Poha: Delicious, Wholesome Indian Snack Food

August 26, 2013


Poha may sound exotic, but once you know what it is – it’s pretty simple to make. I took years to try my hand at it, simply because my Punjabi mother never really made it growing up. But, I used to enjoy eating it whenever in India and when visiting other Indian-American homes. I decided to try my hand at it recently and have decided this will now be a staple.

It’s at once delicious, extremely versatile, and wholesome.

Simply put, poha is a raw rice grain that has been dehusked and flattened into a light, dry flake. You can pick up bags of these flakes at any Indian grocery store. In many parts of India they are rinsed with water or milk and made into a healthy snack food, usually eaten with a cup of chai on hand. For this recipe ask for the thick or mota poha. It will hold up better when you are cooking it up in this recipe. If it’s too thin, it will turn mushy.



Makes 5 cups

4 cups thick poha (mota poha)
2 tablespoons oil (I use peanut)
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
¼ cup raw, unroasted peanuts
4 – 6 curry leaves (optional)*
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 medium yellow or red onion, diced small (3/4 cup)
1 small Russet potato, peeled and diced small (3/4 cup) **
2 medium carrots, diced small (2/3 cup)
½ cup frozen or fresh peas or edamame
½ – 1 green Thai, Serrano or cayenne chile, stem removed and minced
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 heaping tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro

1. In a colander with small holes, wash poha in cold water. Leave it to drain for about 10 – 15 minutes until you finish prepping the remainder of your ingredients. This first shot is of it before rinsing. The next one is post rinse. Doesn’t look too different, but it does lighten up and absorb a little water. Don’t let it sit too, too long. It can get mushy.


2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a 4-quart sauté pan. Add mustard seeds. Keep a lid handy, and cover until the seeds sizzle and pop slightly, about 1 minute.

3. Add coriander seeds and turmeric and cook 30 seconds.

4. Add peanuts and curry leaves if using and cook another 50 seconds until the nuts brown. Mix to ensure they don’t stick and burn. Please note that when shooting these pictures I did not have curry leaves on hand. It’s not a problem if you omit them. 

5. Add ginger and onion. Cook another minute until the onions brown slightly.


6. Add drained potato. Cook 2 minutes until it browns, mixing occasionally.

7. Add carrots and cook another minute.

8. Add peas, green chile, and salt. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

9. Add poha and mix well until all your ingredients come together and the yellow turmeric coats all of your ingredients.



10. Add lime juice and cilantro. Serve warm as a snack or side dish.


*Curry leaves have nothing to do with curry powder, and so far can only be found in an Indian grocery store. They are staple in South Indian cooking. Once you start using them – you’ll never stop. They are THAT delicious! Check out this very informative article in the Chicago Tribune. 

**Keep diced potato submerged in cold water ready to use to prevent browning.

Tools: 4-quart sauté pan.  

Makes 5 cups

Try This! I can’t wait to try this with roasted corn kernels and dried cranberries or cherries. I also want to try it sweet. Imagine this as a quickie dessert. Rinse the poha with coconut milk, add some dried coconut, raisins, and a little brown sugar. The possibilities are so endless! Let your imagination run wild. Also, there is brown rice poha available. I have yet to try it, but will be sure to let you know once I do!

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