Last weekend, instead of whipping up something for my contribution to the partys buffet table, I wanted to provide a taste of home cooking for our Punjabi guest of honor. A quick call to chowpal, Shalini Bhalla, proprietress of SpiceVice, for some consultation on what she thought Neelam might be missing of her homeland followed by an order for a suitable vegetarian appetizer.
For $42, Shalini prepared two dozen small heart-shaped potato patties stuffed with spicy chana dal (dont skimp on the spice!), a big tub of chhole, and some amazing cumin-scented hot tamarind chutney. The chhole, made of organic garbanzo beans, had the most exotic fragrance when I popped the lid to the container, even when still cold. I could see the black cardamon pods and bay leaves, but there was much, much more to the complex spicing. At the hosts house, I microwaved the chhole in a wide bowl to heat it through, pan-fried the patties in canola oil to crisp up and brown the bread crumb crust, and then arranged them on top of the chhole. The chutney and some cooling yogurt were offered as condiments with the dish.
Raves from all, and especially from Neelam who appreciated the authentic homey taste. Another guest from Bombay said it was just like the street vendors at home. Highly recommended.