(Is it chana masala? Is it chhole? Is it aloo chole because of the potato? The internet was unclear.)
Two doors down from my first place in San Francisco was a restaurant with a name that suggested it sold pizza but that smelled like it should be my new local Indian takeout place. It turned out that it was in fact both an Indian restaurant and a takeout pizza joint, but sadly didn’t do either cuisine very well. I was always intrigued by their pizza options topped with Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, but after trying their so-so samosas and waxy-tasting pies, I thought I’d better not subject my digestive tract to whatever hell that might unleash.
Still, years later, I’m wondering about that tikka masala pizza. Because really, the idea of pizza dough topped with Indian food sounds wonderfully efficient, like serving up your curry, chutneys, and naan all in one handy package. If naan can sub in for pizza dough, why not the other way around? When my recent attempts to clear out my refrigerator and freezer unearthed my long-neglected sourdough starter, and The New York Times magically released a recipe for sourdough pizza dough the very next day, I took it as a sign from the universe to finally buy that pizza steel I’d been coveting and to satisfy my long-simmering curiosity about whether it is in fact a good idea to put Indian food on your pizza.
Yeah, so it turns out it is a brilliant idea to dress a pillowy, fermented dough with a variety of Indian-inspired toppings and bake it all into a magical explosion of warm, spicy, and tart flavors in chewy, crispy, and creamy textures. I did not top it with chicken tikka masala, as you can tell by the title of this post, but I instead layered on tamarind chutney, cumin potatoes and chana masala, all prettied up with a cumin-flecked yogurt drizzle, a cilantro-mint sauce, and a shower of fresh cilantro. I may have immediately texted my sister after the first bite with the oh so humble declaration that “I am a genius.” She did not respond to my modest claims, but let me try to convince you that this pizza really is so good, and definitely worth bragging about. It turns out it is also a great excuse to explore that cookbook of Indian cuisine your best friend bought you for your birthday a million years ago that you made alu paranthas out of that one time that were delicious but it took all day and while the cookbook certainly seems authentic it also requires a pressure cooker for almost everything you want to make and so it sits on your bookshelf gathering dust and bleaching in the sun.
But feel free to maybe just repurpose some takeout.
Chana Masala Pizza
Chhole and mint chutney recipes adapted from From Mom with Love...
For one pizza:
1/2 recipe sourdough pizza dough (or other pizza dough, enough for one pizza)
1 cup chana masala (or chhole, recipe below, or use leftovers from takeout)
1 tbs tamarind chutney
cumin potatoes (recipe below)
Cilantro-Mint Chutney sauce (recipe below)
Cumin yogurt sauce (recipe below)
cilantro, for garnish
For the chana masala (or chhole):
1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked at least 8 hours (see note)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
4 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder, see note)
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbs pomegranate molasses
2 small jalapenos
2 tbs minced ginger
4 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
For the cumin potatoes:
1 small yukon gold potato
1 tsp cumin seeds
For the cilantro mint sauce:
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup cilantro
1 small jalapeno, seeded
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/8 cup water
3 tbs lemon juice
Cumin Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook chickpeas: Drain and rinse chickpeas and add to a large pot with 4 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low, partially covered, for about 50 minutes, until chickpeas are tender.
- While chickpeas are cooking, make the other ingredients. Make the cilantro-mint sauce: combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth and completely combined. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
- Make the yogurt sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
- Make the cumin potatoes: using a mandoline or knife, slice potato into super thin slices. Heat a little vegetable oil in a small pan over medium high heat and add the cumin seeds. When seeds begin to sizzle and "pop" add the potato slices, and saute until just barely cooked through. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain until needed.
- Make the chana masala: Drain the cooked chickpeas, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Add chickpeas back to the pot with the reserved 2 cups cooking liquid over medium heat. Add spices, ginger, and jalapenos on top of the chickpeas but do not stir. In a small pan, heat the 4 tbs vegetable oil until hot, then pour over the chickpeas and spices and stir. Add tomato paste and drained tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes on low heat.
- When ready to make pizza: Preheat pizza stone or pizza steel (or baking sheet) in oven on the highest setting. When ready to bake, roll out pizza dough into a round and place on a well-floured pizza peel or rimless baking sheet (or the back of a rimmed cookie sheet on some parchment paper). Make sure the pizza can easily slide around on the peel or cookie sheet. Spread the tamarind chutney in a thin layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges of the dough. Lay the potato slices in a single layer around the dough, then top with the chana masala (make sure it is mostly drained of sauce if it seems too liquidy).
- Carefully transfer the pizza into the oven onto the preheated pizza steel or stone and bake until dough is golden and crispy, anywhere from 8-15 minutes depending on how hot your oven can go).
- Drizzle pizza with cilantro-mint and yogurt sauces and garnish with fresh cilantro.
- I know there are a lot of parts to this pizza, with some long ingredient lists, but everything is actually very simple to make and each sub-recipe contributes to one truly spectacular flavor bomb of a pizza. The chana masala and sauces only get better after a day in the fridge, so make those ahead and then when it's pizza time, only assembly is required.
- You can sub canned chickpeas in the chana masala to cut down on time, just skip the initial cooking step.
- Dried mango powder might be difficult to find (although I found some at my tiny grocery store and it's easily available online), and some fresh lemon juice is a good sub for the tart flavor it brings.