No Worries Curries Blog: Indian Snacks

The Versatile Legume - The Humble Chickpea

By Conchita de Souza

The Versatile Legume - The Humble Chickpea

Image: Teatime snacks of gathiya (left) and chaklee (right) as well as channa masala (bottom) are all dishes using the chickpea.

In the last fews years and thanks to the rise of TikTok and Reels on Instagram, there have been popular trends using certain ingredients in ways that we had not thought of before. For example, who would have thought that Zucchini (or courgette) could be used as noodles or spaghetti or as a key ingredient in loafs? And sweet potatoes in brownies? 

In India, the humble chickpea has been and continues to be used in a myriad of forms - sweet and savoury. Today’s post explores its use throughout Indian cuisine and beyond. 

A bit about chickpeas

Chickpeas are said to have originated in the Middle East with traces found in Turkey dating as far back as 7,500 years ago.

The two main forms of chickpeas are the Kabuli Chickpeas, also known as Garbanzo beans and Desi chickpeas which are known as Kala Channa in the Hindi/Urdu languages or Bengal Gram. The former is lighter in colour, almost beige and the latter has a dark brown coating. Desi chickpeas are skinned and split to make channa dal. Green chickpeas (hara channa) is another variety that is sweeter than its counterparts.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), India is the world’s largest producer of chickpeas followed by Australia and Turkey. 

From a nutritional perspective, chickpeas are a great source of both protein and fibre, allowing you to feel fuller for longer. 

Used as a whole legume 

Many states/regions in India have a localised chickpea curry that is a staple in homes. Ours is a favourite of many customers and you can try it here

  • Chole or channa masala is served either with deep fried flatbreads - puri (small and unleavened) or bhature (large and leavened).
  • Ashtami prasad - this is traditionally eaten on the eighth day of the Navratri festival and is a dry dish accompanied by poori and halwa (sweet made from semolina) as an offering to the goddess. Kala channa is used and it is prepared as a dry dish with a combination of spices like chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, raw mango powder (amchur) etc. The south-Indian version is described below.
  • Shondal (temple chickpea salad) - this tangy dish is prepared and served to the devotees in south Indian temples.  Here’s a link to this simple snack/side dish. 

Used in flour form 

In India, channa dal, which is the black chickpea skinned and split, is ground into flour and called besan.  Chickpea flour made from kabuli chickpeas is not the same as besan, which is finer and softer. Both are great gluten-free alternatives to regular wheat flour.   

Besan is used to thicken gravies, bind patties and to dust fish before frying.  It is indeed a staple in an Indian pantry.


1. Mains

  • Kadhi - A simple lunch time curry served with rice hails from the North of India.  You can drop in pakoras (see below) to take this to the next level.

    Image: Kadhi is a yoghurt-based curry mixed with besan

2. Snacks 

  • Chillas (chickpea omelette) - finely chopped onions, tomatoes and fresh coriander are mixed with besan and water before being cooked in a pan like pancakes. 
  • Murkuru/Chaklee - these are usually spiral shaped snacks that are enjoyed with chai 
  • Ghathiya - thin straw-like crispy snacks that are spiced with chilli powder, turmeric and ajwain. 
  • Pakora/bhajia - our favourite tea time snack in which a batter of chickpeas flour and spices are used to coat vegetables, fishes and even chicken before being deep-fried until crisp.

    Image: A teatime favourite - chai with onion pakora 

Dessert (Mithai)

Many a mithai is made from besan and the reason it works so well is because of the naturally nutty flavour it imparts. More importantly, the besan is ever-so-soft in texture and your teeth sink through it with every bite and it melts whilst sitting on your tongue. 

  • Besan Laddoo - a round-shaped sweet made primarily from three ingredients; besan, ghee and sugar. 
  • Soan papadi (pictured here) is a melt in the mouth flaky sweet that is similar to fairy floss in terms of its lightness and airiness but not form.

    Image: Round cakes of soft and flakey soan papadi

  • Channa Doss - a delicacy that hails from Goa and has a fudge like consistency.
  • Barfi - usually a milk-based sweet but it can also be made using besan 

Other uses of Besan (Beauty)

Chickpea flour is made into a paste and is used in lieu of soap to wash babies after they have been massaged with a vegetable oil. 

It can also be used as a natural face mask to cleanse away impurities. Click here for a homemade recipe that has just three ingredients including the flour itself!

We trust you have been convinced to give Chickpeas and Besan a home in your pantry.

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Back to School & Work - Summer Lunch Ideas

By Conchita de Souza

Back to School & Work - Summer Lunch Ideas
The ‘what’s for dinner mum?’ dreaded question is rivalled by the ‘what are you packing for my lunch mum?’. How quickly did the holidays seem to pass by and now we face reality COVID-style. An aspect of that reality is packing lunch for either yourself, partner and/or the kids on a regular basis. It can be a challenge to balance variety, nutrition and of course, taste.

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Capital of a Nation & of Culinary Delights - Delhicious Delhi

By Conchita de Souza

Capital of a Nation & of Culinary Delights - Delhicious Delhi
I spent close to two years living in a large suburb called Noida - just on the outskirts of Delhi. Many a weekend was spent taking the over-populated, but very clean and well-connected metro into town and exploring all corners of Delhi. Much like any large city, each quarter had something different to offer; from high end shopping in the white colonial buildings of Connaught Place (CP, as it is is affectionately abbreviated) to exploring historical sites like an ancient step-well situated just ten minutes from the city centre. 

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Indian Festivals: Navratri or Durga Puja

By Conchita de Souza

Indian Festivals: Navratri or Durga Puja
Navratri in Sanskrit, means ‘nine nights’ (‘nava’ is ‘nine’ and ‘ratri’ is ‘nights’) and the festival goes exactly for that duration. It is dedicated to the Goddess Durga (also known as Maa Durga)and the nine avatars (forms) which she manifests herself. Each night celebrates one of her forms. During this time, devotees come together to fast, worship and celebrate the different forms of the devi (female god) and her victory over the demon Mahishasur.

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A Sure Way to Spice Up Your Valentine's Day

By Claudette D'Cruz

A Sure Way to Spice Up Your Valentine's Day

A typical image that comes to my mind when I think of ‘romantic cuisine’ is that scene from the Disney classic Lady and The Tramp, where the two dogs share a plate of spaghetti bolognese and unknowingly chew on the same strand until they accidentally kiss (I secretly longed for this to happen in my previous relationships but always forgot to order spaghetti when on dates. I also find spaghetti hard to share because it is one of my favourite dishes and I tend to devour it all). Another is the classic red and white checkered blanket spread across a green lawn. The blanket contains a spread of baguette, cheese and wine. French and Italian cuisines have no doubt provided us with many-a-romantic meal to share with our better halves but what other dishes can inspire romance?

As Valentine’s day approaches, I challenge you to broaden your perception of romantic cuisine by cooking none other than Indian food for your special date/partner/friend.. Here are our top five picks (in random order) for you to try out this Valentine’s Day. These are commonly available dishes in most vegetarian restaurants.

  1. Nothing screams romantic like ‘Pani Puri’. This popular street food provides textural sensation; the crunch of the puri shell, the spicy water that floods the mouth and the pungent flavour of the raw onions. In true couple style, you can take turns feeding each other pani puri.

  2. Why not share a South Indian Vegetarian Thali with your valentine? Thalis are great because of the variety they offer; rice and roti, sambhar/dahl (lentil curries) and rasam (a spicy, watery soup with tamarind as its base), 2-3 different spiced vegetables, papad and fresh yoghurt. This is just in one serve! Get your fingers messy as they dip, dunk and scoop out all the deliciousness on offer.

  3. Nothing spells love as much as butter does and the dish Pav Bhaji is a testament to that love. ‘Pav’ means bread and ‘bhaji’ means vegetables fried in spices. What makes this dish extra delicious is the fact that the main vegetables (potato, peas, carrots, cauliflower and french beans) are first boiled in water so that they become mushy. They are then mashed and added to a mix of onions, tomatoes, capsicum and spices all sautéed with butter forming a thick, rich gravy that is dark orange in colour. Basically, knobs of butter are added in the beginning, middle and end stages of the cooking. This is gravy is scooped up with soft, buttered (of course) bread which you and your partner can devour. Licking of fingers post eating is mandatory and your valentine will be nothing short of delighted at the time spent preparing this dish (it is time-consuming). For time is love is not?

  4. Gulab Jamun and Vanilla Ice Cream is without doubt the best Indian dessert to share with your valentine. This sweet treat is made from milk solids which are deep fried and soaked in a sugary syrup spiced with whole cardamom pods. They are usually served hot with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. The temperature contrast of hot and cold and the textural contrast of moistness and creamy awaken the palate’s senses. Of course if you are a die-hard gulab jamun fan like I am and find the thought of sharing one bowl a little restrictive, you may always order two bowls at the outset to make it crystal clear to your valentine that this is a dessert best enjoyed individually at the same time, rather than shared.

  5. Another dessert is featured in this list because what would Valentine’s Day be without a little extra sweetness? Falooda is a colourful dessert cum beverage delight that will surely please your date. It is akin to a thick-shake but filled with vermicelli, basil seeds, chunks of jelly, milk, rose syrup and of course, ice-cream all mixed together and served in a tall glass. If this mere description itself does not fill you up, then you can imagine what the real dessert will be like. That is why Falooda is the ideal dessert to share with your loved one. Ask for an extra straw and spoon (to scoop up all that sweet, sweet goodness).

No matter whom you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day with, we hope it will be in spicy company!

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By Conchita A. de Souza

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Indian Railway Journeys - Fast Food on Sometimes Slow Trains

By Claudette D'Cruz

Indian Railway Journeys - Fast Food on Sometimes Slow Trains

Even before I have had sufficient time to stow away my luggage under the seat on which I will spend the next 24 hours journeying nearly 1,200kms, I am already being semi-trampled by the first vendor to walk through my carriage selling bottled water. The next comes within two minutes carrying a large silver flask and yelling out ‘chai chai’. Being India, he is stopped on several occasions in my carriage to serve hot chai. This act requires three specific manoeuvres which he executes with finesse; (1) the paper cup is removed from the stack in his left hand and brought to the tap of the heavy flask being held by his right hand; (2) He uses his left hand to turn the tap and release the chai and close the tap again; and (3) He serves the chai with his left hand and collects the money with the same and proceeds to repeat this process until his chai flask is empty. During the course of my journey, there must have passed at least 30 chai-wallahs (tea-boys). I honestly lost count by the 18th hour.

 If you were impressed by the above-mentioned chai-pouring process, I am yet to describe how vendors prepare bhel puri (a sweet and spicy snack involving fresh tomatoes and onions mixed with spices, tamarind chutney and puffed rice) or peanut masala (roasted peanuts served with onions, tomatoes, masala and drizzled with lemon). You are left admiring how these vendors manage to jump onto moving trains, hands laden with heavy, hot foods, navigate through the mass of bodies and luggage and come out relatively unscathed, with empty boxes and pockets full of small notes.

 During the course of my journey, I counted how many hot items (food and beverages) passed through my carriage and have listed them below. It should be noted that I spent 14-15 hours of my journey asleep and as a result there is a 59% chance that I missed counting some snacks during that period. I deliberately chose to omit the ‘meal options’ as a passenger must place an order to receive them (I enjoyed vegetable biryani for dinner). I also did not include the numerous packaged snacks that passed through the carriages (biscuits, juices, milk, chips, lollies etc.). Below is a list of just hot snacks and beverages.  

  • Samosa - Spiced potato and peas encased in deep-fried pastry shaped like a triangle;
  • Vada Pav - Spiced potato deep fried in chickpea flour and served with buttered bread rolls;
  • Pav Bhaji - A thick gravy made from potato, capsicum, cauliflower and spices all mashed up and served with toasted, buttered bread rolls;
  • Bhel puri - See paragraph 2 for a detailed description;
  • Idly Chutney - Steamed rice cakes served with coriander, mint and coconut chutney; and
  • Cutlet Pav - A spiced veggie patty served with sliced bread.

The variety is phenomenal. The snacks vary according to which part of India you are travelling from/to. Variety is also affected by the class you are travelling in. Lower classes like general and sleeper classes are exposed to more variety because such sections are more open and accessible to vendors (hygiene is questionable but I find closing your eyes during preparation and serving of food quite useful).

It should also be noted that train stations are excellent hubs for delicious snacks and meals at very reasonable prices. Individual platforms are usually filled with hawkers selling everything from fruit salad, to bread pakora (deep-fried slice bread stuffed with spiced potatoes) to cucumber slices sprinkled with chaat masala.

 So for those of you who are fortunate enough to travel to India and especially to travel on Indian trains, do release the foodie within and try the amazing variety offered. If you happen to have more than one train journey, then you are exceptionally fortunate and can perhaps spread out what you try (warning: too much deep fried bread and potato may not go down too well with your travelling tummy).

 If there is one thing you can be sure of, it is the fact that you can never starve whilst journeying with Indian Railways. I highly recommend that you begin your journey empty handed. I assure you that you will arrive at your destination with a full belly and taste buds that have experienced utmost contentment.

 Image source:

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