“Pure” vegetarians in India – as some units of my family are – do not use onion and garlic in their food. The rationale? According to Ayurveda, onions and garlic are classed with rajasik and tamasik food like meat and intoxicants. Rajasik food is considered passion-inducing and tamasik food sin-inducing – both are never offered to the Gods.
Ayurveda recommends sticking to the satvik variety of food – fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains. Satvik food is said to keep you fitter in body and calmer in mind.
How does a no-onion-no-garlic person eat Indian-style chhole (white chickpeas), then, you might ask. The popular Punjabi preparation needs an onion-based gravy of course, but there are other ways of preparing chhole without onion and garlic.
Here is one I specially like.
- White chickpeas – 1 cup
- Potatoes – 1
- Ginger – grated, 1 teaspoon
- Green chilies – 2, chopped fine
- Tomatoes – 3, chopped
- Channa masala – 1 tablespoon
- Salt – to taste
- Vegetable oil – 2 teaspoons
Soak the chickpeas in 4 cups of water overnight. Drain, wash and pressure-cook in 3 cups of water and salt.  Set the flame to high till the first whistle, then pressure-cook for another 15 minutes on low flame.
Want a darker color for the chickpeas? Add two tablespoons of tea liquor, or a tea bag, to the water in which chickpeas are boiled.
Let the pressure release on its own. Take the chickpeas out, reserve the liquor in which the chickpeas were boiled.
Peel and slice the potato. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add to it the grated ginger and chilies. After a few seconds, add the potato slices, mix and cover. Stir occasionally till the potatoes are half-done. At this stage, add the channa masala, tomatoes and salt. Mix well and close the lid, stir a couple of times till the tomatoes turn mushy and the raw smell of the masalas goes away.
Now mix in the chickpeas, cover and cook for another two minutes. Add the liquor in which the chickpeas were boiled to give it the desired consistency.
Want a thicker chhole gravy? Crush a few of the boiled chickpeas and mix this into the gravy.
Bring to a boil and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves/green chilies and a slice of lemon. Serve chhole hot with rice and plain yogurt.
Here’s a picture of my lunch portion of chhole without onion and garlic.
 Interestingly, and in direct contrast to the vegan way of eating, cow’s milk is considered the highest form of satvik food (though buffalo’s milk is not).
 Traditionally a big array of spices goes into the chhole gravy. Nowadays we get "chhole masala" or "channa masala" packaged and need not worry about missing out an ingredient or remembering the proportions. You can pick up a good brand like MDH or Everest and then put a tablespoonful of it for a two-person serving.
 Some use baking soda to speed up the boiling. I don’t.