Did you know chickpeas come in multiple sizes and colors? We're familiar with the common garbanzo bean in the West, but in India, the entire chickpea family is much more widely used. This includes a black variety, also known as kala chana or Bengal gram. Relatively unknown in the West, kala chana is an amazing ingredient to work into your diet for several reasons:
- Unlike regular chickpeas, which can be very gas-inducing (in Ayurvedic speak, vata-stimulating), kala chana is much more easily digested. In fact, it actually helps to boost metabolism.
- Like most black foods, kala chana help to alleviate heat stored in the body (i.e., pitta-reducing), making it a great choice for summer eating
- It is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, providing a heightened sense of lasting satiation after eating, and helping to keep the digestive tract in healthy working order.
This summertime salad is one of my favorite ways to enjoy kala chana. You can find them at Indian markets (I source mine from Samosa House in Culver City, CA, which carries several organic brands) or order them online. They can be easily substituted for traditional garbanzo beans in many recipes. You can also find chaat masala and amchoor (dry mango powder) at Indian specialty shops or online. I recommend Spice Station for both of these products online.
Prep time: 15m | Serves 6–8
4 cups kala chana, cooked and cooled (see note below)
1 large handful mint, chopped
1 large handful cilantro (leaves and upper stems), chopped
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 Persian cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 Tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon amchoor (Indian dry mango powder, see note above)
1 teaspoon chaat masala (see note above)
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir very well. The flavor is best if salad is prepared a couple hours in advance of serving.
* Kala chana roughly double in size when cooked, so begin with about two cups dried beans. Soak them overnight, removing any beans that float. Place in a pot and cover with water by about 1-inch. Bring to a boil, and scrape off any foam that accumulates. Reduced heat and cover pot, and cook for 30–40 minutes, or until kala chana are tender. Drain and cool. I recommend doing this a day in advance of making the salad and chilling the kala chana in the refrigerator before eating.