Crunchy seasoned flattened rice speckled with fried peanuts
Spring and Fall. My favorite seasons of the year.
There is something magical in the change of seasons. And, a zillion ways to soak in the beauty of it. I find it particularly enchanting to experience spring in small ways. Like say, seated in a reclining chair with feet up in careless abandon, in a balcony facing a thick patch of blooming trees, chirping birds in the background, a golden sunset punctuated by gentle breeze, chatting my heart away with my soul mate and kids giggling by our side, sipping piping-hot ginger chai with a side of something crunchy.
Like this Avalakki chooda.
Repeated every evening with the same zeal, it becomes a seasonal ritual, something to gleefully look forward to, just as much as the season itself.
It is a humble recipe with simple ingredients. Nothing fancy. So easy that it can be made by the time Chai is ready. Yet, it is dear to me as it comes attached to the special pages of my childhood.
I grew up in my Grandfather’s house. While everyone went on holidays to their grandparent’s, we went to visit our parents during our summer holidays. Mom got to cook all she wanted for us during those three months of the year. She would relentlessly conjure up stuff in the kitchen all through the day. One of the memorable snacks from those summer months, is this Avalakki Chooda that she always made in plenty.
After spending the scorching afternoons wandering about in mango or guava orchards or searching the empty river beds for cute pebbles and sticks or playing kitchen in the backyard making mud dosas, when the hunger pangs kicked in, mom would hand us each a small plateful of Avalakki or some mandakki puri to munch on, sitting by the kitchen door opening to the fenced backyard.
To this day, when I make Avalakki chooda, I can’t resist being transported to that remote village in some minuscule corner of North Karnataka. I can even smell the haystacks by that fence and smile to myself from the memory of that speckled blue egg in a tiny nest hidden in that stack. And smile a little more because though the rituals have changed from then to now, the chooda remains the same.
The best part when I make it at home is I don’t have to deal with soy bean oil, palm oil or any other kind of oil that I’d rather avoid in the store bought ones. Its fresh taste can never be beat.
Makes about 2-1/2 cups
- 2 cups paper Avalakki / thin poha
- 12 -15 pieces of 1" thinly sliced kobri / copra
- 3 tbsp peanut oil
- 1/4 cup peanuts
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp hing / asafoetida
- 2 dried red chillies byadagi variety broken into pieces, seeds removed
- 3 sprigs curry leaves washed and towel dried
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- sea salt *
Heat oil in a medium kadai/skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add peanuts and curry leaves and let the peanuts crackle. When the peanuts turn brown and curry leaves turn crisp, strain them both on a paper napkin and keep aside.
To the same oil, add mustard seeds. Reduce the heat to medium when they start to splutter. When the spluttering comes to a halt, add hing quickly followed by torn red chillies and sliced kobri. Sauté for a few seconds until kobri slices are golden brown and chillies turn brown as well. Add turmeric and salt and give it a good stir. Add paper Avalakki, fried peanuts and curry leaves and mix well until Avalakki is coated with the tempering evenly and is hot to the touch.
Remove onto a plate and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Munch away with hot chai on the side.
*I usually grind the salt in my mortar and pestle to a fine powder for this recipe. This step particularly makes sure that salt is evenly coated. Otherwise, it settles at the bottom making the last few scoops super salty.
3-4 small unpeeled garlic pods can be used in place of asafoetida for variation.
Desiccated coconut or grated kobri can be substituted for slices. Add at the end just before mixing.
Optionally, 1/2 tsp fine sugar can also be added if you like the taste.