresh coriander sprigs for garnishing
- Refined flour (maida) 2½ cups
- Baking powder ½ teaspoon
- Baking soda a pinch
- Salt to taste
- Powdered sugar 2 teaspoons
- Yogurt ½ cup
- Oil 1 tablespoon + for greasing and to deep fry
- Take chickpeas in a pressure cooker. Add tea bags, 6-8 cups of water and salt, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or till fully done and soft. Drain the chickpeas, discard the tea bags, and reserve the stock.
- Sieve together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and powdered sugar in a parat. Add yogurt and mix well.
- Add some water and knead into a soft dough. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and knead well. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.
- Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Add cumin seeds and green chillies and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add ginger-green chilli paste and sauté for 30 seconds. Add coriander powder, cumin powder and chilli powder and mix.
- Add chole masala and dried mango powder and mix. Add reserved stock, mix and bring mixture to boil.
- Add boiled chickpeas and ¾ cup water, mix and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Lightly mash.
- Add dried pomegranate powder and garam masala powder and mix. Add ¼ cup water. Chop tomatoes, add to pan, mix and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Heat sufficient oil in a kadai. Divide the dough into equal portions and shape into balls. Grease the worktop with some oil and roll each ball into thick discs.
- Deep-fry each disc in hot oil till light golden and puffed up. Drain on absorbent paper.
- Garnish chole with a coriander sprig and serve hot with bhature.