Just as the prep for this dish spans 2 days, the story behind the inspiration spans 2 continents. At the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay , the quality of the hostel (dorm) food provided is inversely proportional to the quality of education provided. After making the mistake of tasting the food at the dorm, my mother made it her mission to not only provide sustenance for me but also to the girls living down the entire wing. Whenever she'd make Rajma (Kidney beans, Indian style), the most heard comment from the carnivores was that it was so meaty. ( not sure what my semi-orthodox vegetarian mom thought of that compliment, but she knew that it was something everyone loved!).
A couple of years later, I encountered one of those 'AHA' moment foods that remains permanently etched in memory. The 'Bunny chow', at a small little food stall in Durban South Africa, while gathering data for my thesis. A hollowed out half loaf of bread filled with a spicy vegetable curry. Something so satisfying about a flavored soaked bread shell, I'm sure that Clam chowder/Sourdough bread aficionados from San Francisco & elsewhere know what I mean.
Well , one thing I've learnt something from all those graduate school degrees is that the food is never forgotten!, My mom's technique for Rajma, extrapolated to a combination of 6 different beans, served in a hollowed out Kimmelwick roll (love the taste of the salt & caraway with the chili), My tribute to traditions from my new homeland - The 6 bean bunny chow —Panfusine
a large pot!
6 bean bunny chow
dry black beans
dry black eyed peas
dry whole Urad dal
1/2 cup cups
dry cranberry beans
dry white haricot beans
small can Kidney beans
pods black cardamom
stick cassia cinnamon
Bishops weed (Ajwain)
chopped fresh ginger root
thai green chilies
Large sweet onions
cayenne pepper powder
tomato paste (~ 2/3 of those small 60z cans)
Wash & soak all the dry beans for about 4 hours (preferably overnight) . Replace with plenty of fresh water, add the cinnamon, black cardamom and the bishops weed and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook for about one hour or until the beans have cooked thoroughly. Discard the cinnamon & cardamom. Set aside, reserving the extra water. Drain & rinse the Kidney beans.
Grate the Paneer cheese and leave out to partially dry out. (This will bring about a crumbly texture when added to the chili)
Combine the ginger, garlic & green chili and grind to a smooth paste. Grate the onions and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee and the Canola oil in a 5 qt Dutch oven pan and add the ginger-chili-garlic paste. Saute till the mixture begins to caramelize to a golden brown color. Add the remaining ghee and add the grated onion and cook down to a thick caramelized onion paste.
Add the tomato paste, mix well, and add the turmeric, cayenne, salt and Garam masala. combine and cook till the mix loses the raw tomato smell from the paste and then add the cooked beans and the rinsed kidney beans along with the grated paneer.
Add the cooking liquid from the beans and the sugar, cover and simmer for 15 minutes on medium-low till the chili thickens up.
Garnish & serving
Combine the cilantro, minced chili, ginger & lemon juice and mince into a coarse sambal.
Scoop out the center of the rolls and ladle the 6 bean chili. Top with the cilantro sambal & sour cream and serve with a wedge of lemon