Award-winning recipe straight from the Master Chef (me)

Some of you may have noticed today or Friday that Hillel served a special dish for lunch:

An accompanying sign explained what I had learned in an email earlier last week:

Dear Mordechai,

My name is Brian Aranda, marketing assistant at Bon Appétit at Penn Dining, and I’m emailing you to congratulate you for winning this year’s first annual Recipe Contest!  Your Pindi Chana dish will be featured at Falk Dining Commons on Friday, April 20th for lunch.  Please let me know if you have any questions, and thank you for your participation!

First annual? You’d think they would name the contest after me.

I can think of only three reasons I might have won a recipe contest for which I submitted only a recipe (and not, for instance, a cooked dish): I submitted the only recipe, I’m the only one whose recipe was not for Kobe Beef, or I’m the only one whose recipe wasn’t for cheeseburger (though the thought did cross my mind).

My motivation for entering was simple: Hillel’s vegetarian options are often disappointing, and I love Indian food, so winning would be a good way to ensure I would have something to eat. So I’m glad I entered, even if the name is a little too confusing for Hillel – it’s pronounced ‘ch’ as in ‘chew’, not as in ‘Mordechai’… or Chana.

I’m obviously going to share the recipe momentarily, but I first wanted to thank the Hillel kitchen staff, especially Elijah and Chef Kenny, for putting it together, and Chef Jerome and Dottie for putting it back on the menu after I was out of town on Friday. Also, I wanted to thank Ariel Allon, for being the first person to make it with me, and the internet, for providing me with the recipe back in 2007 (though, in fairness to me, it’s been significantly modified). Also, God, my parents, and everyone else who made this possible.

And apologies to anyone who complained to me because they don’t like spicy food. Just kidding, they barely made it spicy. You’re weak.

And so without further ado – because one ado is enough – my submission:

I spent Spring 2011 in a remote Nepali village and this was one dish I was able to make using only ingredients available locally. You would probably have to scale it…

Pindi chana

1 cup chickpeas
3/4th inch of ginger, chopped
2-3 tbsp oil
2 onions chopped
2 tsp garlic, crushed
2 green chilies, sliced
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 – 1tsp red chili powder or as per taste
Salt To Taste
1/2 tsp garam masala (optional – but only because I don’t expect you to have it)


  • Soak chickpeas overnight or for about 6 hr (or use from can)
  • Cook the chickpeas with salt and enough water until fully done. Drain
  • Heat oil and sauté onions till golden, then add garlic and chopped ginger and green chilies. Sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes, cumin, turmeric and chili powder and sauté over low heat until the oil separates.
  • Add chickpeas, one cup of water, and salt. Simmer, uncovered until the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Add a pinch of garam masala (optional) and serve



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