Poha and I have had a long and intense relationship. I first tried poha the summer of 2007 (aka the summer I lived through 50° weather) in Bhopal, India, living at the Sambhavna Trust Clinic. The Clinic canteen served the most inappropriate breakfast foods including freshly deep fried green chilli pakoras and this delightful kinda-rice dish by the name of POHA. POHA!
Just saying the name brings me joy.
I ate poha every morning for 10 straight weeks and didn’t tire of it. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to Canada and never get to eat it again. So On my last day in Bhopal I went to the home of the beautiful Ankita, who at the time was running the canteen and grabbed the first person I could find who could translate for me and demanded the secret recipe to this delicious treat.
When I came home after that first stint in Bhopal I was desperate to recreate poha as authentically as possible. I bought a bag of the stuff in an Indian grocery store (pretty much the only place you can find the stuff, but don’t bother asking for it, just look hard) and made some for my parents.
My mom was horrified when she noticed there was live bug larvae in the bag–presumably having travelled all the way from South Asia!–but my dad and I were like “meh” and ate it anyways. I even made some for my new boyfriend who seemed a bit put off when my mom told him about the bugs, but that guy ended up marrying me so THATS HOW GOOD POHA IS!!!!
In the years to follow I returned to Sambhavna in Bhopal 3 more times and spent several more months of my life eating bowl after bowl of Poha:
Okay now back to present day. This incredible new restaurant/bar opened up in Leeds recently called Bundobust “A craft beer bar with an Indian street food kitchen.” UM YES PLEASE. From the moment I learned they’d be opening I basically stalked them on twitter counting the days until their opening. They’ve only been open a few weeks and I’ve already been twice with several more dates in the calendar to revisit in the near future.
The first time we went we decided the best call was to ORDER EVERYTHING and I was literally blown away to discover that they made poha. I was so pleased and surprised because in my experience, no one outside of Bhopal really seemed to know what it was. It made me so happy to know others could enjoy the glory of poha, even if it wasn’t for breakfast….
Today I was wandering around an Indian (ethnic) grocery store and this big bag of poha was just calling out to me “take me home!” and I couldn’t refuse.
This stuff is dead easy to make. In fact, finding the stuff is 90% of the battle. But once you’ve found it, you’re all set to go!
What you’ll need:
- 1-2 mugs full of poha
- Some vegetable oil
- A sprinkling of black mustard seeds
- A sprinkling of fennel seeds
- One medium sized onion, chopped
- One tiny green HOT chilli
- A heaped tablespoon of turmeric
- A sprinkling of white sugar
- A bunch of fresh coriander
- Plenty of salt
- One boiled potato, cut into small cubes (optional)
- Lemon or lime for a squeeze at the end.
What to do:
In a large colander, rinse the poha and toss a few times to release any excess water. It’s fine if it’s a bit soggy and wet.
In a wok or large frying pan, dry toast some mustard and fennel seeds and once they start to sputter and pop add some vegetable oil, the chilli and onions. Stir and allow the onions to cook a bit so they get a little melty and then add the turmeric. Stir so that everything gets yellow and then pour in the poha (and the potato if you’re using). Toss everything well so that the poha takes on that magical turmeric yellow hue.
Add a tiny bit of sugar and then season with salt, tasting and adding more if you think it needs some. Mix in the coriander and finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime.