Street food: Ghugni [Spicy Dried Peas] and hawker memories

A bunch of tired and restless kids wait patiently. Or at least, appear to. After what seems like an endless wait, the moment arrives. School bells ring intensely thereby declaring the end of a long day. Silence gives way to the cacophony of ecstatic children. Like honey bees, we come out buzzing from every corner of the school. As we make our way out of the school gate, street food hawkers greet us with big smiles, some freshly prepared food and a lot of enthusiasm! Some call out to us by our first name. They are all set to make their daily sale and we are more than happy to oblige!

It is extremely difficult to resist such wide variety of street food. We were faced with a moral dilemma – to snack or not to snack. No amount of hygiene education on the part of our parents or teachers helped, ever! Undoubtedly, snacking on street food was the unanimous choice! When you have aromatic chaats, savory and spicy delights tempting you, you can’t possibly walk away from it! I couldn’t. Not then.

One such snack was ghugni (dried peas soaked in water, boiled and then cooked with spices, garnished with onions, green chillies, coriander leaves and a blend of spices). The combination of tangy and spicy is what makes it extremely desirable!

“Sankara” was THE man who introduced me to ghugni during my school days. A small-built, modest man, with a striking long moustache – that’s how he looked like as far as I can remember. He didn’t, by any means, sell the best ghugni but he was definitely one of the most popular ones probably because his ghugni was the most conveniently available! It was available at the right time and right place for street-food-starved children who were waiting to dive into all that junk as soon as we were out of school boundaries. I can confidently say that generations have grown up on his ghugni and will never be able to forget him for that experience. Sankara has become a legend in my eyes and probably in the eyes of most of most of my school mates.

Ghugni is a very popular snack from the Eastern part of India. It’s made in many different ways using dried green peas, dried yellow peas, chickpeas (chhole), black chickpeas (kala chana) and fresh peas. I have made it with dried green peas. Feel free to use any other type of peas but bear in mind that the soaking and cooking time for each of the above is different.

To print the recipe, click ghugni.

Ingredients for cooking the ghugni:

Dried Green Peas: 1 Cup
Red Onions: 1 large or 1 ½ medium sized, finely chopped. (about 1 ½ cups chopped onions)
Cinnamon stick (dalchini): a thin 2” stick
Dried Bay leaves (tejpatta): 2 small
Cooking oil: 1 ½ tbsp
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Garlic paste: 1 tsp
Tamarind pulp: roughly equivalent to 1 tbsp dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water.
Garam Masala Powder: 1/4 tsp
Salt: to taste
Hot water: 2 cups for soaking the dried peas. More water may be needed depending on the consistency of your ghugni.

In a small bowl, make a spice paste with the following and keep aside:
Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
Cumin powder: ½ tsp
Red Chilli powder: ½ tsp
Water: 2 tbsp

Ingredients for garnishing :

Red Onion: 1 small-medium sized, finely chopped
Coriander leaves: a bunch, finely chopped
Green chilies: 6, finely chopped
Black salt – to taste (optional)
Chaat Masala – can be bought from any Indian store
Roasted and powdered Cumin Powder (In a pan, on slow heat, dry roast cumin seeds until they become darker. Let it cool. Dry grind it to a powder. I usually make more (about 1/2 cup) and store it for future use).
Roasted and powdered Dry red Chilli (In a pan, on slow heat, dry roast about 10-15 dry red chillies until they turn dark and before they start to burn. Let it cool. Dry grind or pound to make chilli flakes or coarsely grounded red chilli powder. Again, this can be stored for future use).

How I did it:

  1. Wash the dried peas in tap water. Soak them in enough hot water to cover the dried peas. Cover and set aside. At the end of 2 hours, you will notice that the peas swell up in size.
  2. Boil the soaked peas in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt for 10 mins. Check if peas are done and boil uncovered, if needed. They should be soft but not mushy.
  3. In a kadhai or pan, heat the oil. Once hot, add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Fry for about 30 seconds when the aroma starts to come out
  4. Next add the chopped onions and 1/4 tsp of salt. Fry on medium-high heat until the onions are golden brownish. Keep stirring in between to make sure it does not burn. This may take 6-8 minutes.
  5. Add the ginger and garlic paste. Continue to fry for another minute.
  6. Add the spice paste made above (turmeric, chilli powder and cumin powder in water). Fry for another minute.
  7. Add the boiled peas along with the water left over from boiling into the cooking pot or kadhai. Using a strainer, strain the tamarind juice adding the juice and excluding any seeds or fibres. Rub the tamarind with your fingers to make sure you extract any left over pulp. Stir and check for salt, tangy and spicy flavors. Adjust to suit your liking.
  8. Boil on low heat, covered, for about 7-8 minutes or until the flavors have combined.
  9. Sprinkle garam masala powder and check for salt and spice. Adjust if needed. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the ghugni is done.

To serve:

Take about ¾ cup of hot ghugni in each serving bowl. Sprinkle about 1 tbsp of chopped onions, ¼ tsp green chillies and 1 tsp of chopped coriander leaves. Sprinkle a pinch each of black salt, roasted cumin powder and chaat masala. And it’s ready to eat.

The quantities mentioned in the serving suggestion above are just to give you a rough idea. The beauty of this snack is that you are able to adjust each ingredient to your liking.

Finish the ghugni experience with a hot cup of tea.

Notes:

  • The garnish is a very important part of this snack. So, do not skip or ignore any of the ingredients.
  • Dried Green peas cook very fast once they have been soaked. Do not pressure cook them for more than 10 minutes. Else, they may become really mushy! You can always boil them more later once you have checked.
  • The peas should be soft without losing it’s shape. It should not disintegrate. If you have soaked them for longer than 2 hours in hot water or for more than 4 hours in normal water, boil them for a shorter period in a pressure cooker or boil them in a pan instead of a pressure cooker to make sure it doesn’t get overcooked.
  • If you do not serve it immediately after cooking, you may need to add some hot water and give it a boil before serving to make sure the ghugni is not dry. The peas tend to absorb the curry when left for some time so you may need to add more water just before serving. Check for salt if you have added more water.
  • If you need to add more water once the ghugni is cooked, use hot water to speed up the cooking process.
  • Optional: Green chutney serves as an additional garnish on this dish!
  • Some people like to have it with a bit of yogurt or add tamarind chutney on top.
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32 Responses to Street food: Ghugni [Spicy Dried Peas] and hawker memories

  1. Wow! This is one my favorite street food!! :-)

  2. A fabulous dish! So healthy and tasty. I really have to visit my favorite Indian foodstore and buy some of those dried peas…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. Oh the memories this brings back!

  4. Swathi says:

    Ghugni looks delicious. Love to read your school day memories related to food.

  5. Simply wow! I;ve never ever heard of this, but it sounds absolutely delightful and so up my street!

  6. This sounds exotic to me, even though I am familiar with all the spices! I know I will love it!

  7. Nisha says:

    I come across lots of unique dishes on your blog, Vishakha. Love your pictures too.
    For once I thought I’ve heard about ghugni, then I realized it’s “jugni” from Hindi songs that was ringing in my head, hehe :P :P
    Recipe & pictures of Ghugni kinda seem like the ragda of ragda-patties … is it same thing you think?

    • Thanks Nisha:) You are right! Ghugni is something like ragda! Funny, it hadn’t come to my mind until I read your comment ! In Bihar, Bengal and Orissa it’s called ghugni and they make it with dried yellow peas, sometimes kala chana.. but in general it’s more or less the same thing probably adapted to regional tastes :)

  8. Tanvi says:

    Being a Delhi – style cook, I have not been able to satiate my bong hubster’s “authentic” ghugni cravings till now LOL! I think I will try this for him. The recipe sounds yummy! I always thought that ghugni is made with chickpeas, now I understand his matar love. I usually make matar kulcha only with dried peas.
    Dont talk about street food, it makes me want to run to India :) Love those little onions picture (like we get in India). Here I have access to Jumbo ones only.
    Have a fun weekend, my friend!

    • HAHA ! I know what you mean ;-) It has passed the litmus test in my house.. so hopefully you won’t have a problem at yours’ ;-)) I am a big fan of your recipes / cooking style! I’m heading over to ur blog do more talking about that ..:-))

  9. Your write up took me back to my school days… The name Shankar and Ghugni being replaced by Mangal and Aloo bondas… I still believe his aloo bondas were the best. Nostalgic!

    I still am not sure how to pronounce Ghungni, but I have had similar looking stuff but can’t recall what we called it. All I know is that I like it… :)

  10. Loved this writeup and the recipe. Your photos are exceptional, especially the one of onions.

  11. Anita Menon says:

    SO SO appetizing. I have bookmarked this. I recall having this in some chaat shop. Mattar ki chaat it was called, I recall. Is it the same? Have. To. Make. This. SOon

    • Hi Anita, After posting this I realized that this is somewhat similar to ‘ragda’ as sold in Mumbai. ‘Ghugni’ is made with different kinds of peas in many parts of India.. a realization that came only while I started writing this post. If you make it, do let me know how it turns out:)

  12. Kalyan says:

    Looks so inviting and yummy…mouthwatering!

  13. Maayeka says:

    Loved this delicious and spicy preparation.you have done it perfectly!nice clicks and lovely post..

  14. This looks mouthwatering! Great photos too.

  15. Ritu Matthew says:

    Hi Vishakha, My Dad’s Bong and we’ve been hunting around for quite awhile for the perfect Ghugni. And I must say, your recipe is perfect and was loved very much by my Dad and the rest of the family. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe. I am glad I happened upon your blog … your pix are great and I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.
    Cheers!
    Ritu

    • Vishakha says:

      Hi Ritu, Apologies for the late response. You made my day! Really glad that your dad and all your family liked the ghugni:)) Thanks for the nicest words. Cheers! :)

  16. Pingback: A timeless ritual: Ghugni | Sublime Palate

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