There are two varieties of Bengal gram. The one developed in the Indian subcontinent is smaller in size with wrinkled black skin. The other, larger with pale brown skin, is developed in the Mediterranean and known as chickpea or garbanzo bean. In India, this variety is popularly called kabuli channa.
The name "Bengal gram" was given by the British because they first made its acquaintance in Bengal. But this pulse is of far greater antiquity. It has been found in several archaeological sites, two of the oldest being Çayonu, a Neolithic settlement in southern Turkey which existed from 7200 to 6600 BC, and Hacilar in south-western Turkey, dating back to 7040 BC. In India, it has been found in excavations at the Harappan site of Kalibangan in Rajasthan (3500 BC).
Like the rest of the family of pulses to which it belongs, the Bengal gram is an excellent source of both carbohydrate and protein, which are respectively the fuel and building blocks of the human body. But it is also packed with so many other healthful goodies that it can almost be a complete meal by itself. Moreover, the Bengal gram is the highest source of dietary fibre amongst all the commonly eaten foods in India, including cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables, with one cup of boiled Bengal gram providing as much as 60 per cent of the daily requirement.
(Read more about this nutritious pulse in my book "How the Banana Went to Heaven)
My mum makes a very simple but very delicious dish with this channa (the firangis call it chickpeas or garbanzo peas)
1. Soak 2 cups kabuli channa overnight in water
2. Boil till cooked to a beautiful buttery softness.
3. Add juice from marble-sized ball of tamarind soaked in warm water for about 10-15 minutes
3. Add about a cup of water (adjust depending on how much "soup" you want, salt, 2-3 chopped, green chilies, 4-5 cloves of garlic
4. Simmer for about 2-3 mintues
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1/2 broken red chili. When mustard starts to splutter, add pinch of hing (asefoetida) and 5-7 curry leaves.
6. After a few seconds, remove from heat and add to the kabuli channa soup. Add a tablespoon or so finely chopped fresh coriander, simmer for another few seconds
Serve piping hot with plain steamed rice or chappati or hot buttered toast