I’d like to thank the Nobel Academy for this great honor. Thank you so much for instituting a Nobel Prize for Food just so that you could give me the first one for the invention of Indian Food Nachos. I’d also like to thank my husband, Steven, whose dedication and sacrifice were essential to the development of this dish–
Oh hi there. Sorry, I was just working on my speech. Sometimes you can tell these things are coming. It’s just like, with this kind of breakthrough, of course I’ll be showered with awards. But like many of these things, it seems so simple in retrospect. Indian food + chips + cheese isn’t E = mc 2. It’s more like If + C1 + C2 = D2, where D2 = damn delicious.
As with so many great achievements in literature and medicine, Indian food nachos were born in a bar. A bar that serves nachos, that’s across the street from an empty storefront that, according to the signs, is soon to house an Indian restaurant. After a few drinks and some conversation, the idea hit me like a bolt of lightning. “My god–what if you put the Indian food on the chips?! And added cheese on top! It would be glorious!” I yelled, frightening everyone in the bar. I ran home, and set about bringing my vision to life.
Ok, so while the screaming part of that story isn’t true, the rest is. And although I’m sure I’m not the first to think of Indian food nachos, I refuse to google it to find out. Let me keep my illusions.
I think that the Indian food that goes on the chips is most similar to chana masala, which is described as a spicy chickpea and tomato based dish. I based it on a recipe called “Very Spicy, Delicious Chickpeas,” from Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking, but I modified it heavily, adding spinach, paneer, and changing the spices. So I’m not sure if it really counts as chana masala anymore, or even if that’s what it started as, but that’s what I’m calling it.
Steven was a big help with this recipe. He rightly pointed out that the first batch was underwhelming because it didn’t have enough spices. So I added more, and he helped me taste test until I got it right. The chana masala needs to be very strong and aromatic for the flavors to compete with the cheese, so err on the side of more spices.
Chana Masala Indian Food Nachos
4 Tbsp grapeseed oil, or other neutral vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground turmeric
6 Tbsp finely chopped, canned tomatoes, juice reserved
2 14-oz can chickpeas, or 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 Tbsp juice from canned tomatoes
1 cup water
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
juice from 1/2 lime
2 cups chopped fresh spinach, packed
3/4 cup (about 4 oz) cubed paneer cheese
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced onion and garlic. Saute, stirring, until the mixture is a medium-brown color, about 10-15 minutes. Turn heat down to a medium low and add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, and turmeric, stir, and then immediately add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes are lightly browned.
Add the drained chickpeas, water, and juice from the canned tomatoes, and stir to combine.
Add the paprika, garam masala, salt, and lime juice. Stir, cover, turn heat to low. Add the spinach and paneer, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the jalapeño pepper and grated ginger, stir, and cook for another minute.
Remove from heat and let cool slightly, or refrigerate for up to three days.
Indian Food Nachos
Tortilla chips, about 1/3 of a bag
1/2 of the chana masala recipe, about 2 cups
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Jalapeño pepper, sliced
Green onions, sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
Spread a single layer of tortilla chips on a sheet pan. Evenly distribute about half of the above chana masala recipe over the tops of the chips, then cover everything with a layer of cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
Garnish with dollops of sour cream, green onions, sriracha, and jalapeño slices. Serve hot.