Apparently chickpea flour, or more accurately things made from it, are huge in the U.S. now. This was an observation I read in an article at NPR’s website devoted to food issues, The Salt. The article I read was written by Priya Krishna, who in addition to contributing to NPR has a cookbook out called “Indian-ish” that purports to “merge Indian and American cuisine, including such dishes as tomato-cheese masala toast, roti noodle stir-fry, herby avocado sandwich, and garlic-ginger chicken with cilantro and mint.” That doesn’t particularly sound like my cuppa, but I haven’t read it.
Regardless, I mention the article not because of the author or even to alert you to the existence of flour made from chickpeas. It’s the bits at the start of the article, in which Krishna describes her surprise that an ingredient so common to Indian cuisine has suddenly become popular here, and the end, in which she laments that chickpea flour is being heralded as a “new” discovery.
Krishna does this in a nuanced way: “No one culture can ‘own’ an ingredient,” she says, but in the next sentence she wants to make sure we view it properly: “Let’s not treat food like it exists in a vacuum. There’s context for that chickpea flour flatbread you’re making for dinner. Don’t take it for granted.”
I’ll be the first person to agree that an ingredient can be used differently by providing examples from different cuisines. Chickpeas are one of the earliest crops to have been domesticated and are used in a host of ways, from hummus to flatbreads to a sort of tofu-substitute made by the Shan people of Myanmar (Burma). I have no reason to believe that the most diverse use of the legume is in India, but chickpeas are no more Indian than Burmese or Middle Eastern or French.
Indeed, if we’re going by place of origin, it appears the chickpea was first domesticated in or around Turkey, which is where its wild ancestor can still be found. Does that mean we should give a shout out to Anatolia whenever we buy chickpea-flour pasta? Not as far as I’m concerned.
I guess I don’t understand the sense of ownership that Krishna feels for chickpea flour, but I certainly do understand the desire to let people know that there are a lot of other ways to use the product. Particularly since I find dried pasta made from chickpea flour to be damn near inedible.
Perhaps I haven’t tried the right brand, but the first problem I have is the texture. It’s as though someone figured out a way to make pasta out of very, very fine sand. Then there’s the fact that the noodles still taste like chickpeas. While I like the taste of chickpeas and sometimes even eat chickpeas with pasta, in that instance I want the chickpeas to taste like chickpeas and the pasta to taste like pasta. I am sympathetic to those of you who either cannot or choose not to consume gluten, and I hope that your opinion as to chickpea-flour noodles differs from mine. If there is a specific brand that you’ve found does not taste like a chickpea-flavored barium milkshake, please let me know.