The holiday season is approaching fast. Diwali, my favourite festival is fast approaching. In India, this means the thorough cleaning of houses and frantic preparation of sweets in time for the first day of the festival of lights. In households everywhere, there are sweets being readied for the annual Diwali exchange, when neighbours send each other the best of the season along with plates full of good things. These freshly home-made sweets and snacks are also the traditional way to greet friends and family that drop in to wish you.
Every year while my mom prepared the sweet stuff, she also made traditional Maharashtrian poha chivda. If I was to try to define chivda, I’d call it a savoury rice based trail mix-type snack. Its main component is poha or flattened rice. You can find thick and thin varieties of poha. What you are looking for here is the thin variety. You can find this easily at your friendly neighbourhood Indian store. You will also find copra or dried coconut slices there. This is responsible for the characteristic flavour of chivda. I start with raw peanuts because they get imbued with the flavour of the garlic, coconut and spice better through the cooking process. Daliya or roasted chana dal brings its own unique nuttiness to the mixture.
We like lots of garlic for this. Crunching away on crisp bits of garlic and peanuts is my favourite part of this snack. When I was little and preferred my poha soft and steaming instead of cold and crisp, I snuck into the chivda stash and gobbled up all of the peanuts, eating around the poha like a selective little mouse, much to my mother’s annoyance. Even though I eat all of it now, I still think the way the peanuts get all coconut-y and spicy is the best thing about it.
At its essence, this chivda is a form of the classic Maharashtrian batata poha, with the addition of nuts and dry coconut. I like it as a foil for the Diwali sweets setup, just like my mom did. Amey likes to eat it with dollops of yoghurt. But then really, that guy can eat anything with dollops of yoghurt. He has an ongoing love affair with it. I’d suggest you make yourself a cup of hot chai, grab a small bowl and enjoy this snack at tea time.
Mom’s Poha chivda
Makes more than enough to share with friends
Thin poha – 2 pounds
Raw peanuts – 4 cups
Roasted chana dal (daliya) – 2 cups
Green chillies – 4, sliced into thin discs
Dried coconut slices (copra) – 1/2 cup
Garlic – 16 cloves
Ginger – 1/2 inch, grated
Curry leaves (kadipatta) – 7 leaves
Black Mustard seeds – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Dhana-jeera powder – 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp
Sugar – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 2 tbsp, adjust as needed
Oil for frying – 1/2 cup
– In a large kadhai or wok, add a few tablespoons of oil and roast the poha until crisp. If you don’t have a wok, you can use the largest pan you have and roast the poha in batches. Stir often to prevent burning. Remove from the wok and reserve.
– Once the poha is done, roast the peanuts and the daliya in batches in the wok in a similar fashion. The daliya may require a little oil. Remove and reserve.
– Place the empty wok on the fire and heat. To the oil, add the mustard seeds.
– When the mustard starts to splutter, add the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Add the turmeric and asafoetida.
– Add the ginger and garlic and fry a bit. Then add the copra slices and fry the mixture for about ten minutes.
– Return the poha, peanuts and daliya to the wok. Stir thoroughly to mix the poha in with the tempered oil and garlic mixture. Season liberally with salt.
– Add the sugar and stir once more to mix. Taste the chivda. If you’d like more heat, add some chilli powder.
– Mix completely and roast the chivda for five more minutes.
– Move off heat and allow to cool before storing in air-tight container or bags.
I’ve heard of the people sun-drying the poha in order to crisp it up as opposed to pan roasting it. You have to tell me if you’ve tried this. I suppose you could roast it at low heat in the oven too. But I’d watch it like a hawk if I was trying to do this.
You can use some oil to aid in the roasting of the components and reduce how much you use in the tempering of the spices. I’ve eaten versions of this chivda where the oil was severely reduced. In my opinion, it doesn’t work. You do need some oil if the spices and garlic are going to flavour the poha and peanuts. You are only supposed to eat a few spoonfuls of this at snack time anyway, so the oil shouldn’t be a problem.
Try and find copra slices for this recipe. They are needed for the right flavour. Shredded coconut burns easily and is not what you’re looking for. Raisins should be allowed nowhere near this dish. Please save them for your next kheer. The chivda will keep in airtight containers for 1-2 months.
Bring the savoury element to your Diwali spread with this chivda. You’ll be happy you did.