Chickpea or Garbonzo Bean and the Best of Both

Hummus from The Nile

Hummus and Pita bread was my first introduction to the humble chickpea. As a young man I travelled to Whistler for spring skiing and the favourite new discovery was Greek food and especially Hummus and Pita bread. When I think about it, this was my first foreign food aside from fake Chinese. Even sushi was just getting started in those days but American, Italian and Greek were the primary choices.

Chana masala, India
Chana masala, India

Chickpea sprout

Sprouted chickpea
Chickpea sprout

Years later I learned how to make Hummus and have decided that it’s such an important dish that I needed to write about it and the humble chickpea.

My food preparedness includes lots of Chickpeas, both canned in water and dry.

Garbanzo bean sounds more glamorous but it’s the same family as Chick pea. Its different types are variously known as gram or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean, or Egyptian pea. Chickpea seeds are high in protein. It is one of the earliest cultivated legumes, and 9500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East.

Chickpea pods

Why all the fuss about the Chickpea?

Lebanese-style hummus
Lebanese-style hummus. Hummus is in a brown ceramic bowl, with an indentation at the center containing olive oil and chickpeas. Hummus is sprinkled at the edges with paprika. Photo by Mr Hassan.

Chickpea Culinary

See also: List of chickpea dishes

Chickpeas are usually rapidly boiled for 10 minutes and then simmered for a longer period. Dried chickpeas need a long cooking time (1–2 hours) but will easily fall apart when cooked longer. If soaked for 12–24 hours before use, cooking time can be shortened by around 30 minutes. Chickpeas can also be pressure cooked or sous vide cooked at 90 °C (194 °F).

Mature chickpeas can be cooked and eaten cold in salads, cooked in stews, ground into flour, ground and shaped in balls and fried as falafel, made into a batter and baked to make farinata or cecina, or fried to make panelle. Chickpea flour is known as gram flour or besan in South Asia and used frequently in South Asian cuisine.

In Portugal, chickpeas are one of the main ingredients in rancho, eaten with pasta and meat or with rice. They are used in other hot dishes with bacalhau and in soups, meat stews, and salads mixed with tuna and vegetables, olive oil, vinegar, hot pepper and salt. In Spain, they are used cold in tapas and salads, as well as in cocido madrileño.

Hummus is the Arabic word for chickpeas, which are often cooked and ground into a paste and mixed with tahini (sesame seed paste), the blend called ḥummuṣ bi ṭaḥīna. Chickpeas are roasted, spiced, and eaten as a snack, such as leblebi. By the end of the 20th century, hummus had become commonplace in American cuisine. By 2010, 5% of Americans consumed hummus on a regular basis, and it was present at some point in 17% of American households.

Chickpeas and Bengal grams are used to make curries and are one of the most popular vegetarian foods in the Indian subcontinent and in diaspora communities of many other countries served with variety of breads or steamed rice. Popular dishes in Indian cuisine are made with chickpea flour, such as mirchi bajji and mirapakaya bajji.

In India, as well as in the Levant, unripe chickpeas are often picked out of the pod and eaten as a raw snack and the leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable in salads. In India, desserts such as besan halwa and sweets such as mysore pak, besan barfi and laddu are made.

Chickpea flour is used to make “Burmese tofu” which was first known among the Shan people of Burma. In South Asian cuisine the chickpea flour (besan) is used as a batter to coat vegetables before deep frying to make pakoras. The flour is also used as a batter to coat vegetables and meats before frying, or fried alone such as panelle (little bread), a chickpea fritter from Sicily.

Chickpea flour is used to make the Mediterranean flatbread socca and called panisse in Provence, southern France. It is made of cooked chickpea flour, poured into saucers, allowed to set, cut in strips, and fried in olive oil, often eaten during Lent. In Tuscany chickpea flour (farina di ceci) is used to make an oven baked pancake: the flour is mixed with water, oil and salt.

Chickpea flour known as kadlehittu in Kannada is used for making sweet dish Mysorepak.

In the Philippines, chickpeas preserved in syrup are eaten as sweets and in desserts such as halo-halo.

Ashkenazi Jews traditionally serve whole chickpeas, referred to as arbes (אַרבעס) in Yiddish, at the Shalom Zachar celebration for baby boys. The chickpeas are boiled until soft, and served hot with salt and lots of ground black pepper.

Guasanas or garbanza is a Mexican chickpea street snack. The beans, while still green, are cooked in water and salt, kept in a steamer to maintain their humidity, and served in a plastic bag.

A chickpea-derived liquid (aquafaba) can be used as an egg white replacement to make meringue or ice cream, with the residual pomace used as flour.


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