Channa Madra: A Himachali Recipe (Chickpeas with Yogurt Gravy)

Madra is a thick, yogurt based gravy that is a popular dish in Pahari or Himachali food. In my mother’s house, we make our Madra with chickpeas.

The most important step in making Madra is when you add the yogurt. You have to make sure that you stir continuously and do not allow the yogurt to curdle. This is a really crucial step or else you may have a disastrous gravy on your hands. If the yogurt seems to have curdled just a little bit, continue stirring the gravy and it will eventually thicken up and be fine.

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Pahari Food/ Dishes from Himachal Pradesh

Pahari food, is a little known cuisine, that can be traced back to the state of Himachal Pradesh in India. My family is mostly Pahari. Our origins lie in the beautiful Kangra Valley region which is nestled in the majestic Himalayas. The word “Pahar” literally means mountains.

There is a such a wide variety of foods in this region and it is all delicious.  When I was growing up, every year at Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, we would cook a traditional pahari meal. Last year ….after 14 years I made it back home for Diwali to eat my favorite meal of the year. Over the next few days, I will blog some of the recipes of this wonderful cuisine.

Here are some of dishes we make – the titles link you to the recipes.





Masala Fried Okra 





My grandmother (Nani) used to make the best lotus stem (bhey) ever and it is one of my mother’s favorite dishes. Though no none will ever be able to make it as well as my Nani did, this recipe that has been recreated in my mother kitchen comes pretty darned close.


2 -3 lotus stems, peeled and sliced

2 medium onion, sliced thin

3 tbsp. garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. thinly sliced ginger

4 tbsp. chickpea flour

2 tsp. coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

Cayenne pepper to taste

Salt to taste


  • Boil ½ gallon of water in a pot and add a little salt to it.
  • When the water comes to a boil add the sliced lotus stems to the water and let it cook for a minute or two – do not overcook.
  • Drain and plunge lotus stems in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.

  • Heat 4-5 tbsp. oil in a wok.
  • Add chopped garlic & ginger and sauté for a minute.
  • Add sliced onions and sauté for 10 minutes till onions turn translucent.
  • Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, chili powder and salt.

  • Cook for a minute and then add 4 tbsp. of chickpea flour.
  • Sauté well for a minute or two.
  • Add sliced lotus stems and mix it well with the onion mixture.

  • Cover and cook for 15- 20 minutes till the lotus stems are just cooked.
  • Serve hot.