Poha is a super easy, very delicious, and highly transportable breakfast dish (makes a great packed lunch). It’s great when you are not in the mood for eggs or bread, but want something savory. Imagine this as a South Indian version of fried rice. The main ingredient is flattened or pressed rice – poha – which is jazzed up with curry leaves, mustard seeds, red onion, turmeric, coriander leaves, and a nice bright acidic kick at the end, which brings the flavors to life. What I love about this dish is also that, unlike many Indian recipes, the different elements remain distinct, making it visually appealing, which is, as we all know, more than half the battle with food. I’m also amazed at how quickly this dish can be ready. This does not take more than 15 minutes to make, from start to finish.
PS—You can see that I used a wok to make this, but feel free to use any large saucepan or frying pan. I will extol the virtues of a wok in some other post…
POHA, OR FRIED RICE, SOUTH INDIAN STYLE
Prep time: 15 minutes
3 cups poha (flattened rice)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium red/yellow potato
2 red chilies, dried
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. channa (chickpea) dal
1 stem curry leaves
¼ cup peanuts
Asafetida, a pinch
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 small red onion, cut into half moons
1 cup green peas (optional)
Bunch of coriander/cilantro leaves
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt – to taste
- Put the potato in a saucepan, cover with water and boil until soft, about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, put your poha in a large bowl and wash with cold water as you would rice. Keep rinsing the poha until the water goes from starchy to clear (this will take a few rinses). Strain the water and gently press the poha—don’t squeeze it—to release the remaining water. Transfer the poha to another bowl.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan or wok on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the red chilies, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds.
- When you hear the mustard and cumin seeds crackle, add the curry leaves, channa dal, peanuts, and pinch of asafetida and sauté for another minute.
- Add the red onion, turmeric powder, and a pinch of salt and sauté for another two minutes.
- Once the onions start browning, add the poha into the pan. Mix everything together and lower the heat. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Add your peas, if you are using them and mix everything together once more.
- In the meantime, remove the potato from the boiling water. Once it has cooled, cut it into cubes. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a separate small saucepan and sauté the potato, until the skin crisps up (about 2-3 minutes).
- Add the potato to your poha mixture. Turn off your stove.
- Squeeze juice of half a lemon on top of the poha mixture. Garnish with a bunch of coriander leaves. Serve with a slice of lemon.