Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Vegetable Poha

Vegetable Poha

Sometimes I awaken with a wish to relive the those carefree yesteryears of my childhood. It is the small things that have the power to transport us to the past. For me, the journey to the past always has some element of food attached to it. So on this rainy day, I rummaged through my kitchen cupboard for something comforting to remind me of home. And there it was! A forgotten, half used packet of poha. I peered through my refrigerator to dig out vegetables that needed to be used fast. And I came up with this.

Poha (pronounced as Po-haa) is a classic Western Indian dish which can be served as snacks or breakfast. Thought traditionally made from just flattened rice, peanuts, onions and potatoes, I have always loved my mother's rendition packed with nutritious vegetables. It was her sneaky way of making us eat vegetables which we hated as kids. Over the years, poha became the eponymous symbol of homecoming for me; the first meal served as breakfast after I came home during the holidays. Nothing would compare to chowing down a hot plate of poha on a lazy holiday browsing through the newspaper.

Now some may argue this is not the "authentic" way of preparing it, but I like it. For me, it works as a wholesome breakfast, and the burst of colors from veggies early in the morning never fails to brighten my day.

Vegetable Poha

Inspired by Mom

Look for thick poha variety rather than thin. The thin variety soaks up too much water and disintegrates into a soggy mess.


(Serves 2 hungry adults)

Poha- 2 cups
Tomato chopped- 1 medium
Onion Chopped - 1/2 medium
Carrot- Diced - 1
Cabbage- finely sliced- 1 cup
Potatoes- Chopped- 1/3 cup
Frozen Peas/Freshly Shelled- 1/3 cup
Salt - To taste
Oil- 1-2 tablespoons

For tempering:
Oil - 1-2 tablespoon
Mustard Seeds: 1 teaspoon
Chilli powder- 1/2 teaspoon (Chopped thai green chillies can be used in its place)
Turmeric powder- 1/3rd teaspoon (Optional)

For garnishing:
Sprigs of cilantro/coriander
Lemon Juice- 2 tablespoons
Roasted peanuts- Coarsely chopped


In a fine-meshed sieve, place two cups of poha and run cold water over it and drain. All grains should be thoroughly soaked by water and there should not be any water left standing. The amount of water soaked varies wildly with the brand and quality of poha. Before mixing in with cooked vegetables at the last step, check it once. It should be soft and moist. If it appears too dry 15 minutes after the first soaking, sprinkle it with enough water to soak it again. However, don't over-do it, since excess water will result in its disintegration.

Heat a medium sized saute-pan or wok over medium-high heat. Once oil begins to shimmer, lower heat to medium. Immediately put mustard seeds in the hot oil, and allow it to pop. After most seeds have popped (1-2 minutes), put chilli powder and turmeric powder and stir for 1-2 minutes till fragrant. Don't allow the mixture to brown and adjust the heat if necessary. Remove from heat and reserve in another container.

I normally roast the peanuts in the same pan without oil over medium low heat, till they turn slightly brown. Chop them coarsely and reserve for garnishing. The chopping step can be omitted, but I like the way smaller bits just blend in with the rest and become surprising packages of flavor in the mouth.

Add remaining oil and chopped onions in the same pan and saute till the edges of the onions begin to brown. Add tomatoes, remaining vegetables, salt and reserved tempering from above. Mix well and cover the pan with the lid. Let the vegetables steam for about 15-20 minutes till they are cooked but still holding shape. Check occasionally to see if there is enough moisture from the vegetables. If not, add water 1-2 tablespoons at a time.

When cooked, turn off the heat and mix in the drained poha gently. The poha should be evenly mixed so that it takes on the yellow color from the turmeric. Garnish with lemon juice, cilantro and roasted peanuts.

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