Weekend Cooking

Did You Know Chickpea Flour Could Do *This*?

February 23, 2017

Chickpeas do this and this and that, but chickpea flour?

It thickens the Gujarati yogurt soup kadhi and the Burmese soup mohinga. It's mixed with minced meat for Iranian gondi and with confectioners' sugar, ghee, and cardamom for Indian besan laddu. It bakes into Provençal socca or Ligurian farinata. It fries into panelle or panisse, pudla or pakoras. It's a bird! It's a plane!

And it's an inexpensive freezer-dweller: Keep it there for months (though it won't take you that long to work through a bag).

In the case of Burmese tofu (also known as Shan tofu for the state in the northeast part of the country where it originated), chickpea flour gets mixed with water and cooked into a gruel that resembles polenta. It's then transferred to a pan, where it cools into a firm but forgiving block that also resembles... well... polenta—but with a smooth jiggle and a nutty, bitter edge that makes it enjoyable to eat as-is, cube by cube.

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Top Comment:
“Wow! Thanks. I use chickpea flour to make vegan quiche, but this is a whole new dimension. Can't wait to try it.”
— Lazyretirementgirl
Comment

It's got what I've always longed for from flabby, supermarket soy tofu (and polenta, too, for that matter): bold flavor, velvety texture. And, unlike tofu, it's easy to make at home.

While Shan tofu can be started from dried chickpeas, as in the video of the traditional method above, chickpea flour winnows the process down to just two hours: In this recipe from Delicious Everyday, along with most others you'll find on the internet, you simply mix together the water and chickpea flour and then whisk that sludge into more water you've heated on the stove, stirring until the mixture is thick. Pour into an oiled pan, forget about it for an hour, and you've got tofu.

I had success with the simpler technique, but I actually preferred the more complicated version from Sarah Britton of My New Roots, who found Christina Aung's recipe on NetCooks. Here, the chickpea flour is fermented overnight (or for 8 to 12 hours), then drained of excess liquid. The remaining bean water is simmered, then the flour sludge is incorporated. After all of that, there's an eight-hour wait. It may be a slower, more detailed process, full of sitting and soaking and stirring in stages, but it produces a firmer, more flavorful Shan tofu.

More: Watch Sarah make dairy-free "meta feta" from her newest book, Naturally Nourished.

Ready to snack on, to deep-fry, or to turn into salad: You pick! Photo by Mark Weinberg

If you are eager to make this recipe tonight or you're in the market for a tender, more wiggly end result, do take the faster route. But line the pan with cheesecloth or a towel even if the recipe doesn't specify to do so: The fabric absorbs the moisture, preventing a layer of water from rising to the top of your tofu block.

As for what to do with the chickpea tofu, you can snack on the cubes as they are, or you can take inspiration from the Burmese dish to hpu gyaw and deep-fry them in a high-sided skillet or wok for crisp outer skins and custardy-soft interiors. I like to go halfway to deep-fry: I slice the block into thin strips, then quickly sear them in a bit of hot oil in a nonstick pan. Either way, serve with a spicy dipping sauce.

And for some ideas and intel from around the web...

  • On Little Fig Blog, Mae, who found the recipe in Naomi Duguid's Burma: Rivers of Flavor, has experimented with flavoring the batter, before it sets up, with curry powder, ground coriander, and chili powder.
  • The Chickpea Tofu Salad on the blog Lime and Cilantro is made with noodle-like tofu strips, shredded cabbage, onion slivers, fried shallots, toasted chickpea flour, and a fish sauce-chili oil-tamarind dressing.
  • One Green Planet has recipes for chickpea tofu "nuggets" (chunks of tofu beer-battered and fried) and "egg" salad (smashed with mayonnaise, mustard, and black salt).

What's your favorite way to use chickpea flour? Share with us in the comments below.

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15 Comments

kmunk February 26, 2017
I find it culturally inappropriate to call tofu flabby. It's quite possible that you just don't know how it'd supposed to be cooked. I'm afraid you can't compare apples to oranges. I recommend avoiding negative descriptions of food that you're not familiar with when comparing and contrasting it with another.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 26, 2017
Hi kmunk, I apologize for any insensitivity (and poor word choice). I was referring specifically to the mass-produced supermarket tofu. When I wrote this article about the introduction of tofu to the US (https://food52.com/blog/16273-why-the-tofu-you-re-eating-is-bland-it-s-not-your-fault), Minh Tsai, who makes small batch, artisanal tofu in California, told me he didn't even consider it tofu at all. But I could (and should) have been more specific in this article: I didn't mean in any way to suggest one tofu type is superior to the other.
 
Carey June 18, 2017
My dear kmunk, I think you've driven the PC bandwagon off the edge of a very silly cliff. Many brands/types of tofu are technically "flabby" in texture. Relax and enjoy the tofu you like best. If she said something in negative regarding the people or culture of people who would eat food she dislikes, it would be in poor taste. But a recipe writer actually reviewing and contrasting types of food to her particular taste is just that, a review. An article with her point of view is why we click on and read a specific author's work or a specific topic. To gain insight or share a new perspective. And as a human (a trait we all share) we all have different tastes we enjoy and that we dislike. In my house alone we have 5 different very flavor profiles we enjoy. Whereas I'm partial to all Indian foods (any region, any type of curry!!) my husband prefers Thai, my daughter is an adventurous vegetarian, my other son a pescatarian and lastly, my oldest son loves the food of the American South. And if you would have them describe each other's favorites, they would all be grossed out, and graphically verbalize it. They aren't culturally insensitive - they are intelligent people with taste buds and opinions. Just like you and me! (And Sarah Jampel too) Please don't get yourself all upset with this- just enjoy your favorite types of food and don't read anything negative into a foodies notes on their favorite flavors. Have a delicious day! Peace :)
 
amysarah February 23, 2017
This is very close to Provencales Panisses - chick pea flour cooked with water, olive oil and salt, cooled and cut into batons, then fried (I pan fry them) until crispy outside, creamy inside. Nothing better with a glass of rose in the summer.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 23, 2017
Yes, and panelle, too! https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014755-panelle
 
Valhalla February 23, 2017
I also discovered this in Burma (the book) and have made a salad with sliced lime leaves (and made a mess trying to fry it). I used to enjoy a type of chickpea flour pasta snack called khandvi in a now-closed Indian place in DC--would love to recreate that!
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 23, 2017
That salad sounds great! And I'll definitely need to look into khandvi—sounds delicious.
 
Annada R. February 23, 2017
Wow! Didn't know you could make tofu out of this workhorse of the Indian kitchen. Thanks Sarah!
 
Panfusine February 23, 2017
Fresh pasta, extruded directly into the cooking water and then tossed in a sauce or dressing. its a perfect vegan binder for wherever egg whites are required.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 23, 2017
Kind of like chickpea flour spaetzle?!
 
Panfusine February 23, 2017
yep, exactly like spaetzle
 
Panfusine February 23, 2017
http://www.panfusine.com/2012/04/khandvi-deconstructed-chickpea-flour.html
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 23, 2017
Thanks, Panfusine!! I am going to try that this weekend and let you know how it goes. Looks wonderful.
 
Lazyretirementgirl February 23, 2017
Wow! Thanks. I use chickpea flour to make vegan quiche, but this is a whole new dimension. Can't wait to try it.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 23, 2017
Hope you like it!