Chana pulao is another one of those dishes that I took for granted growing up. It was a reliable staple that would pop up on my mother’s table every few weeks, and often served at various functions. I thought nothing of it till I saw the recipe in Usmani’s book, Summers Under the Tamarind Tree, and decided to make it years later. Since then, I have grown to love and appreciate it for its simplicity and versatility. I love having it by itself with a spoonful of sambal. But when I have company, I like it serve it with various Pakistani style BBQ dishes.
You will rarely find chana pulao in a Pakistani or Indian restaurant but I feel it’s a staple of desi cooking. It's difficult to pinpoint its origins since the dish cuts across many of the provinces and regions in Pakistan. It’s an easy side rice dish that pairs well with a wide variety of meat dishes from various cuisines. For my second supper club in Juarez, Mexico, I prepared Sumayya Usmani’s version to serve alongside chicken tikka and raita. The version I share here is an adaptation from my Islamabadi home cook, Shahnzaz’s recipe. If you are looking for an instant pot variation, check out my dear friend, Izzah's genius recipe.
Chana Pulao Recipe
- 1 large yellow onion thinly sliced in half rings
- ⅓ cup canola/sunflower/vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 2 bird's eye chilies half slit
- 4 cloves
- 8 peppercorns
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 14-ounce can chickpeas drained
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 ½ cups basmati rice rinsed in several changes of water
- 4 cups water
- Heat oil in a large stockpot, and add onions. Fry for 10 minutes on medium-low heat until golden brown.
- Add crushed ginger and garlic, and fry on low heat for one minute.
- Add chilies and fry for a few seconds.
- Add whole and ground spices. Fry for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
- Stir in chickpeas.
- Add water, salt and rice, and bring to a boil.
- Lower to a simmer, and let the water boil out, about 10 minutes.
- Once the water has boiled out, bring the heat down to the lowest possible point. Wrap tight fitting lid with a cotton cloth, cover pot with it, and let the rice steam for 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and place on serving platter. Fluff with a fork.