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Desi chana or kala chana is a small dark brown coloured chana with a rough coat, cultivated mostly in India and other parts of the Indian sub-continent, as well as Ethiopia, Mexico and Iran.
It is a smaller version of the regular pale yellow chickpea. Although it has a brown skin, it remains yellow underneath, and has a nutty flavour and starchy texture when cooked. It’s a very versatile legume, with an important role in many Middle Eastern and Indian dishes.
Boiled kala chana
First, wash and soak the kala chana overnight. Wash the soaked chana again in cold water till the water runs clear. Then, place the soaked kala chana in a large pot and cover completely with water. Add salt to taste, and cook covered. Remove from heat and drain it. It can also be cooked in a pressure cooker. The cooking time depends upon one's cooking method. Boiled kala chana can be enjoyed plain – hot or cold – or used in various dishes such as salads and subzis.
Soaked kala chana
Wash the kala chana thoroughly, place in a vessel full of water and allow it to soak. While it can be soaked overnight, generally 3-4 hours is enough to make them grow plump and ready for cooking. The cooked chana can be used in salads, recipes like chana masala or eaten as a chaat with onions and tomatoes, lime juice and masala powders.
How to Select
Sprouted kala chana
Wash and soak kala chana (black chickpeas) in plenty of water, overnight. Next morning, place a cheese cloth on a strainer, and use this to strain away the water in the soaked chickpeas. Bring the edges of the cloth together and tie a knot. Hang the bundle in a windowsill. Allow to sprout. This usually takes a day or two. Once in a while, remove the bundle, sprinkle water and hang again or use a sprayer to keep the cloth moist. Check the sprout and remove it once it is optimally sprouted. If you let it sprout too long, the seed might turn bitter.
Remove the chickpeas once sprouted, and parboil in salted water until they are tender or steam-cook. Sprouted black chickpeas make a great snack and a good addition to curries, stews and kurmas. It is a tasty addition to Pani Puri too.
• Check the chickpeas to avoid contamination with stones and debris.
• Buy pre-packed, or from closed bins, to avoid dust.
• Check the seal of the package.
• Also, inspect the chickpeas to make sure there is no infestation by bugs and insects.Culinary Uses
• Kala chana is a form of conventional chickpeas. These lentils are very nutritious and used in curries and chaats.
• As black chickpeas retain their shape, these beans are a great addition to salads especially sprouted ones.
• They can be lightly sautéed and mixed with fresh diced onions, minced cilantro and lime juice to make a tasty side dish.
• Chickpeas can be cooked with or without salt, sautéed in garlic butter, or with mayonnaise and lightly cooked vegetables to make a delicious salad.
• It is a wonderful addition to Pani Puri.
• Kala chana can be used to make a great accompaniment for naan or roti, with or without other vegetables. How to Store
• Always store dry beans in a dry airtight container at room temperature, and not in the refrigerator.
• Once cooked, the beans can be kept in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 5 days and in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six months.
• Beans are best used within one year, after which they may lose their moisture and take longer to soak and cook.
• Always rinse and sort beans before cooking as beans and lentils may sometimes be contaminated with very small stones.Health Benefits
• Kala chana is a healthy addition to any diet.
• It is naturally low in fat, high in dietary fibre and rich in vitamins and minerals.
• It is high in fibre and protein, and has a low glycemic index. As a result it helps control weight. Enjoying as little as 1/2 cup of kala chana keeps you full and satiated with minimal calories.
• Due to the powerful properties mentioned above, it also boosts intestinal health and reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
• Including 3/4 cup of kala chana in your diet each day can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of heart disease.
• Prefer chickpeas for breakfast or lunch as they are a bit difficult to digest. It is not the best choice for dinner.