Is anything better than the bright, tart flavour of raw mangoes? Come summer and raw mango finds its way into a lot of things I make: various kinds of dals, mostly, but also avial, chutneys and instant pickles and salads. One particularly lovely dish is the raw mango rice made in the southern states.
There are small variations, of course, depending on where it is made. Sometimes a small amount of jaggery is added to modulate raw mango’s mouth-puckering qualities, sometimes some freshly-grated coconut. It’s a great addition to anyone’s lunch repertoire, especially for those occasions when one doesn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen.
Which is what I wanted yesterday. Not to spend too much time in the kitchen, that is. I very much did want to have mango rice. The only problem was that there was no leftover rice with which to make this dish. You see, ideally, you want the rice to be dry enough that the grains don’t stick together when you’re mixing in the raw mango masala. You could, of course, use freshly-cooked rice, if the rice you’re using is the non-sticky, long-grained variety. But you’d have to let it cool completely before you mix in the masala, otherwise the steam from the rice would make the dish sticky and clumpy. On the other hand, waiting for rice to cool down just defeats the whole point of a quick meal, so I tried anyway and ended up with a gloopy mess (although it still tasted pretty good).
Then teatime rolled around and with it, the 5 PM hunger pangs (a very real phenomenon, by the way, which has caused many a diet to fail. Look it up). My solution? Raw mango poha. This is such an excellent riff on one of my all-time favourite dishes — poha — that I can’t believe I’ve never made it before. And, of course, you can dress it up any way you want: with a little green chutney, perhaps, or some chaat masala. Sugar is, of course, a popular topping, especially with a squeeze of lime. Some people like a dollop of beaten dahi on top of their poha (I don’t judge). You could also add some crunch with sev, boondi or some similarly-textured namkeen. My personal favourite is the eye-poppingly beautiful combination of fresh coriander leaves and ruby-red pomegranate.
This recipe will serve 2-3 people
2 cups – Poha
1 cup – Raw mango, grated
½ cup – Peanuts
2 tbsp – Any neutral-flavoured oil
1 tsp – Mustard seeds
½ tsp – Cumin seeds
½ tsp – Turmeric powder
1 pinch – Asafoetida
½ tsp – Fenugreek seeds
5-6 – Curry leaves
2-3 – Green chillies, slit lengthwise
Salt, to taste
*Wash the poha thoroughly, then rinse it out in a colander. Make sure all the water drains out, and let it sit while you prepare the raw mango masala (which won’t take long at all).
*In a kadhai, heat the oil and pop the mustard seeds. Add the peanuts quickly and let them fry properly. You don’t want the taste of raw peanuts ruining your poha. Once the peanuts are fried (don’t burn them!), quickly add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, green chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida (don’t burn these either!).
*Add the raw mango, with some turmeric and salt. Mix thoroughly and let it cook until the mango softens slightly, which should take only about a couple of minutes.
*Once the mango has softened, turn off the flame. Immediately add the wet poha and mix it with the raw mango masala properly so that it’s completely coated.
*Serve hot, with toppings of your choice.
[The Back Burner is a biweekly blog that will talk about all things food (with recipes, of course)]
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