Poha is convenience food that is made by pounding rice into thin, flat, flakes. It is light, quickly digested and effortless to work with. Cold or hot liquids like milk, water or broth cause the flakes to bloat and take on a soft, fluffy texture. Poha has a neutral flavour and can be used successfully in sweet as well as savoury dishes. It makes a delicious no-cook breakfast porridge that doesn't feel heavy...just the thing before a workout.
My recipe for Lemony Poha is a slightly modified version of the original recipe popular in home kitchens across India. This humble peasant fare is a specialty of home cooks alone and rarely ever found in restaurants. The ingredients may demand a quick trip to your local ethnic grocer but it is well worth the inconvenience. Bear in mind, poha comes in a couple of different forms - thick and thin. I prefer to work with thick for it is most forgiving. It is key that you don't over soak or you will have mush.
1 1/2 cups flattened rice - Poha (thick)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 potato, cooked and grated or chopped
1 carrot, grated
1-2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut (optional)
A few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
Curry leaves, a few
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
A small handful dry roasted, unsalted peanuts or cashews
Juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp asafetida
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil
Place the poha in a sieve with a fine mesh and run it under water until thoroughly soaked. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil and pop the mustard seeds. You might want to cover the pan with a lid.
Tip in the onion, chili, bell pepper and sauté until translucent. Add the potatoes, carrots, turmeric, asafetida and salt and stir-fry for another few minutes.
Dump the poha into this mixture and stir well until warmed through. Turn off the heat. Mix in the lemon juice and zest, coconut, nuts and cilantro leaves.
Serve hot or warm. If you find it too dry, sprinkle a little water to moisten the poha and give it a stir.