Heavenly hummus on the town, at the store and in your home

Where in town can you find champion chickpea dip? How can you make your homemade hummus hum? Our food columnist has the answers.

Food columnist dips into the Lower Mainland's delicious spread of chickpea champions

Balila Taste Kitchen is an (almost) all-hummus restaurant that recently opened in Vancouver. (@balilahummus/Instagram)

If you like to dip into the delicious world of hummus — and who doesn't — On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson has the goods.

She's put the spotlight on the versatile chickpea delicacy that is becoming a big part of the food industry.

"By the year 2022, the global hummus market is estimated to reach over $1.1 billion dollars U.S.," she told guest host Michelle Eliot. "I think we need to get out of journalism and into hummus."

Johnson has spread her feelers in search of great spread in the Lower Mainland. Here are her picks.

The all-hummus restaurant

A new spot in Vancouver that puts hummus front and centre is Balila Taste Kitchen on West Hastings.

It's co-owned by brothers Waleed and Mazen Sukkarie, who say "balila" is the name for what is widely considered to be the original hummus dish: not a dip but rather a dish served hot and consisting of whole chickpeas mixed with garlic, salt, lemon juice, cumin and olive oil — a version of which they serve.

"The whole concept of the taste kitchen mirrors the kind of neighbourhood mom-and-pop shops the Sukkarie brothers grew up with," Johnson said. "These small eateries are called hummusanis. All they serve is hummus, and they're on practically every corner in Lebanon."

Johnson says almost every dish has various kinds of hummus as the main ingredient: bowls, wraps, rice dishes, for example.

Great, local in-store offerings

Johnson says if you want to pick up a great hummus at the grocery store, a Lower Mainland-based company called BobAli Foods has you covered.

"[Founders Moe Baker and Parvis Beik-Hosseini] both come from restaurant backgrounds and started out making pesto and tapenade," she said.

"They figured if they were going to add hummus it would have to be different as well as fabulous. For them, that means bold flavours made from healthy, simple ingredients. They use organic chickpeas. Their products don't contain any preservatives and I love the flavours these two have come up with."

Examples of those bold flavours include roasted garlic and truffle hummus, Thai green coconut curry hummus and one with miso, sesame and horseradish.

Their products can be found in many Vancouver-area stores and at farmers' markets.

Hummus at home

If you want to turn your chickpeas into champions, Johnson has the secret from Victoria-based chef Emily Lycopolus, who owns oil and vinegar specialty shop Olive the Senses and has written several cookbooks.

Her top tip is to take the skin off the chickpeas.

Homemade hummus doesn't have to be a chore. (Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)

"Actually, it's not so bad! You can peel chickpeas by kind of pushing them between your thumb and index finger; the husk comes off quite easily, especially if you use canned chickpeas," Johnson said.

"If you leave that skin on," Lycopolus says, "it won't break down in the blender. So if you want really creamy hummus, peeling the chickpeas is the way to go."

She says a faster way to do this is to put chickpeas on top of parchment paper, put a little olive oil on top of them, and roll your hands over top of them really quickly.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast