Chana Masala & The Remarkable Quest of Chris Guillebeau

Chana Masala Recipe

Psst… Be sure to enter the giveway at the bottom of this post!

I want to tell you a story about Chris Guillebeau – a man who traveled to every country in the world.

It took him 10 years.  He’s not the first to do it, and he won’t be the last. And yet his quest is remarkable.

Let me explain.

Chris_GuillebeauFrom Quest to Calling

I stumbled across Chris’ journey a few years back  when he had about three years left in his quest. I read with amusement about his jogging escapades on strange terrain, how airport lounges can double as offices (and triple as bedrooms!), and how he managed to maintain relationships with his family and friends all while exploring the world.

Like many people, I was immediately smitten with Chris’ quest.  It’s not simply that his journey mirrored my own (cooking every country in the world for anyone stopping by) – but it was the fact that Chris was able to escape the confines of standard travel blogging to become a remarkable life blogger. That is to say, he used his journey as a platform to teach bigger lessons about life, work, and love.

By choosing the unconventional path, he’d uncovered what I was just beginning to learn: Quests  -like visiting every country on earth or cooking every country – will teach you as much about yourself as it does the places you’re learning about (if not more).

Testing the theory

Chris had a hunch he wasn’t the only one who’d been transformed by a quest. One day he put out a call for reader stories that he’d share in his book The Happiness of Pursuit. Above all, he wanted to inspire more people to live out their dreams. Hundreds of people wrote in, from all corners of the globe.

I was one of those people. To my delight, my story was accepted along with dozens of others.

After several interactions I can tell you this about Chris:

  • His kindness is staggering.
  • He gets more done in 24 hours than most people do in a month.
  • Something he says or writes will probably change the course of your life. Maybe it’ll be subtle, maybe it will be big. But something will change.

The Pursuit of Happiness by Chris GuillebeauWhen you’re done, you’re still not done.

I just finished reading the book.

I particularly loved the stories that showed people expanding on their quests – like a birdwatcher who went from setting a record in Missouri  (sighting 275 distinct bird species), to eventually seeing more than 500 distinct species a year and then, finally, going for the world record.

I know a good deal about what it takes to set a goal and complete it, and yet I still found myself writing notes in the margins, discovering new ideas, and getting just the kick in the pants I needed to reinvigorate my quest.

After eating every country, I can definitely say that my appetite has been whetted, not sated. I want to learn more, understand better, and continue to share my love of world cuisine. And I want to make it easier for you to do this. Reading his book is helping me put actionable steps to what this will look like.

Edible Memory

The quests we undertake have a ripple effect on our lives. For Chris, traveling gave him a love of Indian culture and especially Chana Masala. He’s now a vegetarian and finds comfort in this highly spiced (and often spicy) Punjabi dish.

I like to think of his love for Chana Masala as a symbol of his quest and all the ways traveling the world has changed him. It might seem small at first, but the reality is this: Every time he eats this curry, he can think back to the places he’s been and still hopes to see. This curry is everything.

Chana Masala is enjoyed in both India and Pakistan. It is highly spiced and often spicy. A souring agent like mango powder or crushed pomegranate seeds is typically added to the curry. While both are available at Indian markets, I substituted a little extra lemon juice to create a similar flavor. I like the curry even better the day after it’s made, once all the flavors have time to mingle (speaking of which, whole coriander seeds have an intense flavor – substitute ground coriander if sensitive or new to curries).

A note on the spicing – one chili pepper makes the mix hot – build up from there if you have a high tolerance.

Serve with naan or homemade roti. Plain yogurt makes a nice side.

How to make Chana Masala


1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped (reserve a little for garnish)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon homemade garam masala
4 cloves garlic, grated
One knob ginger, peeled and grated (about 2 teaspoons)
1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1-3 green chili peppers like serranos (to taste), sliced
Two 15 ounce can chickpeas, rinse and drained
Juice of half a lemon


lemon slices
onion slices
a handful torn cilantro leaves


Add seeds to hot vegetable oil in a medium skillet or pot. Cook until the spices sizzle and pop like an old fashioned record player (up to 15 seconds)

Chana Masala spicing

Add onion and cook until soft. Add spices, ginger and garlic and cook for a few moments until fragrant.Chana Masala Recipe

By now your house will smell glorious.Chana Masala

Add the tomatoes and cook until the juices dry out and the tomatoes begin to smell roasted. Add chickpeas and sliced hot peppers. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes.

Chana Masala Recipe

Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Garnish with cilantro and onion as desired.

Chana Masala Recipe

Serve with a nice, soft naan or homemade roti… and add a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt if the heat is too much.

Most importantly? Enjoy with a spirit of adventure.

Since you made it this far…

How about a giveaway? I’d love to offer a copy of The Happiness of Pursuit to one lucky reader. In the comments of this post, tell us what recipe holds a significance for you and why. Then check back next week to see if you’re the winner!


P.S. Here’s how much Ava loves the Chana Masala: All the way to her back!

recipe.chana.masala.img_6598 recipe.chana.masala.img_6608 recipe.chana.masala.img_6599



  1. Gretchen B says

    Nasi goreng, the fried rice dish so commonly served for breakfast in Indonesia, holds a special place in my heart. When my son was about 7, he, my mom, and I spent several weeks in Bali. It was his first trip abroad and we had a wonderful time and many wonderful meals. He enthusiastically took part in cooking classes and cultural events, including an impromptu invitation to a family temple blessing.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Oh, this is one of my favorites! I love hearing about your son’s participation as well – what a great experience for the entire family 🙂

  2. Agua dulce, a sweet, warm drink from Costa Rica, always reminds me of peaceful afternoons with family. I don’t drink coffee, so my in-laws always took the time to make this drink (usually more of a kids’ drink) especially for me so I would have it to drink with them on those comfortable afternoons sitting around the table, sipping our drinks and chatting.

  3. Penelope says

    I always go back to muhammara and hummus. I first tried them at an Egyptian restaurant that opened in my city when I was a child (and, sadly, closed this summer). I have been in love with Ancient Egypt my whole life, and I’ve always said that one day I will buy a nice house in Cairo. But, until I could finally visit the country, that restaurant was all I had to have a taste of their current culture. I absolutely fell in love with the food, but those two mezze are undoubtedly my favourites. Years later my parents took me to Egypt, and now the flavour and the memories are forever linked in my mind and keep making me wish for my next visit.

    I also have to say that it was thanks to you that I finally found a recipe to make muhammara work at home, because all the other recipes fell short to my memories.

    • Sasha Martin says

      I adore Muhammara – I didn’t know about it until I started this blog, actually. I’m THRILLED that you love it as much as we do and that it stacks up to your memories. This means so much.

  4. This sounds like an excellent book! Despite cooking and tasting many world dishes myself, I’d have to say the buckwheat crepes I grew up with are dear to my heart – having moved around every year or two growing up, visiting my grandparents every summer and Christmas was like going home, and those brunches around the table with dinner plate sized buckwheat crepes filled with cheese and ham – eating those now helps to ground me.

    Looking forward to trying this dish out with my vegetarian friends!

  5. Gretchen B says

    Forgot to mention in my post that your daughter, Ava, is adorable! She’s so lucky to be yours.

  6. This looks amazing. I was just thinking about where I am going to go for lunch and now my mouth is watering and I’m craving chana masala! The nearest Indian restaurant is an hour away, though, so I may have to settle for something quite less exciting. I love adventure eating and am also a globetrotter seeking out the most unusual and delicious ethnic offerings. Please take a moment to check out my travel blog at

  7. I have a favourite recipe that I cook when the opportuity arises, but I love cooking it as it was from a cookbook that was a gift from someone who was special to me, and it is something simple that always is a crowd pleaser. The last Christmas I had with close friends in London what was the dish I brought along? You guessed it…

    It’s stuffed onions and is actually really easy to make. Meticulously peel off the onion skins layer by layer and boil them in vegetable stock and white wine till they are soft, then “stuff” them with a mix of feta cheese, bread crumbs garlic and parsley, pour a little stock over the top of the baking dish the are arranged in and put them in the oven until the onions are slightly brown. So good!

    • Sasha Martin says

      This sounds unreal! Is it a traditional British dish? Love the idea of sweet, cooked onion with the feta.

  8. Cristine says

    I am so happy to discover your blog- I hopped over from the post on Chris’ site. I’ve been trying to find a way to satisfy my wanderlust, and my son needs, really needs, to expand his food horizons, so I can’t wait to dig in and start trying some recipes. You are giving your adorable daughter a wonderful gift.

    One dish that holds special memories for me is raclette. Years ago, my mother graciously took me to Germany, Switzerland and Austria- with the understanding that we’d rent a car and I would drive. I was nervous about this, and even after studying the road signs and maps, found myself unsure and anxious on those FAST autobahns. After one afternoon of long, anxious driving, I pulled into Interlaken in Switzerland and we had our first taste of raclette. It was heaven. We spent days relaxing in that beautiful city eating so many wonderful variations of melted cheese! Worth the drive!

  9. Pingback: Indian Curry for Lunch

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