Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kanda Poha : Beaten Rice with onions and Potatoes. An authentic Maharashtrian breakfast.

Many ask me if I am a vegetarian since I am Indian. And I tell them flat, No.
I'm and have been more like a "eat-whats-available-arian" since childhood. But as an adult, I have truly become more sensible since teen days, and practice moderation on every food.  I cannot say my culture and religion hasn't played any role in making me pick my vegetarian days. I personally consider it my Motivation.

 I am a pure vegetarian on days and on days, well, I'm not! And on my vegetarian days, I want everything pure vegetarian. And when I say vegetarian, I mean not even an egg! I have heard a lot on the inclusion of egg as a vegetarian item, but this old-fashioned mind just does not accept it as vegetarian if it came from an animal and unhindered in nature, can grow into a living being.
(I have by now, done at least 20 edits on this post, trying to not make it scientific/political/ nostalgic rant etc etc. Lets just stay on topic here! )
And my favorite, go-to food on these veggie days is Kanda Poha aka Batata Poha.
Poha is essentially beaten rice, and kanda = onions, batata= potatoes.
And when these come together with the blessing of a lot of other related plants and herbs, its perfect matrimony!
Kanda Poha is not just a breakfast to me. Its is a full load of memories, smells, tastes and connections from the old Bombay I grew up in.
It reminds of my childhood, shy introductions, the language barriers that we faced when we first moved to Mumbai and how food broke down the walls and made new friendships. Genuine bonds were cemented by childhood friendships, tying silken cords on Raksha bandhan, calling completele strangers Aaji (Grandma), Kaka(Uncle), Kaki(Aunty), Dada( Big brother), Tai (Sister)and Aayi(Mom), and feeling the same kind of love, as if they were indeed tied in relations. Even today, those old friendships with vernacular labels, have held up their strength through the wear and tear of long distance and time.
It might seem strange to others, but its something only an Indian can relate to!

Food-wise, every visit to Mumbai brings loads of memories triggered by one whiff of a freshly made Toop-roti, (hot rotis smeared with ghee) the familiar mixed smells of the vegetable market, the hint of an incense stick burning away, the anonymous peal of a bell at someone's Sandhya Puja. (evening prayers), the smoky oily fumes at a Snack stall, and many many more fond ones like that.
Growing up in Mumbai gave me my edge and free-er thinking ways, my gastronomy, my respect for cultures and changed my life 180 degree around, from the day when I was a shy child who didnt speak the language, who didnt have friends and who was clearly the new weird kid in a weirder, strange place.
In my own way, maybe learning to cook those very dishes I grew up eating, missing them bad and sharing the experiences with others, might be my greatest tribute to the best place in the whole world, for me! My Mumbai!!!
And while writing this post I have to say I remembered all those lovely ladies who have at some point, have put an extra plate out for me along with their families, during a meal and served me like I was their own kid. May God bless your kind loving hearts!


This recipe makes enough breakfast for 4. Approx. time taken is about 30-40 mins.
2 cups of thick poha-- picked, washed and drained roughly. Dont squeeze it dry. Leave it aside, covered, to soften from the retained water.
1 large Onion---chopped finely
2-3 green chilies---chopped finely
a small bunch coriander leaves---chopped finely
a handful of peanuts---roasted or raw
1 large potato---peeled, cubed small
oil---2 tbsp
mustard seeds---1 tsp
turmeric---1/2 tsp
salt & sugar---to taste
Lemon wedges---to garnish
Fresh grated coconut---to garnish



In a kadhai, or a saute pan,  (preferably nonstick) heat the oil and temper the mustard seeds until they crackle. Add the potato cubes and raw peanuts (if using). Add a fat pinch of turmeric and salt to it. Alternatively you could use boiled potatoes and throw them in at the end with the roasted peanuts.
When potatoes are almost cooked, and are lightly browned on all sides, add the onions, green chilies and saute until tender. Add the soaked poha. In a medium high flame, stir everything together, to combine well. {If you are using roasted peanuts and/or boiled potatoes, now is the time to add them.}
Sprinkle a few drops of water if your poha appears dry. It needs to be moist(but not wet) to get cooked and steam everything else. Now reduce the flame to low and add a tsp of sugar and adjust the salt. Mix well and sprinkle a little more water, then cover. Make sure the heat is very low. Let the steam build up for about 5 minutes. Switch the heat off.
 Stir in coriander leaves and fresh grated coconut and serve hot with individual lemon wedges to be squeezed in right before eating.

Enjoy! :-)

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