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Recipe: Heart-Healthy Hola Sabzi

Last updated on: January 17, 2024 12:03 IST
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Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya

IMAGE: The exterior today of the Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh, Chhattisgarh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Hamar Chhattisgarh/Flickr

The first time I tasted hola or holey was on a trip to Khairagarh in Rajnandgaon district, Chhattisgarh.

I was a wide-eyed, curious NRI kid on my first holiday to India, and we were staying in a pink, mithai-like palace, no less -- imagine the fascination for an America-raised child -- because my Daddaji (grandfather or dada) was the vice chancellor of a music university, one of Asia's oldest, the Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, in this remote but utterly pretty village.

The local raja Birendra Bahadur Singh had given one of his palaces over to the music and arts university in honour of his late daughter Indira, and we spent three months in the rambling mahal, roaming its ramparts and courtyards, playing with the retinue of servants, sparring with the langurs and monkeys who would poke their faces into the balconies and steal any fruit you were eating, roaming the pin-neat lush gardens, listening to Bhimsen Joshi when he visited one memorable night, OD-ing on all types of unfamiliar but wonderful Indian food, especially my Ammaji's puri-alus and besan barfi, visiting gaav-wala bazaars, going on picnics where food was cooked hot on the spot and discovering village India. They were without doubt the best and most precious 90 days of my life.


IMAGE: Raja Birendra Bahadur Singh of Khairagarh, seated with a cane, at a convocation at the university. He donated the palace premises for starting one of Asia's oldest music universities, the Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya. Photograph: Zelda Pande

I sampled hola on the eve of Holi. It was a local custom to roast branches of the fresh crop of green chickpeas on the Holi bonfire and then you plucked out the chana pods and split them open to eat the roasted but only semi-cooked hola. It tasted lovely.


Interiors of the palace that houses the music universityi

IMAGE: My grandparents sitting inside this gorgeous palace. Photograph: Zelda Pande

Heart-healthy hola is not always the easiest ingredient to cook with, because recipes don't often bring out their special taste. It's ideally eaten lightly boiled, with chopped onions, chaat masala and lemon.

But this version of Green Chickpeas With Alu turned out rather well. It is a great accompaniment to rotis or even puris. To make it still healthier replace the alu with pan-fried suran or elephant yam.

Green Chickpeas And Alu

Green Chickpeas With Alu

Serves: 2 to 3


  • 2 cups hola or chholia or hara chana or fresh/raw green chickpeas
  • 2 onions
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1-inch piece ginger
  • 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
  • 1½ tsp rai or mustard seeds
  • Pinch jeera or cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp kalonji or nigella seeds
  • Generous pinch hing or asafoetida
  • 10-12 curry pattas or curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp dhaniya or coriander powder
  • 1 tsp haldi or turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste, about 1 tsp
  • A handful chopped green dhania or coriander or cilantro
  • 1 cup cubed suran (elephant yam) or cubed peeled boiled potatoes, pan fried
  • Water


  • Boil 1 cup of the hola, cool, and grind to a paste in a mixer with a little water.
    Keep aside.
  • Cut the onions in chunks and grind to a paste with the ginger and a little water.
    Keep aside.
  • Heat the oil in a kadhai over medium heat and add the rai, jeera, kalonji, hing and allow it to crackle for a minute.
    Add the curry leaves and fry a few seconds.
    Add the ground ginger-onion paste.
    Fry over low heat for 10 minutes, till the paste begins to redden.
    Add the remaining 1 cup whole hola and fry a few minutes.
    Now add the hola paste, dhaniya powder, salt, cubed pan-fried alu or suran, green chillies, haldi and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes more and a little more water if required -- the dish should have a thick gravy.
    Take off heat.
  • Garnish with green dhaniya and serve hot with rotis.

Zelda's Note: For a Jain version, consider adding pan-fried cubed green bananas and omitting the onion. Replace the ginger with 2 tsp saunth or ginger powder.

This dish goes very well with puris, if not in a health-conscious mood and a dab of ghee while serving.

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