So as it goes, this is no travelogue kind-a post, but a recipe for an Indian savory snack I made in huge batches during our time in the US. We savored it by bowls on several evenings sitting by the wooden porch that overlooked the thick woods in our backyard. The moments slipped away without notice as we sipped into hot chocolate and tea, scooping spoonfuls of chivda into our palms, slowly savoring its crunch, while we tended to the young tomato plants that bloomed tender yellow buds in our garden.
On weekdays when D was away at work, the chivda became my sole savior as I flipped through light reads under the wraps of summer and streaks of golden sunlight. As the afternoons tranced into early evenings, there were days when our little girl kept herself busy dressing up her dolls, setting up the table and putting up a pretend birthday party for them. I would briefly give her company in the initial part of the play, pretending to be her helper, then, slowly whisk away to make time for myself, to play with real pots and pans in my kitchen that belonged to me.
Then, there were other days when she would get busy soaking up her fingers and clothes in spectrum of colors as Elsa and Sofia got painted in colorful attire in a way only she would fantasize. Their frills and veils were painted in reds, greens, blues, browns and whatnot, smudged in uneven tones and stressed outside the lines meant to define these beautiful damsels. That's the time I borrowed for myself in the kitchen, to dish out some delectable savory snacks that made us through those evenings till we waited for D to return from work.
This Poha Chivda may remind you of your childhood spent visiting your relatives or friends, or of festivals like Diwali and Navrathri, when aunts brought in bowls of savory snacks served along with piping hot tea. Poha Chivda was and probably is still a common tea time savory dish in many Indian homes, served mid-noon along with tea or coffee, often store-bought and rampantly available in transparent polythene packets in every bakery and grocery store possible. Almost every house probably has had some version of it. At home, we call them all just 'chivda', which simply means an assortment of fried and seasoned ingredients usually with a base of flattened rice or cornflakes. Chivdas come in varieties, but there is no hard and fast rule on how you wish to make and what you wish to season them with. The store-bought ones are usually heavily seasoned and spicy, but I like to break rules and keep it simple, light and flavorsome.
My version here is quick with minimal ingredients. Its quite common to use fried cashews, raisins and sesame seeds for a more assorted rich taste. It takes about 15-20 minutes to put all of this together from start to finish. You could use fried whole red chillies instead of red chilli powder to reduce heat further. If you wish to try a low fat version and bake the poha, let me know how it works for you. For once, when I tried a baking attempt at this, it failed miserably. Try this and let me know how you like it.
Poha Chivda | Namkeen Chivda | Avalakki Chiwda (Seasoned Flattened Rice)
3 cups poha / flattened rice (use thick variety)
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup roasted gram bengal dal / channa dal / huri kadale
2 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp. oil for tempering
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp. sugar or as required
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
Heat enough oil for deep frying in a wide mouth pan or kadai or wok. Using a wide mouth strainer or a slotted spoon, deep fry the poha in hot oil. Do this in batches so that you fry them evenly till they swell up and become crisp. Remove and drain over a plate lined with kitchen paper. Fry all of the poha and set aside. Into the same oil, fry the roasted bengal gram dal till its golden brown. Remove and drain again on a kitchen paper. Next, fry the peanuts in this oil till reddish brown in color and drain on a kitchen paper. Fry the curry leaves till they crisp up. Drain and set aside.
Heat a teaspoon of oil in a separate pan. Fry mustard seeds till they pop. Add the red chili powder and mix in all the fried ingredients. Sprinkle sugar and salt to taste. Roast this for 2-3 minutes on a low flame to ensure all the spice, salt and sugar is well combined into the poha mixture. Adjust the spice according to your taste by adding more red chili powder if required.
Allow the chivda mixture cool completely. You can store this in an air-tight container at room temperature for couple of weeks.