Channa, easier to say than “split chickpea,” is one of India’s most common and democratic foods. A smaller variety of what we know as chickpeas or garbanzos, roasted channa is sold by street vendors all over the country and relished by rich and poor alike as a good “time-pass item” (as someone on a train described it—a very endearing way of thinking about munch). Parsis use ground roasted channa in curries to give them richness and body. Husked and split, channa turns into a really tasty legume used as part of the dal lineup for dhansak, our big Parsi dish; and on its own, it makes this delicious stew.
Serve with crusty bread or Chapatis, a cabbage or cucumber and onion salad, and a bowl of yogurt. This makes a perfect dinner for fall through early spring. Like its sister dish, masur, channa is very good at room temperature, served as part of an hors d’oeuvre or snack with soft cheese, cucumbers, and flat bread. You can find fabulous flat breads at Middle Eastern groceries. Some look like bath mats, others like hallway runners. They’re all good. Warm them in the oven, then wrap them in a thick napkin and let people break pieces off to use as scoops or platforms.
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