Plate of Onion Poha

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      In Hindu mythology, there is a story of Lord Krishna and his childhood friend Sudama. They studied together as children and then went their separate ways – Lord Krishna became the Supreme One and Sudama went on to lead the life of a poor householder.

      When Sudama fell into hard times and was in need of money, his wife suggested that he ask his friend Krishna for help. So Sudama set off, with a small bundle of “Poha” or flattened, dried rice that he borrowed from a neighbor.

      When he saw the opulence of Krishna’s palace, he was ashamed of his humble gift, and tried to hide it. Krishna was overjoyed to see his old friend and hugged him. He felt the small bundle and snatched it from Sudama saying “What is this? why are you hiding my favorite food?” and immediately put a handful in his mouth. He was about to take a second handful, when his wife stopped him. She said that one handful was sufficient for both this life and the next.

      Sudama was puzzled by this, but didn’t say anything. After a joyous reunion, he returned home without telling Krishna about the reason for his visit.

      When he came home, he was astonished to see a huge mansion where his small hut used to be. His family came running to him and told him of the miracle that had happened in his absence. He immediately understood that even though he had not told the Lord, the reason for his visit, he had received His blessing and he realized what Krishna’s wife had meant.

      Humble offerings, when given with devotion, are elevated to the grandest of gifts!!

      The “Poha” in this story is very simple, flattened and dried rice. It is a staple in the pantry of most indian kitchens and although it is typical peasant food, it is found in all indian households, rich or poor.

      When seasoned with spices and gently steamed, it has a “melt-in-the-mouth” texture and fantastic aroma.

      It is typically served for breakfast and is quite light and nutritious. My mom used to make this for a snack when I came back from school and I would pounce on it much like Krishna did in the story!

      Despite its humble background, Poha makes a wonderful supper or a potluck dish. When garnished with coconut, fresh tomatoes and cilantro, the vibrant red, green and white against the brilliant yellow of the turmeric infused poha never fails to elicit some “oohs” and “aahhs” !!

      So, here it is – Onion Poha – humble, earthy, delicious.


        2 cups of poha (thick variety)
        1 medium onion
        1-2 green chilies
        1/2 tsp turmeric powder
        1 tsp mustard seeds
        juice of 1 small lime/lemon
        a few curry leaves (5-6)
        salt to taste
        a pinch of sugar (optional)
        1 tbsp fresh/frozen shredded coconut
        1 small tomato
        a handful of cilantro leaves


      Wash the poha well in several changes of water.

      Set aside for 30 mins to 1 hour

      Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan

      Add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the curry leaves, chopped onions and chopped green chillies.

      Saute the onions till translucent

      Add the soaked poha

      Add the salt, sugar and turmeric powder and stir well.

      Cover the pan with a lid and let poha steam for 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle with a little water if it seems to burn at the bottom.

      When the poha is well cooked, turn off the flame.

      Add the lemon juice and mix well.

      To serve, garnish with fresh chopped tomatoes, grated coconut and cilantro leaves.

      The crunchy, sweet juiciness of the tomato provides a wonderful contrast to the soft lemony bite of the poha.

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