What is Bengal Gram
Bengal gram split chickpea, also known as “chana dal” or “split chickpea lentils,” is a type of legume. It is derived from the larger chickpea (Cicer arietinum) and is prepared by removing the outer layer of the chickpea and then splitting it into two halves. The result is a small, pale yellow lentil with a slightly nutty flavor and a firm texture.
Chana dal is a staple ingredient in Indian and South Asian cuisine and is used in a wide variety of dishes, including dals (lentil soups), curries, snacks, and sweets. It is a rich source of plant-based protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a nutritious addition to vegetarian and vegan diets. Chana dal is known for its versatility and ability to absorb the flavors of the spices and seasonings used in various recipes. It is commonly used in both savory and sweet dishes, showcasing its culinary diversity.
Other Names of Bengal Gram
Bengal gram, also known as chickpea or chana, goes by various names in different regions and languages around the world. Here are some of the common names and regional variations:
- Chickpea: This is the most common English name for Bengal gram.
- Chana: This is the Hindi and Urdu name for Bengal gram, commonly used in India and Pakistan.
- Garbanzo Beans: In some English-speaking regions, Bengal gram is referred to as garbanzo beans.
- Gram or Gram Dal: In India, Bengal gram is often simply referred to as “gram” or “gram dal.”
- Kabuli Chana: This term specifically refers to the Kabuli variety of Bengal gram, which is larger and rounder.
- Desi Chana: This term is used to distinguish the smaller, darker Desi variety of Bengal gram from the Kabuli variety.
- Ceci Beans: In Italian cuisine, Bengal gram is called “ceci beans.”
- Kichererbsen: In German, Bengal gram is known as “kichererbsen.”
- Nohut: In Turkish, it is referred to as “nohut.”
- Hummus Beans: This term is used because Bengal gram is a key ingredient in making hummus.
- Bengal Gram Beans: This is another descriptive name for the legume.
- Chick Peas: This is a common variation of the term “chickpea.”
These are some of the many names used for Bengal gram around the world, reflecting its widespread use in various cuisines and cultures.
Nutritional Value of Bengal Gram
Here is the approximate nutritional value of split chickpeas, also known as chana dal, per 100 grams when cooked without salt:
|Nutrient||Amount per 100g (Cooked)|
|Dietary Fiber||7.6 grams|
|Saturated Fat||0.2 grams|
|Monounsaturated Fat||0.3 grams|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||0.4 grams|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.03 grams|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||0.36 grams|
|Vitamins and Minerals|
|Vitamin A||13 IU|
|Vitamin C||0.8 mg|
|Vitamin K||1.5 mcg|
|Thiamin (Vitamin B1)||0.2 mg|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||0.1 mg|
|Niacin (Vitamin B3)||1.2 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.2 mg|
|Folate (Vitamin B9)||120 mcg|
Please note that these values are approximate and can vary based on factors such as the specific variety of chana dal, cooking method, and preparation. Chana dal is a nutritious food rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a valuable addition to a balanced diet.
Benefits of Bengal Gram
Bengal Gram, also known as chana dal, offers a range of health benefits due to its nutritional profile. Here are some of the key benefits of consuming split chickpea:
- Rich in Protein: Chana dal is an excellent source of plant-based protein, making it a valuable addition to vegetarian and vegan diets. Protein is essential for muscle repair, growth, and overall body function.
- High in Dietary Fiber: Chana dal is rich in dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and promotes a feeling of fullness, reducing overeating.
- Weight Management: The combination of protein and fiber in chana dal can help with weight management by reducing appetite and promoting satiety.
- Heart Health: Chana dal is known to support heart health. The fiber and potassium in chana dal can help lower blood pressure, and the low glycemic index of chana dal can assist in managing cholesterol levels.
- Blood Sugar Control: Chana dal has a low glycemic index, meaning it has a relatively low impact on blood sugar levels. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing diabetes.
- Digestive Health: The fiber in chana dal promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent constipation. It also supports a healthy gut microbiome.
- Nutrient-Rich: Chana dal contains essential vitamins and minerals, including folate (vitamin B9), iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. These nutrients are important for overall health and well-being.
- Bone Health: Chana dal provides calcium and magnesium, both of which are crucial for maintaining strong and healthy bones.
- Antioxidants: Chana dal contains antioxidants, such as flavonoids and polyphenols, which help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Energy Boost: The carbohydrates in chana dal provide a steady source of energy due to their complex nature. This can help combat fatigue and provide sustained energy throughout the day.
- Low in Fat: Chana dal is naturally low in fat, making it a heart-healthy choice.
- Skin Health: The vitamins and minerals in chana dal, including zinc and vitamin A, contribute to healthy skin and may help with conditions like acne.
Incorporating split chickpea (chana dal) into your diet through various dishes like dals, soups, salads, and snacks can be a delicious and nutritious way to enjoy these health benefits. However, as with any food, moderation is key, and it’s essential to maintain a balanced diet for overall well-being.
What Does Bengal Gram Taste Like
Bengal gram, also known as chickpeas or chana, has a mild, nutty, and slightly earthy flavor. The taste can vary slightly depending on the variety of chickpeas (Desi or Kabuli) and how they are prepared. Here’s a general description of the taste of Bengal gram:
- Mild Nuttiness: bengal gram have a subtle nutty flavor that is often described as earthy or slightly nutty. This flavor is more pronounced when chickpeas are roasted or toasted.
- Slightly Earthy: There is a mild earthiness to the taste of chickpeas, which can be enhanced when they are cooked in savory dishes or used in stews and curries.
- Neutral: Split Chickpeas have a relatively neutral taste, which makes them versatile in various dishes. They can absorb the flavors of the spices, herbs, and other ingredients used in recipes.
- Creamy: Split chickpeas take on a creamy texture that contributes to the overall taste experience.
- Slightly Sweet: Some people detect a subtle sweetness in chickpeas, especially in the Kabuli variety, although this sweetness is not as pronounced as in some other legumes.
Overall, Bengal gram’s flavor is pleasant and adaptable, making it a versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet dishes. It’s often used as a base for various recipes and readily takes on the flavors of the seasonings and ingredients it’s cooked with, making it a favorite in many cuisines around the world.
How to Cook Bengal Gram
How to Cook Bengal Gram
- 1 cup Bengal gram
- Water for soaking
- Water for cooking
- Salt to taste
- Optional seasonings and spices e.g., bay leaves, garlic, onion, cumin seeds, turmeric, etc.
Soaking the Chickpeas:
- Rinse the bengal gram under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris.
- Place the rinsed bengal gram in a large bowl and cover them with enough water to submerge them completely.
- Let the bengal gram soak for at least 2 hours.
Draining and Rinsing:
- After soaking, drain the bengal in a colander and rinse them thoroughly with cold water.
Cooking the Chickpeas:
- Place the soaked and rinsed bengal gram in a large pot or pressure cooker.
- Add enough water to cover the bengal gram by about 2 inches (about 5 cm).
- If desired, add seasonings and spices like bay leaves, garlic, onions, or cumin seeds to enhance the flavor.
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
- If using a regular pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for 30 mins or until the bengal gram are tender. Check occasionally and add more water if needed to keep them submerged.
- If using a pressure cooker, follow the manufacturer's instructions for cooking chickpeas. Typically, it takes about 15-20 minutes under pressure to cook soaked bengal gram. Be sure to release pressure safely according to the cooker's instructions.
Seasoning and Salt:
- When the bengal gram are tender, season them with salt to taste. Adding salt earlier in the cooking process can toughen the chickpeas, so it's best to do it toward the end.
Draining and Using:
- Drain the cooked bengal gram using a colander. You can save the cooking liquid (aquafaba) for other recipes or discard it.
How To Use Bengal Gram
Bengal Gram (Split chickpea), also known as chana dal, is a versatile ingredient that can be used in various culinary applications. Here are some common ways to use split chickpea in your cooking:
- Chana Dal Curry: Prepare a flavorful Indian curry by simmering split chickpeas in a tomato-based sauce with spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. Serve with rice or flatbread.
- Dals and Soups: Chana dal is a popular choice for making dals (lentil or legume soups). You can also add it to other soup recipes for added texture and protein.
- Salads: Cooked and cooled chana dal can be added to salads for an extra boost of protein and fiber. They pair well with vegetables, greens, and various dressings.
- Tempering: Chana dal is often used in Indian tempering (tadka) for various dishes. It adds a delightful crunch and nutty flavor when fried with spices like mustard seeds and curry leaves.
- Snacks: Chana dal can be roasted and seasoned with spices to make a crunchy and nutritious snack. It’s a popular snack in many parts of India.
- Batters: Chana dal can be ground into a fine or coarse flour to make batters for savory pancakes, fritters, and crepes. It’s commonly used in South Indian cuisine.
- Dosa and Idli: Chana dal is an essential ingredient in making dosa and idli batters, two popular South Indian dishes.
- Desserts: Chana dal is sometimes used in Indian desserts, such as chana dal halwa, a sweet and rich dish made with split chickpea, ghee, and sugar.
- Baking: Chana dal flour can be used as a gluten-free alternative in baking. It can be used in recipes for pancakes, crepes, and savory dishes like chickpea flatbread.
- Bowls: Create balanced and nutritious bowl meals by combining split chickpea with grains (e.g., rice), vegetables, and sauces or dressings.
- Sides: Chana dal can be cooked and served as a side dish alongside main courses like vegetables or meats.
Remember to adjust your cooking and seasoning based on your preferences and dietary restrictions. Split chickpea, or chana dal, is a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can be incorporated into various dishes to add flavor, texture, and protein to your meals.
Substitute for Bengal Gram
If you need a substitute for Bengal gram (chickpeas) in a recipe, consider these alternatives based on the context and your dietary preferences:
- Canned Chickpeas: If the recipe calls for cooked or canned chickpeas and you don’t have Bengal gram on hand, you can often use canned chickpeas as a substitute. Be sure to drain and rinse them before use.
- Lentils: Depending on the recipe, lentils can be a good substitute. Red lentils, in particular, cook relatively quickly and can be used in dishes like soups and curries.
- Other Beans: Different types of beans like black beans, kidney beans, or white beans can be used as substitutes, but keep in mind that they have slightly different textures and flavors.
- Tofu: In certain recipes, especially vegan and vegetarian ones, tofu can be used as a protein substitute. Crumbled or cubed tofu can replace chickpeas in some dishes.
- Seitan: Seitan, a high-protein meat substitute made from gluten, can be used in place of chickpeas in some recipes, particularly those where a meaty texture is desired.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is another plant-based protein source that can replace chickpeas in certain dishes. It has a nutty flavor and a firm texture.
- Nuts: In salads and some recipes, you can use nuts like almonds, cashews, or peanuts to add a crunchy texture and protein.
- Quinoa: In salads and grain bowls, cooked quinoa can be used as a substitute for chickpeas to add protein and a hearty texture.
- Edamame: Edamame, young soybeans, can work as a substitute in some recipes, particularly those with an Asian or Japanese influence.
- Chopped Vegetables: In some cases, chopped vegetables like zucchini, carrots, or bell peppers can be used as a substitute for chickpeas to add texture and bulk to a recipe.
Remember that the choice of substitute may affect the texture, flavor, and overall profile of the dish. Be sure to adjust the cooking time and seasonings accordingly to achieve the desired result.
Where to Buy Bengal Gram
- Grocery Stores: Most grocery stores, supermarkets, and international food markets carry dried and canned chickpeas. They are often found in the dry goods or canned goods section. Look for them in the legume or bean aisle.
- Health Food Stores: Health food stores and natural food markets often carry organic and specialty varieties of chickpeas, including bulk bins where you can purchase them by weight.
- Online Retailers: Many online retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart, and specialty food websites, offer a wide selection of chickpeas. You can order both dried and canned chickpeas online and have them delivered to your doorstep.
- International Grocery Stores: If you’re looking for specific varieties of chickpeas, such as Kabuli or Desi, consider visiting international grocery stores that cater to Middle Eastern, Indian, or Mediterranean cuisines. They often have a variety of chickpeas to choose from.
- Farmers’ Markets: Some farmers’ markets may offer dried legumes, including chickpeas, depending on your location and the season.
- Local Co-ops and Bulk Stores: Food cooperatives and bulk food stores often sell dried chickpeas in bulk, allowing you to purchase the quantity you need.
- Online Specialty Retailers: There are online specialty retailers that focus on providing a wide range of legumes, including chickpeas, in various sizes and varieties. These can be a good option if you’re looking for specific types or qualities of chickpeas.
When buying chickpeas, consider whether you want dried or canned chickpeas. Dried chickpeas require soaking and cooking, while canned chickpeas are pre-cooked and ready to use. The choice depends on your preference and the convenience you need for your recipes.
How To Store Bengal Gram
Properly storing Bengal gram (split chickpeas) is important to ensure their freshness and prevent spoilage. Here are some guidelines on how to store Bengal gram, whether they are dried or cooked:
1. Dried Bengal Gram (Uncooked):
- Cool, Dry Place: Store dried bengal gram in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, such as a pantry or cupboard. Make sure the container is sealed tightly to prevent moisture from entering.
- Protect from Light: Keep the container away from direct sunlight, as prolonged exposure to light can cause the chickpeas to become discolored and lose quality.
- Check for Insects: Split Chickpeas can sometimes harbor insect larvae, so it’s a good practice to inspect them before storing. Look for any signs of infestation, such as tiny holes in the chickpeas, and discard any affected ones.
- Use Within a Year: Bengal gram have a long shelf life when stored properly. They can remain good for up to a year or even longer if kept in ideal conditions.
2. Cooked Bengal Gram (Leftovers):
- Refrigeration: If you have cooked split chickpeas as leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Cooked chickpeas should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking.
- Use Within a Few Days: Cooked split chickpeas can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. After that, their quality may start to deteriorate.
- Freezing (Optional): If you have a large batch of cooked split chickpeas that you can’t use within a few days, consider freezing them. Place them in a freezer-safe container or resealable freezer bags, and they can be stored for up to 6 months in the freezer.
3. Canned Bengal Gram (Precooked):
- Pantry: Canned split chickpeas are precooked and come in a sealed can. You can store unopened cans of bengal gram in your pantry at room temperature until the expiration date indicated on the can.
- Refrigeration (Once Opened): After opening a can of bengal gram, transfer any unused portion to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Freezing (Optional): If you want to extend the shelf life of opened canned bengal gram you can freeze them. Place them in a freezer-safe container or resealable bags, and they should last for several months in the freezer.
Always label containers with the date of storage to help you keep track of how long the bengal gram have been stored. Additionally, if you notice any signs of spoilage, such as an off odor, mold, or unusual texture, it’s best to discard the bengal gram to ensure food safety.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Bengal Gram
1. What is Bengal gram?
Bengal gram, also known as chickpea or chana, is a type of legume belonging to the Fabaceae family. It is known for its edible seeds, which are widely used in various culinary dishes.
2. What are the different varieties of Bengal gram?
There are two main varieties of Bengal gram: Desi and Kabuli. Desi chickpeas are smaller, darker, and have a rough coat, while Kabuli chickpeas are larger, rounder, and have a smoother coat.
3. How do you cook dried Bengal gram?
To cook dried Bengal gram, you typically need to soak them in water for several hours or overnight to rehydrate. Then, they can be simmered or boiled until they become tender. The cooking time can vary depending on the variety and freshness of the chickpeas.
4. Can I use canned chickpeas as a substitute for dried Bengal gram?
Yes, canned chickpeas are precooked and can be used as a substitute for dried Bengal gram in recipes. Be sure to rinse and drain them before use.
5. What are the nutritional benefits of Bengal gram?
Bengal gram is a good source of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins (such as vitamin B6 and folate), minerals (including iron, magnesium, and potassium), and antioxidants. It is often included in vegetarian and vegan diets for its nutritional value.
6. What are some common dishes made with Bengal gram?
Bengal gram is used in a wide range of dishes, including chana masala, hummus, falafel, salads, soups, stews, curries, and roasted chickpea snacks.
7. Can chickpea flour be used as a substitute for other flours in baking?
Yes, chickpea flour can be used as a gluten-free substitute for wheat flour in various baking recipes. It can be used to make pancakes, crepes, flatbreads, and even certain desserts.
8. Are there any health considerations when consuming Bengal gram?
While Bengal gram is highly nutritious, some individuals may experience digestive discomfort when consuming large quantities due to its fiber content. It’s important to cook chickpeas thoroughly to aid digestion. If you have specific dietary concerns or allergies, consult with a healthcare professional.
9. Where can I purchase Bengal gram?
You can buy Bengal gram, both dried and canned, at grocery stores, supermarkets, health food stores, online retailers, and international food markets.
10. How should I store Bengal gram to keep it fresh?
Dried Bengal gram should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Cooked chickpeas should be stored in the refrigerator if not used immediately, and canned chickpeas should be stored in a cool, dry pantry until opened.