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Rajma Chawal

I think if I sit down and think of all the times I’ve had Rajma I’ll be able to recall it perfectly and probably tell you the exact number. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t had enough- its quite the opposite. Rajma Chawal was something that was made bi-weekly in the house, yet there was something so special and comforting in that plate of rice and hot spicy curry that I used to request my mother to make it for my birthday as well.

I remember when I was in the second grade, everyone in class had to write down their favourite food in their writing journal. I used to go to an American school in Tunisia- where most kids as you guessed where American, and some other that were from various parts of Africa, Europe and Asia. I remember being confused on what to write- basic things like pasta fries, pizzas were being written- I loved eating all of those things too but there was nothing in the world that beat Rajma Chawal. I was a little embarrassed because I didn’t want to seem different form the other kids but I very reluctantly wrote a translation- Red Kidney Beans.  I remember thinking about it a couple of years later, about what the teacher would have thought about it and feeling relieved that nobody else in class read it.

While I grew older this sense of embarrassment with what I was eating grew with time. There was always anxiety while shifting to a new school, not only to make friends but what about the food I would be eating at lunch time. As a child my mother would pack me Indian food but I started wanting food that I thought was acceptable, food that was non-indian. It went from taking a dabba of palak paneer and roti to just eating sandwiches everyday. I feel rather guilty feeling this way about food that has always meant so much to me.

Rajma Chawal used to cause a wave of excitement in my head a child, something I could have never told my friends about in school. Whenever I used to see my mother soak rajma at night I’d wake up in the morning fluttering about the house. Impatiently gulping down breakfast, flipping through tv channels while listening to the pressure cooker going off with the smells of masalas hanging heavy over our small apartment.

Now that I live alone, this is one of my favourite dishes I cook for myself and most importantly for all of my friends that come home.

Rajma Chawal Recipe


200 grams rajma

2.5 cups water for pressure cooker

6 tbs oil

5-7 garlic grated in a grater

1 large onion grated

1 inch ginger grated

2 medium tomatoes grated

1/2 tsp tumeric powder

1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp corriander powder

1/2 tsp garam masala

salt- according to taste

2 cups of water


  1. Soak the Rajma overnight or around 6-8 hours

  2. Rinse and remove the water and add 2.4 cups with 1 tablespoon oil

  3. Pressure cook it for 9-10 whistles on hight heat or as my mother likes to say it till you an smell the rajma. Remove and check it if you must and make sure that it is well cooked and soft other pressure cook it 2-3 more times and wait till the pressure cooker settles.

  4. Remove the rajma along with the water to a different container and use the same pressure cooker for the next step.

  5. Add in the oil, garlic and onions over medium heat. Cook till they are golden brown in colour.

  6. Next add in the garlic and tomatoes. Add in all the masalas and salt and cook it in low heat with the lid of the pressure cooker for around 5-7 minutes make sure it is not burning and stir it occasionally. You will see that your mixture will be turning into a dark brown colour.

  7. Add in the boiled rajma and 2 cups of water.

  8. Pressure cook it till 4 whistles in high heat and than in let it cook in simmer for around 10 minutes. Add in more water if required.

  9. Switch the heat off and wait till the pressure is settled.

  10. Serve with rice

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