Chawlichi Aamti (Black-eyed pea curry)

My husband is from the Indian state of Maharashtra. If you are familiar with India, you may know that a lot of things are regional, like language, food, festivals, customs, clothing, etc. Friends or relatives will often come up to my husband or me and say something like 'I saw a program about India on TV and _________ happened' and my husband will have no idea what they're talking about. I often try to clarify by explaining to people unfamiliar with India that it is like many different countries in one. You can travel from one state to another and have no idea what the people around you are saying because the language can be THAT different - not a different dialect, a different language! You can also travel to a neighboring state and have completely different food.

When I found this out, I was so excited! Do you mean that there is a much larger variety of Indian dishes than the ones on the menu at the Indian restaurants in the United States??? That's it, I must find out more! So I started researching different regional cuisines of India. I was especially excited when I found a couple of bloggers from the same state as my husband because, let's be honest here, he was really not much help at all. He is good at tasting the food and telling me if that's how it's supposed to be, but when it comes to making the food, he is completely clueless.

One day, I found this recipe for chawlichi aamti (a maharashtrian-style black-eyed pea curry) and decided to surprise my husband by making it. It's good I didn't ask him first if he liked it because he later told me that when he was growing up, he didn't usually like aamtis because they were too sweet (some subgroups of maharashtrians add something called jaggery, which is like sugar, to aamtis). This recipe does not include sugar or jaggery so maybe that's how I lucked out. At any rate, he loved it! Success! But I loved it more! I think this is now my favorite food. I could not stop eating it - to the point where we ran out of chapatis (indian flatbread) and rice so I ravenously ransacked the kitchen until I spotted the tortilla chips. Best. Idea. Ever. This aamti tastes even better with the tortilla chips than the chapatis or rice (my opinion, of course)! And, like a chili, it tastes even better the next day.

Chavlichi Amti Indian Vegan Black eyed pea curry

This recipe is adapted from Aarti's recipe.

2 cans black eyed peas
1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped)
1 large onion, chopped
10 curry leaves (available at an Indian grocery store)
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1.5 tsp coriander powder
1.5 tsp cumin powder
3/4 tsp turmeric
cayenne powder, optional (this is only if you like really spicy food)
4 tsp garam masala (or to taste - start with less!!)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp oil
2 cups water (start with two cups and add more if you like - an aamti is supposed to be watery, but you may prefer it less watery so this is just a starting point)
Optional Garnish: fresh cilantro, more chopped onion, lemon wedges

1. Drain and rinse your black eyed peas to remove excess sodium.
2. Heat the oil on medium-high.
3. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing.
4. When the mustard seeds start to sputter or pop, add the onion.
5. When the onion is translucent, add coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, cayenne powder and half the garam masala.
6. Stir it and let it cook for a minute.
7. Add black eyed peas, tomatoes, water, and salt, and mix.
8. Bring it to a boil, then simmer until the flavors combine.
9. Mash some of the beans to get the bean flavor more infused in the gravy, if you wish.
10. Add more garam masala or salt if desired.
11. Drizzle with a little oil (optional) and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve hot with tortilla chips, chapatis, rice, or bread.
Optional: I like to serve with chopped onion and lemon.