Fox & Fig’s Chana Masala Chili

Photo by Jason B. James

When Clay Ehmke was a “poor vegan” living in Austin, Texas, he’d whip up a big batch of chickpeas, tempeh, tomatoes and spices and call it a day. Now the co-owner of Fox & Fig, Savannah’s newly opened plant-based café, Ehmke still lives off of the stuff, albeit a souped-up version created by Fox & Fig’s co-chefs, Anthony Bayness and Shawn Harrison. 

Fox & Fig’s Chana Masala Chili

about 12 servings
1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced
2 large onions, chopped
3 16-oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 lbs. tempeh, uncut (Ehmke prefers West Soy or Lightlife)
8 cups fire-roasted tomatoes (2.5 28-ounce cans)
3 Tbsp. coriander
3 Tbsp. cumin
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped
3 Tbsp. amchor (dried mango powder)
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. garam masala
1 Tbsp. cacao (unsweetened cocoa powder)  
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
8 cups vegetable stock
1/8 cup molasses
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup hickory-flavored liquid smoke (Ehmke prefers Colgin)
2 bottles Saison beer (Ehmke prefers Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale by Boulevard Brewing Co.)
½ cup cilantro for topping, loosely chopped

Vegan Sour Crema:
1 14 oz. pack firm silken tofu (Ehmke prefers West Soy or Lightlife) 
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. plain rapeseed or canola oil 
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt, according to taste

Chili: In a large pot, sauté garlic and ginger until lightly browned. Add onion and caramelize for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, toss all dry spices on a sheet pan and bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.

Heat a cast iron pan to medium high heat and sear tempeh, about three minutes on each side. Cool enough to cut into cubes, then add to onion mix.

Add chickpeas and sauté for 5 minutes, then add toasted spices and all liquid ingredients, except the beer, and mix well. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Add beer and reduce to a rolling boil for at least another 30-45 minutes. The longer it cooks, the richer and thicker it becomes.

Vegan Sour Crema: Blend the tofu until its grainy texture disappears and it becomes smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until mixed well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

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