‘Ponk’, for the uninitiated, is the Gujarati name for immature grains of jowar, available only in the months between December and February in parts of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Gujarat, they are all over Surat, and Ahmedabad gets a few truckloads from there, which are hungrily grabbed by the locals within minutes. Known in Marathi as ‘hurda‘, these grains are packed with nutrition and highly delicious. They can be used to make a variety of delicacies, from bhel and vada to cakes.
In all the 25 years I lived in Ahmedabad, I managed to never hear about ponk, ever. I never saw it in the local markets, never heard of it from anyone, never had a chance to try it out. Or maybe, it wasn’t very popular in Ahmedabad back when I was growing up? It was only years later, after I started writing extensively about food that I learnt about ponk and began craving for a taste of it. On our recent visit to Ahmedabad, we landed right in the midst of ponk season, I managed to get my hands on some and even carried a little back home to Bangalore.
The first batch of ponk that I got was tender, but not very. So, I pressure cooked it a bit and converted it into ponk bhel.
Usually, the ponk comes with a packet or more of sev – different varieties like lemon, tomato, green chilli and what not. I used the green chilli sev that I got along with the ponk, as well as some home-made chutneys, to make the bhel, and it was oh so delish!
Here is how I made the ponk bhel (hurda bhel aka tender sorghum/jowar bhel):
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
- 2 cups tender ponk (aka hurda or tender jowar/sorghum)
- 2-3 pinches of roasted jeera (cumin) powder
- 2-3 pinches of rock salt aka kala namak
- 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
- A few stalks of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
- A fistful of sev
- 3-4 tablespoons of sweet-sour tamarind chutney, or as needed
- 2-3 tablespoons of spicy green chutney, or as needed
- Wash the ponk thoroughly under running water a couple of times. Place in a colander, and let all the excess water drain away.
- Take the washed and drained ponk in a wide vessel and add very little water to it.
- Take some water in a pressure cooker bottom and place a stand over it. Place the vessel with the ponk over the stand. Close the pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Allow two whistles, and let the pressure come down naturally.
- When the pressure has come down entirely, remove the cooked ponk from the cooker. Let it cool down completely.
- Then, take the cooked ponk in a large mixing bowl. Add finely chopped onion and coriander, sev, rock salt, roasted cumin powder, sweet-sour tamarind chutney and spicy green chutney. Mix well, gently. Serve immediately.
1. If the ponk is very fresh and tender, it can be eaten raw, without pressure cooking. The ponk that I got wasn’t very tender, so I pressure cooked it to be on the safer side.
2. You can add farsi poori, roasted peanuts, as well as other veggies like sweet corn, potatoes, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber and pomegranate arils to the bhel, too. I have used only onions here, because that was all I had on hand at the moment.
3. If you don’t have such flavoured sev, you can use ordinary sev instead.
4. Typically, the sweet-sour chutney used in bhel is made using dates. I am not a big fan of that, so I make the chutney using tamarind and jaggery.
5. Make sure you add very little water while pressure cooking the ponk, otherwise you will end up with a goopy mess. It is quite tender anyway, and the steam building up inside the pressure cooker is enough to cook it just right.
Do try to get your hands on some tender sorghum aka hurda, while it is still in season! And don’t miss out on making this ponk bhel with some of it!
I hope you have been reading and enjoying my posts about our visit to Ahmedabad recently. If you want to check them out, here are the links!: