Also called "black garbanzo" beans, chana is actually dark brown, and much smaller than the yellow ones you are probably familiar with. For this recipe, there is no substitute! Chana is available in Indian markets and can also be ordered online (along with black salt and mustard oil) from www.Namaste.com.
1 lb. (about 2 1/2 cups) whole chana
2 quarts water
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped, peeled gingerroot
2-3 serrano chilies, chopped (or use 1 jalapeno chili)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2-3 tsp. black salt
1-2 Tbsp. mustard oil
Pick through beans for debris and rinse well. Soak beans overnight (or several hours) in water. Drain beans and discard water. Place beans in 4-quart pot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boil, and simmer for at least 2 hours. In the alternative, you can cook them overnight (or all day) in a crock pot/slow cooker and have excellent results. They do take a long time to cook. They must be tender! When beans are done, let them sit in their liquid until the masala is ready:
For the masala, heat olive oil in a wok or heavy fry pan over high flame. Add onions and fry until becoming soft and lightly golden. Now add garlic, ginger and chopped chilies. Stir and add pepper and 1 tsp. of black salt. Add 1 cup of liquid from the cooked beans. Lower heat and simmer for about 8 minutes, until the masala is very well done and saucy.
Drain the beans and mix with the masala. Add remaining black salt and mustard oil. Cook together for about 5 minutes. If you like a stronger mustard flavor, add more mustard oil in small amounts. Cooking the mustard oil reduces its flavor.
For a saucier version, reserve 1-2 cups of the bean broth. Blend the broth with 1 cup (or more) of cooked beans until a smooth puree. Combine this with the chana-masala mixture.