Monday, November 15, 2010

The Most Memorable Meal in India - Chole at the Missionaries of Charity Orphanage in Agra

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Tucked behind a gate on Anjmar Road in Agra, is a Missionaries of Charity home. The facility, operated by the order of nuns that Mother Teresa founded, functions as an orphanage and a care facility for the chronic and terminally ill. As I passed through the gate and entered the grounds, I was followed by a young woman who was just completing the first of the ten years required to become a professed member of the community. She was lithe and fair, and her clipped accent indicated she was well-educated and came from a comfortable background. I suspect her task was to see that none of us one wandered into areas where our presence would be intrusive. She, instead, directed us to the right side of the compound and into a room of tiny miracles. Here, in cribs packed back to back, were twenty perfectly formed infants, abandoned, but found before starvation or exposure took their toll. Most of them were sleeping, but here and there you'd find a tiny flirt who'd shyly smile and reach for you. The babies in this room were adoptable and the vagaries of fate would soon take them to homes far from the streets on which they had been found. We passed through a connecting door into another room which told a different tale. Here, the infants and toddlers were dealing with physical or mental limitations that would keep them here until better facilities for their care could be found. Just outside, playing in a courtyard, were healthy children who were too old for adoption. The sisters had assumed responsibility for their education, job training, and, in the case of the girls, the arrangement of suitable marriages when they came of age.

Intent on showing us the others in their care, the young aspirant led us into a shaded courtyard where adult men were having a lunch of Chole and Naan. They were suffering from various mental or physical problems and many were horribly crippled. Off the courtyard was another room for those who were stricken with tuberculosis and AIDS. They were bedridden and obviously very ill. The young woman explained there was no money for the medicine that could effectively treat these men. They were languishing, waiting for a death that would not come quickly. Until it did, the sisters and their volunteers provided as much care and love as they possibly could to ease the final days of these men's existence.

Across the courtyard was a compound for the women that included a small cell-like structure that held some of them under lock and key. They had severe mental problems and the newer arrivals looked malnourished and had open wounds from scratching lice from their scalps and skin. The, soon to be, novice was now walking by my side and I asked how she was able to do this day after day. She smiled, took both my hands in hers and led me back to the children's quarters. There was a quotation hanging on the wall she wanted me to read. I'll share the last few lines of it with you. "I asked Jesus how much He loved me. He answered 'this much.' Then He stretched out His arms and died for me." She asked if I understood. I nodded yes and hugged her.

Today's Recipe

Chole is a North Indian chick pea dish. The base is a tomato gravy to which chick peas are added. Canned chick peas are used in this recipe. Like most Indian curries, spices can be adjusted so the dish is spicy or mild depending on your taste. This recipe will makes a Chole that's on the milder side.

Chole...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
1 pinch asafetida powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 (15-oz.) cans chick peas, drained
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, depending on taste
1/4 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon teaspoon garam masala
1 cup water

1) Heat oil or ghee in a large saucepan. Add cumin seeds and cook until sizzling and seeds begin to turn brown. Add asafetida powder, if using. Asafetida is a gum resin that has a strong onion flavor. Stir in turmeric.
2) Add onions and sauté until golden brown. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.
3) Stir in tomatoes and simmer on medium heat until tomatoes have melted and mixture is fairly uniform. Add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste and mix.
4) Stir in chick peas. Add salt, ginger. chili powder, coriander, cumin powder, garam masala and sugar. Mix thoroughly.
5) Add 1 cup of water. Simmer for 20 minutes with pot partially covered. Serve hot with rice,naan or roti. Yield: 4 to 5 servings.

You might also enjoy these recipes:
Channa (Chole) Masala - Kitchen Gypsies
YRTML: Punjabi Chole - Siri's Corner
Spicy Chole - Niya's World
Chole/Chana Masala - Enriching Your Kid
Chole Masala - Weird Combinations
Teri Wale Chole(Curried Chickpeas) - Annarasa - Essence of Flavor

This post is being linked to:
Smiling Sally - Blue Monday


tasteofbeirut said...

I did not know you were in India! How interesting and that place looks so interesting and these nuns fascinating.
I know I would love to eat that chick pea dish. Will have to bookmark it for the next meal.

Sasha said...

Wow, this looks incredible. I'm getting some new ideas of my own : )

Sorry to hear about your trip mishaps.

Monet said...

What a touching story...I worked in an orphanage in Africa a few summers ago, and this post brought back so many memories. These chickpeas sound amazing, but it is your words that truly touched me tonight. Thank you for sharing. I hope your week brims with hope and joy.

Ginny Hartzler said...

What a powerful story! So your guide, she is a nun in training? And it takes 10 years?? That surprises me. My DIL is looking to adopt again, I know she would love one of these babies, but the restrictions in other countries are so that not nearly as many babies get adopted that could be. I mentioned India to her earlier, I'll have to ask her again, it seems there are problems with every country. We are very blessed that they were able to go to China for little Anne. If only the countries that have so many babies would lighten up on the restrictions a bit instead of making them even harsher, many more people would be able to adopt. It seems to be all about governments and big business now.

LV said...

Intdoes not matter the person, everyone would enjoy a meal with you. I just cannot imagine what your Thanksgiving will be like.

Pie said...

Looks yummy!

Alessandra said...

Mary, what an experience!!!


kitchen flavours said...

Wow, that must be a memorable experience. We should really count our blessings with things that we take for granted. This is a really good post.
How is the bump on your head and your black-eye? Hope they are much better. Have a lovely and blessed week, Mary.

Katerina said...

Perhaps, if all of us were able to make a trip to countries where people suffer would make us appreciate what we have and be more giving to people less fortunate than we are. I love your dish too!

Barbara Jean said...

This is amazing.

just popping by to say hi!!


barbara jean

Flavia Galasso said...

Goodmorning MAry ( it's 9.25 am) ...I met Mother Teresa when I was young, she was a miracle!!!! I felt so well near her!!!She was very short...but she got a huge soul!!And even the charity women of her order around the world are great souls!!!Have a very nice week...and blessings ciao Flavia

Priya Suresh said...

My fav chole...beautiful damn sure its a fascinating experience for u..

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

A lovely food blog with great stories accompanying each post!

Check me out in Malaysia at:

Zurin said...

That was a powerful story Mary.

and the chickpea curry looks fantastic. I will definitely make this. I love chickpeas. :)

i also come here for your stories of India.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Mary it really does sound like you had an amazing sojourn. There is a company with whom I would love to travel (Responsible Travel)one day where we can also experience the worlkd through different eyes.

Red Nomad OZ said...

How inspiring! And what a beautifully simple, but delicious sounding meal!! It's been wonderful to read about your travels - an amazing experience for us through you!!

Happy travels!!

Sushma Mallya said...

I hope ur having a lovely time in India Mary, and such a nice write up, and chole looks absolutely beautiful:)

Sutapa said...

What a touching story and you pen down it so nicely!
Thanks for sharing your wonderful journey,I hope you are having great time in India except for some baddest traffic chaos and may be many more other but in midst of all these I see few super delicious dishes that are irresistible!
Wish you have a happy safe journey and few colorful memories when you are back home!
Love Always

Schnitzel and the Trout said...

As always, Mary, a beautiful recipe and an even more remarkable experience which you just shared with us. Bless you.

Joanne said...

This experience sounds so heart wrenching but also inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. This chickpea dish sounds absolutely delicious. So simple and yet so tasty.

What's next said...

What a sweet experience for you. I've always wanted to do medical missions trips, guess God will send me when I am to go... It kills me to think some of those people could be better with medications they can't afford there...

Unknown said...

This post is making me all teary eyed. Just imagining that place existing right now clear across the world puts everything (even today) into perspective. Thanks for the amazing description and story, I really loved it!

I make a similar dish to this but you have added a few more ingredients here that I am excited to try. Thanks again Mary!

whalechaser said...

I have only recently discovered the wonders of Indian food from my very own kitchen. This recipe looks like another winner. I worry that I may turn vegetarian though ;-)
I am SO enjoying your trip! Carry on!

Unknown said...

What a truly powerful experience you just shared with us...thank you! I can only imagine how truly impactful it really was.
The Chole looks fantastic..and I'm not even a big fan of chickpeas!!

From the Kitchen said...

What a remarkable young woman to visit the orphanage in Agra with. How fortunate that there is such a place for all these needing children and adults. I am wondering, as a real contrast, if you visited the Taj Mahal at the same time?


Barbara said...

That brought tears to my eyes, Mary. The Missions of Charity are certainly doing important work..I really enjoyed reading about your experience!
I've never made chole...I have already copied the recipe.

SmilingSally said...

Hi! I've missed you!

That's love in action.

Happy Blue Monday, Mary.

nesrin said...


Pondside said...

I know you must have had a large number of wonderful experiences in India, but I'll guess that nothing topped this. We Human beings have shown ourselves to be capable of unthinkable cruelty - to be reminded that there is unbelievable kindness and goodness is a gift. Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

Sonia said...

How wonderful that you were able to travel to India..we support a ministry there and our friends will be travelling there next month for their annual visit. My husband loves chick I will defiinitely have to serve this to him! Looks wonderful!

Thanks for sharing,

Miss Bloomers

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

What a blessing those sisters are for so many people in need.

Auntie E said...

That recipe sound great. I have to try it. Happy Blue Monday.

ChicagoJudy said...

Thanks, Mary, for sharing your trip with us. Your story about the orphanage and medical center left me wanting to hear more. A beautiful tribute to the nuns who have given their lives to help others.

High Plains Drifters said...

Must have been an incredible trip! Great pix and stories. Thanks so much for sharing. Cheers!

FOODESSA said...

It's so incredibly amazing what is going on in other parts of the world and how we N.Americans generally complain with full tummies. far...your journey is really heart warming and I'm sure in some ways it has changed you.
It certainly gives me a lot more insight into another culture.

Lately I've been getting a little more interested in India's cuisine and your helping a great deal ;o)

Ciao for now,

flying eagle woman said...

what an amazing post...i re-read it several times because it was rich and thick :-) thank you so much for sharing - I'll print the recipe and HOPEFULLY can make it soon!
Cheers my friend,

♥ Kathy said...

What an incredible and sad story Mary. It really made me cry. The food looks delicious though :)

PeggyR said...

That looks very tastey!

Kim said...

Mary - I imagine that you were flooded with emotion walking through this missionary. Those nuns are extraordinary people. Thank you for sharing this story.

It's easy to understand why this was one of your most memorable meals. It's simple, delicious, and I would say... most certainly made with love.

Glad to hear you had a wonderful and safe trip!

Kim, USA said...

You are blessed to have an experienced like this. The food looks delicious thanks again for sharing it with us. Happy Monday!
Blue Monday

Terry said...

Howdy Mary
God Bless you for sharing this post today !
Happy Blue Monday to you :)
I am so thrilled to know there is still much love and compassion
going forward in India .
May the rest of your week be filled with peace,calm and much joy .
big hugs from Texas
Until next time
Happy Trails

Donnie said...

That was so inspiring.

Biren @ Roti n Rice said...

That's a touching story and must gave been quite an experience! It is good to know that there are those out there who would give their all for others. Thanks for sharing.

This chole dish sounds very flavorful and healthy.

Faith said...

What a beautiful story, Mary. Thanks so much for sharing. This dish looks really lovely and full of flavor!

Jen_from_NJ said...

Your story is so powerful and has brought tears to my eyes. There is so much bad and yet so much good in this world. God bless the work of those nuns.

~ Chef Louise said...

what an amazing experience, my eyes are filled with tears. i can only imagine how this has changed you...

Unknown said...

what a beautiful experience you shared....thank you.

Lori said...

What an adventure. What devotion these ladies have. God bless them.

This chole sounds amazing.

Rhonda said...

First can I say, I am so jealous of your trip! My daughter spent 6 weeks in India during a summer vacation and I have been yearning ever since to go.

Second, I love Indian food, espcially chick peas. This recipe sounds so absolutely fantasitc. Thank you for sharing all your adventures.

Tasha said...

This story of the orphanage is so heartwrenching, and really reminds me of how blessed I am to have the life I do. Thank you for sharing your incredible, touching experience with us, as well as this wonderful sounding dish.

Jeannie said...

A very touching post...sometimes we need wake up calls like these to remind us how fortunate we are.
The chole looks really delicious and healthy.

penny aka jeroxie said...

That is a great shot! And also you made a great recipe.

Rita said...

What a touching post!Makes you stop and think.

Mary Bergfeld said...

hicago Judy, It has been such a long time. It was wonderful to hear from you again. I hope you're having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Lucie said...

Every time I read a post of yours, I keep thinking your trip seems absolutely magical. And the chole--mmm!

Unknown said...

wow. I'm a little behind reading some blogs and I just saw this now! This looks really, really yummy. Sweeter than channa masala. Gotta try this.

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