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Besan recipes are as numerous in India as there are dialects, and all of them are mouth-wateringly tasty, whether sweet or savoury. A look at this humble flour.
Besan or chana dal flour or chick pea flour or gram flour is a storehouse of proteins! It is nutritious, and an essential part of the diet of vegetarians & vegans. Needless to add, it is supremely tasty! Just think of the yummy dishes that are made using besan recipes – boondi laddoos, besan ladoos, mysore pak, bhajiyas, dhoklas, sev, ghatias, etc…The list is infinite. Imagine also, India’s street foods like chats without a besan element – it seems impossible!
There are a host of other benefits of incorporating besan recipes in your diet. Besan is denser than atta or whole wheat flour, and it also has more fibre. So, it keeps us full longer. Therefore it is good for weight loss. Besan helps in controlling diabetes, improves heart health, increases iron content, helps strengthen bones etc.
Besan, in fact can be compared to chocolate. And yet besan recipes are is more versatile. Chocolate can be added to make cakes, ice creams, cookies, pancakes, sweets, mouse, energy bars, etc. And yet chocolate can in no way be added to make any savory dish. Besan recipes also use the flour as a binder. Needless to add that adding it makes the dish flavorful.
Let us look at the various besan recipes that are scattered across many Indian cuisines.
Besan is used in bhajiyas or pakoras of myriad kinds. These are perhaps the most sinful and mouthwatering, and most versatile among savoury besan recipes. Sevs, ghatias, fafdas, etc. are other deep fried snacks. You may add your own favourites to this list.
Dosas of besan called chilas can be a great breakfast item. Even tomato omlettes, a vegetarian version of omelettes uses besan instead of eggs, veggies like tomatoes, onions, fresh coriander etc., and make for a refreshingly easy and adaptable besan recipe.
Besan can be added to whole wheat flour for making any vegetable filled parathas like that of gobhi, mooli, palak parathas, or theplas. Punjabis and Sindhis make the missi roti which uses besan as the main flour along with wheat flour & other flours in lesser quantities.
Besan can be added to vegetables to make them more tasty. Maharashtrians have a besan recipe of stir fried capsicum – this dry (yet interestingly moist) vegetable stir fry is perfect for a lunch box, as it won’t leak. A similar version of bhindi or even chopped spring onion shoots with besan turns out to be yummy as well.
Kannadigas make a besan version of fresh methi greens which can also be made with chana dal.
Rajasthani gatte ki sabzi uses besan dumplings in a curry base .
A similar Sindhi kadhi uses tomatoes and other assorted veggies.
Besan ke chaval is the rice version of using besan with a carbohydrate to make a staple dish.
There are numerous sweets made from besan. Mysore pak, besan ladoos, soan papdi, to name a few – are the perfect ending to an Indian meal. Besan pinni, and of course motichoor laddoos are what we crave for during festivals and even otherwise!
Besan symbolises unity in diversity. Besan has a pan India presence as it is used in so many dishes in varied ways by all communities across India. Needless to add, that it makes even the most boring dish flavorful! Legend has it that when Shah Jahan was imprisioned by his son Aurangzeb in the Red Fort, he was asked to pick just one grain that he could be served in his food, and he chose the versatile chana dal – there are so many besan recipes that can be made!
Gram flour is also used as a face pack for skin cleansing since ages as we Indians. In fact, chick pea flour mixed with ingredients like dahi, lemon juice, etc can moisturize and cleanse skin, make it oil free, and make skin glow. Besan application can lighten blemishes and even help in controlling acne, helping in giving the user a clearer skin.
The one point that can be agreed upon is that besan is sinful, probably more sinful than chocolate. Perhaps the Indian answer to Chocolate & beyond. Now only if our generation next pays heed and take up the versatile besan in its myriad avatars!