Poha and I have had a long and intense relationship. I first tried poha the summer of 2007 (AKA: the summer I survived 50°C weather) in Bhopal, India, living at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic. The Clinic canteen served the most intriguing and delicous breakfast treats including freshly deep fried green chilli pakoras, candy sweet chai, and this delightful rice snack dish by the name of POHA.
I ate poha every morning for 10 straight weeks and wouldn’t tire of it. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to Canada and never eating poha again. So on my last day in Bhopal that summer I went over to the home of the beautiful and Ankita, who at the time was running the canteen, and grabbed the first person I could find who could translate for me and demanded the secret recipe to this delicious treat. (A treat I had become addicted to.)
When I came home after that first stint in Bhopal I was desperate to recreate poha as authentically as possible. I hit up good Indian grocery store and bought a bag of poha (which are dried flattened rice flakes) and made some for my parents.
My mom was horrified when she noticed there was dried dead bugs in the bag–presumably having travelled all the way from South Asia!–but my dad and I were like “meh” and ate it anyways. I even made some for my new boyfriend at the time who seemed a bit put off when my mom told him about the bugs; but he tried it and loved it and that guy ended up marrying me so THATS HOW GOOD POHA IS!!!!
In the years to follow I returned to Sambhavna in Bhopal 3 more times and spent several more months of my life eating bowl after bowl of Poha.
It’s remained a favourite go-to light meal in my house, and is also the perfect quick and easy side dish to add to a large Indian themed feast for friends. It’s still not something that can be found easily in restaurants and that’s why when Bundobust put it on their menu I was instantly impressed. This past summer I taught over 120 people how to make poha during my Chaat & Chutney cooking workshops; nothing brings me more joy than sharing this very special and comforting dish with others.
Poha is the prefect meal or snack for any time of day but it’s best enjoyed at brunch time. It’s gluten free, vegan, and packed with seeds and spices that boost your immunity and aid digestion and stress relief. It's principle ingredients are the dried flattened rice flakes , onions, and turmeric. The best part it is, the dish provides all the comfort of a warm bowl of rice, but is ready in a fraction of the time.
And now here’s the exact recipe that Ankita gave me over 10 years ago—I’ve never changed it and it’s perfect every time!
What you’ll need:
* 1-2 mugs full of dried poha
* Some cold-pressed rapeseed oil or any other neutral flavoured oil
* A generous sprinkling of black mustard seeds
* A generous sprinkling of fennel seeds
* One medium sized onion or 3 large banana shallots, thinly sliced (the banana shallots caramelise much quicker so better to use these if you can)
* One tiny green HOT birdseye chilli, thinly sliced or chopped
* A heaped teaspoon of turmeric
* Fresh curry leaves (IDEAL--if you can't access them then you can use dried or omit all together)
* Fresh coriander
* One Lemon (limes too if you have)
* Plenty of salt
* A sprinkle of jaggery, coconut sugar or brown sugar
* One medium sized boiled potato cut into cubes and boiled (This is optional, it adds deliciousness but also takes longer so I usually skip this. In Bhopal they included it in the poha only once in a while)
What to do:
In a large colander, shake the poha up a bit to remove some of the rice dust. Then rinse the poha thoroughly and toss a few times to release any excess water. It’s fine if it’s a bit soggy and wet. Leave it aside.
In a wok or large frying pan, dry toast the mustard and fennel seeds; once they start to sputter and pop add some oil, the curry leaves, chilli and sliced onions. Stir and allow the onions to cook a bit until they begin to caramelise and then add the turmeric (This could take anywhere form 5-10 minutes depending on how fast the onion cooks and how caramelised you want the onions). Stir so that everything gets coated with the turmeric and then pour in the poha (and the potato if you’re using).
Toss everything well so that the poha takes on that magical turmeric yellow hue. Add the juice of half a lemon, toss well and add more lemon juice or a tiny bit more oil if it seems a bit dry.
Top with peanuts, fresh coriander, lemon or lime wedges and some little crunchy sev noodles (that's the best part actually) and enjoy!