keralan chickpea curry—kadala curry (#3)

a colleague brought me some spices back from her trip to kerala, which sent a culinary memory to water my mouth: the hottest day for centuries in london and an evening with friends in das sreedharan’s rasa restaurant.

chickpeas are very popular all over india, but the keralan way of cooking them in coconut milk makes them taste quite different from the north indian dishes you may have tried.

serves 4


for the masala


  1. in a small bowl, place the tamarind pulp and cover with 3 tablespoons of water. leave the tamarind to dissolve, then strain to give 3 tablespoons of tamarind liquid. meanwhile, cut the onions into 2.5cm/l in cubes, quarter the tomatoes, and set aside separately.
  2. to make the masala, toast all the ingredients in a dry frying pan over a low heat for about 5 minutes or until the coconut and coriander seeds turn brown. cool slightly, then transfer the mixture to a blender. add 450ml of water and grind to a fine, liquid paste. set aside.
  3. in a large saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. add the cinnamon stick and onions and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are soft and transparent. add the turmeric and chilli powder, mix well, then add the chickpeas and tomatoes. add the masala paste to the onion mixture and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. stir in the coconut milk and tamarind liquid. turn the heat right down and stir thoroughly.
  4. in a small frying pan, heat the remaining oil. add the mustard seeds (achtung: put a lid on!) and, as they begin to pop, add the curry leaves and dried red chillies. pour the mixture into the chickpea curry, stir well and remove from the heat. serve with bread, rice or indian style pancakes.

source: das sreedharan, "the new tastes of india", headline 2001