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Besan is the Indian name for gram flour. Besan is obtained by grinding the chickpeas very finely. It is in the form of flour and use to make various side dishes as well as fried snacks. Besan is also famous as ‘garbanzo flour’ or 'chickpea flour'. Color of besan varies from light yellowish to dark yellow. The texture of flour is very smooth and fine. It is also one of the most preferred gluten-free flour throughout the world. Some famous besan recipes are besan ke pakore, besan kadhi and besan ke ladoo.

History of Besan

There is no specific fact mentioned about the history and origin of Besan, though it is widely used in various cuisines all over the world.

Culinary Use of Besan

Besan is a kind of flour that is widely used in culinary world. It is considered a staple ingredient in various cuisines. Usually, besan is used to coat vegetables and meats to make deep-fried fritters often known as ‘pakoras’. It also act as a thickener in gravies and soups. Besan is also a very good binder like egg. It is mixed with other ingredients such as boiled potato and minced meat to make cutlets. Due to the presence of besan, cutlets become crispy and nutty-flavored. Besan is often fried in clarified butter to make sweet besan dishes.

Popular Besan Recipes

Typical Indian sweet, Besan ke ladoo are world famous. Besan chila is also a popular snack in Indian cuisine and it is made up of besan paste. It is a kind of pancake made on hot griddle. Vegetable pakoras and fish pakoras are some of the famous besan recipes made with besan coating. ‘Kadhi’ is one of the most popular besan dishes. Besan is mixed with yogurt and spices and cooked for long time to make Kadhi. Though kadhi has many versions like Punjabi kadhi, Sindhi kadhi and rajashthani kadhi the main ingredient in all dishes is Besan. Burmese tofu is particularly made up of chickpea flour hence it is also one of the besan recipes. Farinata (Italian cuisine), Socco (French cuisine) and jidou liangfen (Chinese ) are some other well-liked besan dishes.

Cuisines Commonly Making Besan Dishes

Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisines are commonly making besan dishes. Besan is a staple ingredient in these recipes. They use besan as a thickener, binder and for coating. As a gluten-free flour, it is used widely in making snacks, side dishes as well as main besan dishes. In Western cuisine, besan is popularly known as gram flour or garbanzo flour. Vegetable fritters are one of the main besan dishes served in western cuisine. Italian, French and Chinese cuisines also make good use of besan as an ingredient.

Preferred Methods for Making Besan Dishes

Besan as an ingredient can be used in many ways. Here are some of the preferred methods for using besan while cooking :

• Deep-frying – Vegetables, fish or meats are coated with besan paste and deep-fried to make snacks.

• Baking – Besan can be used in combination with other flours to be used in various baked dishes.

• Binding – Besan is a good binder hence it is mixed with other ingredients and used to make cutlets and pakoras.

• Boiling – Besan is mixed with yogurt and boiled to make kadhi. It is also added to curries and soups while boiling to thicken them.

• Frying – Besan paste is placed on griddle and fried from both sides to make besan chila, an Indian pancake.

Nutritive Value of Besan

Besan is exceptionally rich in proteins and very low in calories. As mentioned above, it is a non-gluttonous flour unlike wheat and other flours. Carbohydrate content is also very low in besan recipes. Even after having all these nutritive values, besan or besan dishes should be consumed in moderation as it contains more fat as compared to wheat flour.

Buying and Storing of Besan

Besan should always be brought from trusted shops. Always check the manufacturing date on the packet while buying packaged besan. It is always better to take fresh ground besan as it has a nice aroma and contains more fiber. Besan should be stored in refrigerator. Though it is not a highly perishable item it turns rancid if not stored properly. Refrigerated besan can stay fresh for up to 6 months. Cooked besan dishes should be consumed on the same day but leftover dishes can be stored in refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

Types of Besan

Besan is not classified into any category, though the texture and color may differ due to the quality of chickpeas.

Non-food Use of Besan

Besan pastes are used as a good face cleanser or exfoliate in India. Several face packs are available in the market that contains besan. In Indian weddings, besan and turmeric paste is applied on the face and body of bride and groom as a ritual. For removing facial hair, applying besan paste is an effective remedy.