23 March 2012

Chana masala bisque

As you may have guessed from my lack of recipe posts as of late, I haven't been cooking a whole lot lately (lately being in the two months since we moved to Bangkok). It may sound crazy, but for one it's actually cheaper to eat out here than cook. Really. There is an abundance of cheap, fresh and delicious street (and mall) food everywhere you turn, and it's pretty much impossible to cook Thai food (or pretty much any other kind of food) at home for the same price. Also...and this is probably the biggest reason...the shipment of all our household goods which we sent from Paris still hasn't arrived yet. I was beginning to get really annoyed with this but then just learned that they will be delivered to our apartment tomorrow (yay!!!), just one day shy of our two-month anniversary here.

Though living without most of your possessions beyond what you managed to squeeze into two suitcases is surprisingly easy (and we live in a furnished place, so no worries on that front), I've been desperately missing our kitchen gadgets! Yes, we're those kind of people...gadget freaks. Long gone are the days when I lived in really basic accommodation in Malawi and Guinea and made do with little more than two burners and a fridge. Since arriving here, our beautiful kitchen has seemed so empty without our fabulous blender, our food processor, our coffee/spice grinder (this one is key, of course!), our toaster, our coffee machine (which we really can't wait to be reunited with given the sub-par coffee here) and a whole host of other things (some of which were naturally Luis's idea).

Given this terrible longing (and way before we knew that our shipment is arriving tomorrow), we couldn't help but to break down and buy just one thing...a simple little blender for making fruit shakes and smoothies. It was only the equivalent of $9, and Luis is obsessed with fruit shakes, and so lo and behold...we acquired another kitchen gadget.

Tonight, I decided that this blender was going to come in handy for a sudden craving that I had for a thick, spicy soup (kind of an odd craving considering that the high temperature here these days is averaging 35 C/95 F). After an Indian colleague advised me on where to buy Indian spices in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago (the "Little India" in the Pahurat neighborhood if you're feeling ambitious or a couple of little shops closer to us - Bimala Mini Mart and Peng Lee - both near Asok BTS station), our kitchen was stocked with almost everything that a spice mistress needs. I had already made chana masala (also known as chole), the classic North Indian dish of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a spicy tomato sauce, last week. Then the idea came to me...why not puree chana masala with some broth in the blender to make a chana masala bisque?

Pure. Genius. I have no idea why I've never thought of this before. The result was absolutely delicious! The delectable taste of chana masala transformed into a thick, hearty, spicy soup. Luis proclaimed it to be one of the best soups he's ever had, reminding him of a soup his mom used to make (awww!). It makes for the perfect weeknight meal, but could also be served as a starter for an Indian meal for lucky guests. And what's more, it's healthy (perfect for vegetarians, since chickpeas are a great source of protein and fiber). Try it out and let me know what you think!

Note: I used just 1 cup of vegetable broth, which made for a very thick and rich soup and just enough for two generous servings (just one bowl of this was more than filling enough for dinner tonight). If you want a slightly thinner soup or to make a larger quantity, increase the quantity of broth to 2 cups.

Serves 2-4 

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 can (200 grams or 7-8 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1-2 teaspoons chili powder (depending on your desired spice level...I went for 2)
1 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch of sugar
1 can (400 grams or 15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1-2 cup(s) (250-500 ml) vegetable broth
Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
Juice of 1 small or 1/2 big lemon/lime
Plain yogurt, for serving
Additional chopped fresh coriander, for serving

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Once it is warm, add the cumin seeds. Let them pop until they are slightly browned and fragrant.

2. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir well and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, all of the spices and the pinch of sugar. Mix and let simmer for 5 minutes in order for the flavors to come together

4. Add the chickpeas. Cook for 2-3 minutes more and then add the broth and the chopped coriander.

5. Let the soup simmer on low-medium heat for 5 minutes, and then take off of the stove. Allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes.

6. Puree in the blender (working in batches if necessary) until you got a thick soup.

7. Transfer back to your saucepan and stir in the lemon/lime juice.

8. Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt and additional fresh coriander.


  1. sub par coffee really? what about in Starbucks, or coffee in Swensen's, or those hundreds of other smaller shops in malls, roadside, or even on BTS stations? :D
    since you live in Thong Lo, you can get Indian stuff in Sukhumvit 71 at the store just opposite Pridi Banomyong 26 - instead of going all the way to Phahurat, you know :)

    great idea - transforming chana masala into a soup!

  2. It's always the most obvious things which is pure genius. Glad you can add this to your growing repertoire of soups. Can't wait to give it a whirl despite spring having arrived in NYC finally. Good luck on getting your stuff!!

  3. Big moves like this always make it difficult to cook. I love that you are getting out there an exploring the food they have there. This bisque looks amazing.

  4. Sounds like a very yummy dish! I am glad you are getting your stuff finally!-Mom

  5. Yum, I am loving the creamy, thick texture of this soup! It would be a spicy little hug for my tummy. :)

  6. WOW - this does sounds good! Love the simplicity of it even though you have a long list of fabulous spices (all of which I love!). Great soup! I've never heard of any place where it's cheaper to eat out than cook! Wish I had access to cheap, tasty street food! Lucky girl!

  7. Wow - what a lovely idea to have a bisque with Indian flavors :) Absolutely love this.

  8. So glad you're back to cooking but I can't blame you if prepared food is cheaper! The flavors of this soup are just perfect!

  9. This looks awesome. I would love to try this!! http://cosmopolitancurrymania.blogspot.com

  10. I feel your pain - blogging breaks the bank when you can eat so well so cheaply. But nice work getting back into it, this looks delish! x

  11. This looks perfect to me I want to dive in. Isn't is fun when you find a great spice connection? Love it!

  12. Yes u r right here Thai or even Indian food also not expensive.
    Soup looks tempting.....

  13. I am not going to lie... I am OBSESSED with my blender! :D I would love to make this bisque... chana is my favorite Indian dish!

  14. I have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award! Come on over to www.mango-ginger.blogspot.com to find out more...