A recent invitation to a housewarming party said 'no gifts please'. While I appreciate the sentiment, I have known the hosting family for a long time, and hadn't met them in a while, so I just didn't feel it was right to go there empty handed. I decided on taking an edible gift instead, in place of an unwanted trinket that they were probably trying to avoid.
I thought of muffins or some kind of breakfast bread that they could have the next day, but wasn't sure if they ate eggs, so dropped that idea. They would also in all likelihood have some food leftover from the party that day, so I thought perhaps something that would last a little longer would be better. Something old-fashioned, but familiar, something healthy, but delicious, and with this list of criteria, I zeroed in on chiwda, more specifically lahyancha chiwda. It is much quicker to make than the traditional Diwali chiwda that I make annually for Diwali (of course) and all the ingredients needed for this chiwda were already at home.
Lahya (plural) is the marathi term for popped grains. The original recipe called for popped jowar (jondhalyacha lahya), but I have not seen those here. The popped rice lahya on the other hand are found quite easily in Indian grocery stores, and in giant big bags too, referred to as puffed paddy. This nomenclature doesn't sound right to me, because puffed paddy could also apply to regular kurmure that are used to make bhel, but that doesn't bother me. It is the store strategy of packing things in giant bags and thus forcing me to buy more of what I need that is actually very annoying.
This chiwda is adapted from a recipe in Ruchira, and needs two uniquely maharashtrian ingredients - goda masala and metkut, that together impart a wonderful taste distinct from the regular chiwda. Metkut is a multi-purpose powder made out of various grains and spices, and is one of the many things that I have never made myself. I bring a packet of metkut made at home every time I go to India, and it usually lasts in the fridge well until my next trip back. Metkut is also increasingly available now in well stocked Indian grocery stores in the US. If you cannot find it here, of course, you can look for it when you travel to Maharashtra. In Bombay, you will need to head to a store that is geared towards a more niche marathi clientele.
Spices, Nuts, Lahya, Curry Leaves
Before making the chiwda, check to see if the popped rice is crisp and crumbly. If not, spread it out on a cookie sheet and keep in a low temperature oven (between 150 and 170) for about 15 minutes, until the grains can be crumbled by just pressing it between a finger and thumb. This method works for me, but the grains available here could vary in quality.
6 cups of lahya (popped rice or jowar), crisped in the oven if required
4 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
10-12 curry leaves
1/2 cup peanuts (or cashewnuts, or a mix of both)
1/2 cup coconut curls
1 teaspoon red chili powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons goda masala
4 teaspoons metkut
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Mix the chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, goda masala, metkut, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a large wok, kadhai, or Dutch oven. Add the mustard seeds, and when they start to pop, add the asafoetida, turmeric, curry leaves, and the peanuts. When the peanuts are almost fried in the oil, add the coconut curls, and when they start to turn golden brown, take the wok off from the heat, and let the oil cool slightly.
Stir in the remaining dry spices into the oil, and then add the popped rice to it, and using a large spoon mix until the grains are coated with the spice and oil mix.
Let cool completely before eating, and store the remaining in an air tight containers. It can last for several days.
- This is a moderately spicy chiwda, so reduce the amount of chili powder if you like it mild.
- Keep the chiwda slightly undersalted when you make it, as it tends to absorb the salt in about a day.
- Metkut often has salt added to it, so make sure you adjust the quantity of salt according to how salty the metkut is.
An Alternative to Popped Rice
I have also made this chiwda using Kashi Wholegrain Puffs, and it tastes just as good. The story goes that I bought the cereal while on a virtuous eating mission, but did not like it at all as a regular cereal with milk. So something had to be done with it, and turned to this chiwda formula to take it from blah to ah!