Sunday, January 12, 2014

Avalakki(Poha) Vaggarane - orange, yellow, pink, green and black, what other colors can you spot in this delicious comfort of food?

The other day I was making a list of dishes I would like to post on the blog in the next couple of months (yes, I am organized, and no, it is not a new year resolution :-)) and I noticed that it was only made of special items or things I would prepare on occasion. I guess I was thinking that nobody really cares about the every day preparations unless there is something to make them stand out or in other words there is a 'twis(h)t to the story' :-). It is probably true, with hundreds or even thousands of food blogs, cookery shows and cook books, things tend to get repetitive from one source to the other especially with common items and it takes every blogger constant effort to keep things fresh and unique. But then there are some things that should not need to change, these are some of the comfort foods in every kitchen and every day food is needed well, every day. I reach out to my container of poha in the morning when I am running short on time and do not have any ready batter or bread lying around in the kitchen or too bored to eat the cereals and oats yet again in the morning. It takes no more than 20 minutes from start to finish and is a perfect way to start the day especially with a bowl of home made yogurt, fits snugly into lunch boxes without any hazard of spills and tastes divine even after it is cold. Any other requirements to be satisfied before you can feature it in your kitchen? I didn't think so :-)
While this avalakki vaggarane shows up atleast once in 2 weeks in my home, I was still hesitant to put it on the blog. Then something happened very recently (infact twice) to make me feel confident that it truly deserves a place on the blog. A friend of BH was staying with us over Christmas Holidays and when I made this for one of the breakfasts as they were heading out for a boys day out, our guest casually mentioned that we (in US) seem to get better quality poha/beaten rice than at Pune (where he came from). This was a very unexpected remark, I know the exported goods are sometimes better but what can make poha better here than Pune? And I have read and heard from everybody around me that Pune/Maharastra is known for its Poha dishes, so slightly intrigued, I asked him what he meant by that. He said the texture of the poha was very nice and the dish tasted very yummy. Now you can definitely pass this off as my polite guest's polite compliment and not attach any more significance to that simple statement but it was his 2nd day at home and I was actually wondering about my cooking skills since he was hardly eating anything remotely sufficient for a grown man since he landed. Both him and BH who has known him for a long time kept telling me that it was not the food but his normal eating habits. With that background, on the day I made this poha, he had 3 servings and enjoyed them :-). So I am convinced that it was not just a polite compliment of a guest. And further conversation made it clear that he thought the texture of the poha itself was unlike any he gets in Pune (BTW, he cooks regularly at home) and then I told him I made it so by powdering the store bought poha.

Then the next week, we had a family friend and wife visiting from Far East and as their stay was short, I made this poha again before they left for the airport. The couple relished it genuinely and made me feel all warm and fuzzy :-).

Buoyed by these two unexpected compliments, I thought this poha recipe of mine had definite potential on the blog, so here it is..Food can't get any simpler, satisfying or more delicious than this dish.
There are multiple versions of the poha - some with onion, some with potatoes, some with carrots, some a combination of 2 or more of these, and .... So I thought instead of writing a different post for each of those variations, I would give it to you one single "all in one" post as a reference for you to pick and choose from or make your own delicious combinations. I will also point out to my favorite ones so you know which ones to try first :-).

Although I make this dish by directly soaking the store bought poha/beaten rice in water, most days I run it in my mixer to make a rough or coarse rava kind of consistency before soaking it. This is the only way nammamma makes this dish and I love the texture and taste of it. It hardly takes 2-3 additional minutes and is compensated in the soaking time as the powdered poha soaks quicker than the whole and is very well worth the time and effort. But if you do want to skip that step, you can still follow the rest of the recipe and the variations to make a delightful seasoned poha.

What do you need to make Avalakki vaggarane? 
(This is how I made it the day I took the pictures, look at the variations given below for other equally yummy versions)
2 cups think poha/avalakki
2 Tblsp oil
1 Tsp mustard seeds
1 Tblsp chana dal
1 Tsp Urad dal
3-4 curry leaves
2-3 green chilies
1/2 inch ginger root
2 Tblsp finely chopped onion
2 Tblsp finely chopped carrots
1 Tblsp finely chopped cilantro
1 Tblsp grated/shredded coconut (fresh or frozen)
1/2 Tsp sugar (optional but recommended)
1 Tsp lemon/lime juice (optional)
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)

How do you make Avalakki Vaggarane? 
  • Add the thick poha into your mixer jar and make a upma rava consistency by pulsing the mixer a few times. 
  • Take the ground poha into a wide bowl and run water on it and immediately drain the water out. 
  • Let the wet poha stand for 5 minutes (while you are preparing the seasoning) for it to soak up the water. 
  • In the mean time, heat a wide pan and add oil to it. 
  • Add mustard and the dals into the oil and let them come to a sizzle along with the oil (slow roasting of dals gives them the crunch and they stay that way even after you add the soaked poha). 
  • Once mustard starts to pop, add chopped green chilies, finely chopped ginger and curry leaves and let them roast for 30 seconds. 
  • Add the finely chopped onion and saute for a minute. 
  • Add the chopped carrots, salt, turmeric powder and saute for 2-3 minutes until carrots becomes slightly soft and onions are cooked. This time is entirely dependent on the size of your vegetables, heat from the stove and your preference for crunchy or soft bites. 
  • While the veggies are cooking, fluff up the soaked poha as it would have become one big tight mass (unless you over watered it :-)). break the lumps and make sure it looks completely fluffy. 
  • Pour the fluffed poha into the pan, add chopped cilantro, shredded coconut and give a good mix. 
  • Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes on low heat until the poha just warms up, remember there is no cooking of poha required. 
  • Open the cover, switch off the stove, add lemon juice if using and serve warm or cold with a bowl of thick yogurt on the side. 
  • Unlike the whole poha, soaking the ground poha is a little tricky, excess water will make it soggy, so err on the side of using less water and you can sprinkle some later if the poha looks very dry. 
  • Mixer/blender wisdom: When grinding poha in the mixer, make sure you have added enough quantity to just cover the blades, if the amount is too less, it doesn't grind well and if it too much, it tends to make a powder. 
  • If you are using whole poha, squeeze handfuls of it to remove all excess water before adding it to the seasoning. 
  • You can finely chop green chilies if you like it spicier or leave them as big pieces that can be lifted out of the plate easily if someone is not friendly with the heat. 
  • I sometimes use grated carrots instead of finely chopped ones, this changes the bite and texture but you can try it for a change. 
  1. Nammamma makes a very basic version - no oinions, no ginger and adds 1/2 Tsp sugar along with the fluffed up poha and ofcourse one and half times the quantity of coconut I gave here and it tastes divine. 
  2. Cube and parboil potatoes (1 medium potato is good for this quantity) and add it along with onions to saute and crisp a little. This makes it kanda-batata poha (onion-potato). 
  3. Bell peppers of different colors finely chopped make excellent flavor agents in this poha. Use them along with onions & carrots or without them. 
  4. Green peas, fresh or frozen, boiled to tender and added not only gives a splash of color but also some protein boost. 
  5. Add peanuts while roasting the dals to add some crunch to the poha. 
  6. Add cooked garbanzo beans (chole) to upp the proteins. 
  7. A restaurant version of this humble homely dish is generally served with a squeeze of lemon/lime and sprinkled with a spoon of sev (deep fried lentil sticks) or boondi on top. Looks pretty if you want to try it. 


Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Love your version of poha...even my MIL makes a coarse powder of the poha...
Sometimes the simplest and most common recipes fetch the best of compliments...

Kannada Cuisine said...

One of my favorites...have not been making this for a while because Sunny boy does not like it :( ...Wonder when he will develop a taste for it

NamsVeni Pothas said...

happy Sankranti to all Sattvaa readers . poha is my favorite dish. very nice and tasty dish.