In Gujarat, the state that my family is from in India, we eat a lot of legumes. They are a staple food and show up at meals throughout the seasons as they store very well. Gujarati food is known for being intensely spicy with an undercurrent of sweetness. This dish is a classic example: the earthy, mineral flavors of the black-eyed peas are perfectly complemented by ginger, chili, and jaggery. This dish has been a favorite in our family for as long as I can remember, but interestingly, it was not something that my parents ate while they were growing up. My mom had never had this dish until she moved to the States. My dad starting eating it after he went to boarding school in the 10th grade in a nearby town in Gujarat! Gujarati food has an incredible variety, and this dish is just one small example.
As I’ve learned how to make more and more Indian dishes, I’m amazed at the complexity of flavors that come from just a handful of ingredients. This dish is no exception and certainly should be considered a pantry staple due to the ease of preparation. The black eyed peas are soaked in ample water until they roughly double to triple in size. They are then placed in a pressure cooker with oil that has been infused with mustard, asafoetida, and dried red chilis. They are then covered with just enough water to submerge them. Add in some salt, turmeric, ginger, fresh green chili, and a chunk of jaggery, seal up the pressure cooker and cook at full pressure for 5 minutes. Other than the soaking time, from start to finish this dish takes about 15-20 minutes! The flavors that emerge belie that short cooking time. This dish is spicy, earthy, subtly sweet, and hearty .
When I’ve talked about this dish to non-Indian friends, the most common question that I get asked is about the jaggery. Jaggery is called “gor” in Gujarati and “gud” in Hindi. It is an unrefined sugar made from sugar cane. The sugar cane juice is boiled until it thickens, typically in iron pans. In other parts of the world, it can also be made from date palm sap. It has flavors of sugar, molasses, and caramel all in one bite. It is sold as a solid block, but depending on the ambient temperature the jaggery can start to melt. It’s easy to find at Indian grocery stores and in a pinch you can substitute it with palm sugar or brown sugar. I would encourage you to seek it out, though. It is fantastic mixed with ghee (clarified butter) and spread onto flatbread, but that’s a recipe for another day!
It is certainly possible to make this dish without the pressure cooker, the pressure cooker just makes it much faster. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it won’t be quite as quick. I would recommend boiling the beans until softened, then adding the remaining spices and finishing cooking entirely. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.
Ginger Jaggery Black-Eyed Peas ~ Safed Chora
|Prep:||Cook:||Yield: serves 6||Total:|
Spicy and subtly sweet Gujarati style black-eyed peas!
- 350 g (2 cup) black-eyed peas
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 3 dried red chilis
- 1/8 tsp asafetida
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp finely minced green chilis (jalapeños or serranos)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 Tbsp jaggery (gud), see note
- 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
- 1 tsp corn starch, optional: see note
- Salt to taste
- Soak the black-eyed peas in lukewarm water for 3-4 hours until they have roughly doubled or tripled in size. Drain well.
- In the base of a shallow pressure cooker (I used a 4qt model), heat the oil over high heat. Heat the oil until it shimmers and when you pass your hand over the pan you feel a significant amount of heat coming from the pan.
- Hold the mustard seeds in one hand and the lid to the pan in the other. Quickly add the mustard seeds to the hot oil and cover the pan leaving the lid slightly ajar. Once the mustard seeds stop popping, turn off the heat and add the whole dried chilis to the pan. Swirl to coat the chilis in the oil. When the oil is aromatic, add the asafetida.
- Once the sizzling of the asafetida dies down, carefully add the drained black-eyed peas to the pan. Return the pan to medium heat. Add enough water to just cover the black-eyed peas. Add a few pinches of salt, the ginger, green chili, turmeric, and jaggery. Seal the pressure cooker, turn the heat to high, and allow to reach full pressure. Once full pressure is reached, turn the heat to low, and set a timer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off after 5 minutes and allow the cooker to naturally depressurize.
- Carefully open the pressure cooker. Add in the 1/2 tsp of tamarind paste and stir well. Taste and adjust for salt. Depending on how much water you used, the dish can end up a bit watery. If that is the case, make a corn starch slurry with 1 tsp corn starch and a splash of water. Bring the dish to a boil and drizzle the slurry in, stirring well the whole time. The goal consistency is that of a thick sauce, rather than a thin watery one.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.
No pressure cooker? No problem: Follow all the steps as written until you get to the part about adding water to cover the black-eyed peas. Rather than just covering them, cover by an inch or so and bring to a boil. Do not add all the spices with the first boil. Once the beans have softened slightly, then add the remaining ginger, chili, jaggery, turmeric, and salt. Continue boiling until tender, adjust for salt, and add the tamarind. If still watery, add the corn starch slurry.
No jaggery? No problem: Substitute with slightly less brown sugar. Jaggery is not as sweet, so start with adding 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp brown sugar, and add more if you think you would like it sweeter. It's not meant to be all out sweet, just have a hint of sweetness in the background.
Serving suggestions: Eat with Indian flatbread or on top of rice. Makes a great side dish to a variety of meats but especially beef or pork. Would be great wrapped in a tortilla as an Indian bean burrito or on top of toast.