I hope you are gearing up to celebrate Diwali. I can’t believe it’s already time for the big festival, but it is! We have been busy cooking up various sweet and savoury dishes in preparation for Diwali, which arrives this weekend. Today, I present to you our family recipe for one of these Diwali-special foods – Aval Mixture aka Poha Chivda, a delicious snack made using beaten rice.
A bit of background about Diwali
Before we get to that, though, let me talk a bit about Diwali, for those readers who aren’t acquainted with it. Popularly called the Festival of Lights, Diwali is a Hindu festival that celebrates the return of Lord Rama with his wife Seeta to Ayodha, having won a hard-earned victory over Ravana. It is one of India’s biggest festivals, signifying the victory of good over evil, of light over darkness.
There are small variations in the way Diwali is celebrated in the various states of India, but the over-arching beliefs are more or less the same. Diwali means shopping, new clothes, dressing up to the hilt, lighting lamps, getting together with friends and family, prayers, gifts, bursting crackers, loads of food, spreading love and good cheer all around.
In Tamilnadu, Diwali day (or Deepavali, as it is called) sees families rising as early as 4 a.m. for a rejuvenating oil massage and bath, which is followed by the wearing of new clothes and jewellery. Then, it is time to head out to burst crackers, closely followed by a special lunch. The evening is spent meeting friends and family, serving and eating the sweets and snacks painstakingly prepared in the few days before Diwali. 7-Cup Cake, Rava Kesari, Omapudi, Aval Mixture, Ribbon Pakoda, Murukku, Kasi Halwa and Payasam are some dishes commonly prepared in our family for Diwali.
Aval Mixture or Poha Chivda
Aval Mixture or Poha Chivda is prepared using beaten rice or poha, and we make it with the minimal use of oil. There is no deep-frying involved, which makes this a relatively guilt-free festival snack. The cashewnuts and raisins, groundnuts and jaggery, that are added in make the mixture rich and special.
This Aval Mixture is slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and just the right amount of salty – making it a burst of flavours. It is a completely vegetarian preparation, suitable to those following a vegan or plant-based diet. If you are using gluten-free asafoetida (without any wheat flour added to it), this Aval Mixture recipe is gluten-free as well. In case you aren’t able to get hold of gluten-free asafoetida, you can just skip it altogether too, without any significant change in the taste of the dish.
Our family recipe for Aval Mixture, for #DiwaliDhamaka
Here’s how the Aval Mixture is made in our family. I share this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group, which is showcasing Diwali-special foods this week. Yes, the group theme this week is – #DiwaliDhamaka!
Ingredients (makes 3 cups):
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 3 cups medium-thick beaten rice (poha or aval)
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 tablespoon red chilli powder or to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste
For the tempering:
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
- 4-5 dry red chillies
- 10-12 cashewnuts, halved
- 1-1/2 tablespoons groundnuts
1. Dry roast the groundnuts on medium flame till crisp. Ensure that they don’t get burnt. Transfer to a plate and keep aside.
2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Turn the flame down to low-medium. Add in the beaten rice.
3. Keep stirring constantly for 4-5 minutes, keeping the flame low-medium, or till the beaten rice gets nice and crisp. Do not overcook the beaten rice, or it will become too hard. Take care to ensure that the beaten rice doesn’t burn.
4. Transfer the fried beaten rice to a large mixing bowl or vessel.
5. Now, we will prepare the tempering. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan. Add in the mustard, and allow them to pop. Turn the flame down to medium. Add in the raisins, curry leaves, asafoetida, dry red chillies, halved cashewnuts and dry-roasted groundnuts. Mix gently. Fry these ingredients on medium flame, till the cashewnuts start browning, the curry leaves get crisp and the raisins puff up. Stir constantly. Take care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn. Switch off gas.
6. Add salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and jaggery powder to the beaten rice. Mix gently but well, using your hands. Ensure that the seasonings are evenly distributed through the beaten rice.
7. Now, pour the tempering over the beaten rice. Mix it in, using a spatula. Your Poha Chivda is ready to use! Allow it to cool down fully before transferring it to a clean, dry, air-tight container.
Tips and tricks
1. I have used regular refined oil and medium-thick poha (the type we use to make poha upma).
2. Make sure you use a large vessel to fry the poha. The pan should not be overcrowded. The poha should have enough space to move around in the pan. If you have a smaller pan only at hand, you can fry the poha in two or more batches, using a little oil at a time.
3. Some families dry roast the poha, and then proceed to add the seasonings and the tempering. We prefer making it the above way.
4. Slivers of dry coconut, chopped green chillies, fried gram (pottukadalai), chopped almonds are some other things you could add to the tempering. We usually don’t.
5. It is important to make sure that neither the poha nor the tempering gets burnt. Please do ensure this, otherwise the taste of the Poha Chivda might be compromised.
6. Some people deep-fry the poha before proceeding to add the seasonings and the tempering to it. You could do that, too.
7. Let the fried poha cool down slightly before seasoning it. Adding the seasoning and the tempering to very hot poha can cause it to go limp.
8. Powdered sugar can be used in the above Aval Mixture recipe, instead of the jaggery powder. Alternatively, you can omit the sugar or jaggery altogether. I prefer using jaggery powder.
9. Make sure you don’t overcook the poha, which might cause it to become overly hard.
Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!