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Besan: Chickpea Flour of Choice for Indian Fritters

In India, chickpea flour is widely used for its versatility in batters, soups, desserts, and some breads.

This delicate yellow flour is more commonly known as besan or gram flour. It's a fantastic substitute for eggs and is often mixed as the base for vegetarian omelets. Besan is also blended into koftas (meatballs) and it is an important ingredient in the North-Indian Kadhi, which is a yogurt-based soup.

Besan is milled from a smaller, roasted version of what we know as garbanzos, and referred to as chana dal. The aroma is best described as slightly "earthy." Besan has cosmetic properties as well. Many Indian women commonly mix it with rose water or milk and use it as a facial scrub. (scroll down for rest of article)


One of our favorite recipes for besan is known as pakoras, or bhaji. They are simply vegetable fritters, deep-fried to a beautiful golden brown. In India, they are often sold by street vendors. In homes, pakoras are cooked as snacks and for meals.

If you're planning to make them as a side dish, use a selection of one or more bite-sized vegetables or florets. For appetizers, they can be diced, minced, and grated. The nicest part is that they can be "pre-fried." Just drain, keep refrigerated, then re-fry them in your choice of cooking oil when ready to serve.

Pakoras

Use a selection of cauliflower florets, potatoes, zucchini, onions, and eggplant, all in bite-sized pieces or sliced into rounds.

Batter
1 cup besan
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Water (approximately ¾ cup, but will vary)

Combine the flour, chili powder, and baking powder. Slowly start adding water to create a thick batter. Let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes.

Use a deep-fryer or a skillet to heat the oil to 375º F/190º C. Dip each of the vegetable pieces in the batter and then drop gently into hot oil. Leave plenty of room for even browning. Turn as the bottom sides begin to brown. Cook for approximately 8 minutes, or until batter is browned.

Remember, you can create pakoras with diced veggies or onion rings, if desired. You'll want a thicker batter for the diced version as you'll be forming balls with the mixture.

Kids will love these dipped in ketchup, but you may also wish to serve with a chutney.

Our besan pancakes are another quick and easy snack. You can make them with any spices of choice and with or without finely diced green onions and tomatoes. We typically would include chili powder, cumin, red pepper, and garlic powder.

Just mix in a little water and stir to remove the lumps to reach a pancake consistency. Add spices, salt and pepper if desired, and any veggies. Coat a skillet with cooking spray and pour in about one-third cup of mix. Allow to spread and let it begin to turn golden brown on the bottom. You may wish to re-spray before cooking the other side. Serve hot or keep in oven on low heat until ready to eat.

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