Ike Isaksen from Cali, Colombia wrote me some time back:
“I’ve been living in Colombia for 4 years now, and although I can buy
chickpeas (garbanzos), i can’t buy chickpea flour. There are so many great recipes that use it, and I occasionally give cooking classes to
friends, so I’m a little desperate! I just stumbled across your site and
thought – Hey, here’s a guy who’ll know! Can I make it myself from
chickpeas? Or if not what’s the closest alternative?”
My answer: Thanks for the interesting letter. Well, if you found a mill with decent stones you may be able to ask them to grind you some garbanzo flour. Chickpeas are very hard of course, much harder than wheat. If you know someone with a home wheat grinding mill, you can grind your own. It will be a bit coarser than the talc-consistency shop bought product.
By the way, actual besan flour, sometimes called chickpea flour, is actually made from tumble dry-roasted and husked whole chana dal, (see picture, above, left) a botanical ‘cousin’ of the chickpea.
In Italy, farina di ceci, real chickpea flour, is well-loved. It tastes very similar to (but better than, I think) besan flour, also known as gram flour (made from gram dal, those small whole chana dals). Are there any Italian stores in Cali? Maybe a silly question.
Another alternative is pea flour, which is made from finely milled yellow split peas, or lentil flour of some description. These will have a similar result in cooking, though the taste will subtly vary. Hope this helps.