This is a Gujarati shaak that brings back fond memories of my grandmother, who loved this dish and looked forward to making it every winter. Lila chana is a very wintery dish because it features fresh garbanzo beans (lila chana), which are ripe only in the wintertime in Gujarati. The green gravy is made with spinach and fenugreek leaves (methi), which she would use if she didn’t have chana leaves.
Fresh Garbanzo Beans
Fresh garbanzo beans, commonly called “green garbanzo beans,” or “lila chana” in Gujarati, look like ordinary chickpeas, except they are green. They are also soft enough to bite into. They taste a lot like peas used to, before peas were bred to be so sweet. That is likely where the name chickpea comes from.
I remember snacking on them when I was a kid, just taking a bite or two while helping my grandmother peel them. But I can’t recommend doing it because they contain some toxins that can be pretty bad for you, or at the least cause some stomach discomfort. These toxins quickly cook out when blanched or boiled.
In the US, I usually find lila chana, or fresh garbanzo beans, at Arabic stores. The fresh beans are still in their shells and can be a little bit of a hassle to shell. You can do this over a few days, as they will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Fresh chickpeas – get them from an Indian store or Arabic market
Methi – spinach and methi are a substitute for fresh chana leaves, which you are not likely to find in a store. If you are looking for authenticity, my grandma often made it this way. You can skip the fresh methi and use kasoori methi or leave it out entirely.
Sesame seeds – used to thicken the gravy, try a spoonful of tahini if you don’t have sesame seeds
Sugar and Lemon – This is a traditional Gujarati shaak, so the balance of sweet, tangy and spicy is traditional. My grandma would add some sugar at the end along with a generous squeeze of lemon.
Green chili – use a spicy chili, such as jalapeno
Dhana jeeru – make dhana jeeru with equal parts ground cumin and ground coriander
Ginger-Garlic Paste – a simple blend of fresh ginger and garlic
- Methi – the methi (fenugreek leaves) is optional. Use garbanzo bean leaves if you have them. Or leave it out if you prefer
- Greens: substituted other greens, like swiss chard or kale
- The sugar or gor is optional
Lila chana is a traditional Gujarati shaak. It goes well as part of a Gujarati thali. Serve it with some roti, basmati rice, dal, and another Gujarati shaak like tindora nu shaak or dudhi chana nu shaak.
Lila chana will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. It also freezes well for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop with two tablespoons of water, straight from frozen.
Lila Chana Nu Shaak | Green Garbanzo Bean Shaak
- 3 cups green garbanzo beans lila chana, shelled
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves preferably mature leaves but baby will work as well
- ½ cup fresh fenugreek leaves
- 1 green chili like Serrano or jalapeno or to taste. Roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 3 Tbsp neutral oil of choice
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 Tbsp ginger garlic paste
- ½ Tbsp Dhana Jeeru 1/4 Tbsp coriander power, 1/4 Tbsp cumin powder
- 1 Tbsp sugar optional
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt or to taste
- 1 Tbsp salt for blanching
- Thoroughly clean and roughly chop the methi and spinach leaves
- Heat 4 cups of water on high heat in a pot until boiling. Add 1 Tbsp of salt. Add the green garbanzo beans to the boiling water and allow to boil for 5 minutes. While the beans are boiling, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl by combining water and ice.
- Once the beans have boiled for 5 minutes, immediately scoop them out with a slotted spoon or large sieve and add to the ice bath. Let the chana cool for 2 minutes, then remove it from the ice bath. Set aside.
- Add the spinach leaves and methi to the same pot of boiling water. Let them boil for 1 minute and then transfer to the ice bath. Let cool for a minute and then transfer the leaves to a blender. Add the green chili and sesame seeds to the blender with ¼ cup water and process into a smooth paste.
- Pour out the boiling water and wipe the pot dry. Heat the 3 Tbsp of oil under medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the cumin seeds. Let sizzle for 10 seconds, then add the turmeric and the ginger garlic paste. Let cook for 30 seconds
- Add the green paste to the pot and saute for about 5 minutes or until the oil rises to the top.
- Add the blanched chana, dhana jeeru, and ½ cup of water. Cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add sugar and lemon juice to finish.