Poha, my ever-so-favourite breakfast, can be made in a number of ways, one of which is the Bengali version called ‘Chirer Polao’. Chire, or flattened rice, is an integral part of a Bong’s diet, especially in the summers when many people have ‘doi-chire’ or ‘doodh-chire’; flattened rice is washed, soaked and mixed with curds or milk and also often forms a part of ritual fasting, etc. Chirer Polao is also a famous Bengali breakfast/snack, made in almost every home.
As a kid, I remember my Dida (maternal grandmother) making this for my school lunch-box, and in summers, serving me a plateful as an evening snack whenever she visited Bombay (as it was known back then 😛 ). As I grew up, my tastes of course, adapted to many other cuisines, and somehow, I took a bigger liking to the Maharashtrian version, ‘Kanda Poha’. I can eat Poha every day if you serve it to me 😉 but today, I decided, after a looooong time, to make the humble Chirer Pulao.
This recipe comes from my mother’s side of the family; my grandmother’s aunt first made this somewhere around the 1940’s, in erstwhile Burma (now, Myanmar). During World War II, when the Japanese had begun taking over most south-east Asian countries, Burma suffered major loses and food, though not scarce, was selective. There was no wheat, no sugar, no onions, but plenty of potatoes, jaggery, rice, fish and milk, often distributed in large crates by the Japanese army. It was here that the ladies of the house made ‘chire’ from the rice, and this was when this particular dish was made 🙂 Of course, for centuries, almost all Bengali households have made Chirer Polao, and each have their own versions.
This one is from the ‘Sen’ branch of my maternal side of the family. Apart from boiled potatoes, this version also uses boiled peanuts 🙂 I hope you like it as much as I do 😀
- Chire/Flattened Rice – 2 cups (about 300 gms)
- Onions – 3, chopped
- Potatoes – 1 large, or 2 small, boiled, peeled, diced into small pieces
- Tomatoes – 1 large, chopped fine
- Peanuts – 1 cup, boiled
- Curry leaves – a handful
- Asafoetida/Heeng – 1 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Coriander – chopped, for garnish
- Green chilies – 3, chopped
- Salt – to taste
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Lemon – for garnish
- Mustard oil – 2 tbsp
- Ghee – 1 tsp
- Wash and keep the flattened rice aside to drain.
- Heat a kadhai/deep-bottomed vessel and add the Mustard Oil.
- When hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves, and let them crackle.
- Now add the chopped onions, and the asafoetida.
- Fry lightly until translucent, and then add the boiled potatoes, peanuts and a little salt.
- Stir fry for a couple of minutes, until well combined.
- Now add the sugar, tomatoes, and the washed chire.
- Season with remaining salt, and ghee and toss well on a medium flame until you see the chire softening and changing colour to a pale golden (which means it’s cooked, a trick my Dida taught me 😛 )
- Garnish with remaining coriander, a sprinkle of lemon juice, and serve hot.
- I like to have this with my favourite ‘Kanda-Lasun’ chutney from Mumbai 😀