Although wheat is the most important source, there are other foods from which flour is made. India produces a flour called Urad or Urad dal which is made from a small black bean called black gram. This popular Indian flour is used to make culinary items such as uttappams, pooris, chappaties and dosa.
The source of Urad flour is a small black bean that is grown commercially in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The cultivated plant goes by the name of black gram, or Vigna mungo, while Vigna mungo var.silvestris, which is native to India and Pakistan is considered to be its wild ancestor. Though sometimes called black lentil, the black gram is more closely related to the mung bean. It is an annual herb of the legume family that grows erect to form a small bush. The beans of the black gram are born in long cylindrical pods about 2 to 3 inches long.
Making the Flour
Urad flour is usually made from black gram pulses. A pulse is simply an edible bean in a pod that must be shelled, dried and cooked before it can be eaten. Pulses differ from green beans, which can be eaten and/or cooked while still in the pod. Typically, the black grams are husked, sun-dried and roasted before being milled into flour. It is also possible to make the Urad flour at home by roasting the husked black grams over a stove in a skillet and grinding the beans in a food processor. Commercial grade Urad flour is sold in many Indian food stores and is white in color.
Urad flour is low in fat and contains ample amounts of calcium, potassium and B complex vitamins. It has many culinary uses and is a popular ingredient in a wide range of South Asian recipes. The bean by-product is often combined with rice flour to form the base for many types of bread and pancakes. The legume can be added to purees and soups, as well as being a part of unusual dishes such as rice panki, green pea waffles, Jowar Vada and Manugupoolu.
Sometimes a soup is made directly from the black gram without the intermediate step of creating flour or paste. In this process, the beans are first dried, husked and split then cooked to form a soup, distinguished by an unusual mucilaginous texture. The split bean is known in India as a dal or dhal.
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