“India is probably the best country in the world, both scenic and peaceful; it truly is god’s country.” -Kobe Bryant
Rajma… one of my all time favorite comfort foods! This dish served with rice is such a simple yet popular meal in most North Indian households. When I was younger, I remember my Dad and I would tell my mom to make us Rajma almost every week. Soft red kidney beans in a savory/spicy tomato and onion curry that I slow cook to ensure it tastes “just like my moms”. However my favorite memory of this delicious dish is not at home, of a friends recipe, or even at a fine dining restaurant. The most incredible Rajma I have ever experienced was at a local dhaba (street food vendor) on the foothills of the Himalayas.
Flashback to Summer of 99′. My parents had taken my brother and I to India for 2 months. Our usual and only stop in India was Bombay, but that summer was different… our parents wanted us to experience India as much as possible in two months. We were lucky enough to tour the beautiful beaches of Goa, drive-thru the lush acres of Khandala, see the spiritual sites of Shirdi, appreciate the city planning of Chandigarh, roam in the shopping districts of Delhi, and best of all, experience the serenity and beauty of Jammu and Kashmir.
We had gone to visit one of the highest temples in the world in Jammu and Kashmir (at the foothills of the Himalayas), which is at an altitude of 5,200 feet. After our pilgrimage, on our way out of the city, we stopped at a local dhaba to eat. The aroma of the fresh food and spices filled the crisp mountain air. Their specialty: Kashmiri Rajma. As our food order came we began to relish the long red kidney bean curry. They seemed to just melt in our mouths with the perfect amount of spices. We enjoyed the Rajma so much that my mom actually bought a bag of the dried red kidney beans from the food vendor himself.
Kashmiri Rajma come out best when you are able to soak the beans for at least 4-5 hours prior to cooking them. I usually soak them over night. Also, I usually make Kashmiri Rajma with dark red kidney beans; although I am sure this recipe would be just as good with the light pink kidney beans.
1 1/2 cups of dark red kidney beans
6 cups water
1 cup finely cut red onion
2 cups crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons red chili powder
3 teaspoons of salt or to taste
Wash and soak the kidney beans in water for 4-5 hours or overnight. Strain the beans and place in a pressure cooker with the turmeric powder, ginger paste, and 6 cups of water. Pressure cook the beans for one whistle and then set to medium heat, let cook for 20-25 minutes until the beans become soft. Keep the beans on low heat allowing them to slow cook.
Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Once they start to sputter add the onions, green chillies, and garlic. Once the onions turn translucent, add the crushed tomatoes, cumin powder, coriander powder, and red chili powder. Cook until the spices are incorporated with the mixture and then add the yogurt and salt. Mix well and add this paste to the kidney beans. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil for 5-10 minutes. Add the salt and garam masala. Set heat on low and stir in between until the gravy thickens to the desired consistency (about 10-15minutes.) Garnish with cilantro/coriander. Serve hot with rice, roti, or naan.