Batata Powa (or poha, as it’s called in Hindi) is a Gujarati dish made of fluffy flattened rice (powa) and potatoes (batata). Light, lemony and flecked with shredded coconut and tiny black mustard seeds, this dish is ideal for a simple and savory weekend lunch; in India, it’s often eaten for breakfast.
Batata powa is colored a pretty yellow with the addition of little turmeric, or haldi. A few weeks ago, my father lent me The Garden of Life: An Introduction to the Healing Plants of India, by Naveen Patnaik. The book, which is fascinating AND beautifully illustrated, explains the medicinal benefits of various spices, herbs, and roots used in India, according to the principles of Ayurveda. About turmeric, it says that in addition to its coloring properties, the root also provides relief when suffering from gastric disorders. According to a comment left on the blog Sepia Mutiny, when they were discussing the Ayurvedic properties of turmeric, it is also a great hangover cure; maybe this explains why the only time I crave heavy Indian food is after a night of partying.
1/2 pound of powa (flattened rice). Powa/poha is readily available at Indian grocery stores.
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 medium tomato, diced
1 large onion or 2 smaller onions, diced
1 cup shredded coconut
2 boiled potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 inch ginger, shredded
1 long green chili, sliced into thin rounds
juice from 2 limes
1 rounded tsp. black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. asofetida
1/2 tsp. turmeric
8 tsp. sugar
1 handful of curry leaves
3/4 cup peanut/vegetable/safflower oil
Wash the powa thoroughly in very cold water about 3-4 times. Place in a colander to let water drain out. Do not squeeze the powa, which will be inflated from the washing.
When the water has drained out, place powa in a large bowl, and gently mix with the tomatoes, cilantro, coconut, ginger, sugar, and lime. Add salt to taste. Set aside. The mix should look something like a snowy garden of vegetables and fluffy rice:
Heat a large pot over medium heat, and add the oil and mustard seeds. Cover pot with lid until mustard starts to pop and sputter, about two minutes.
Add the curry leaves, green chili, asofetida and onions. Cook the onions on medium heat for one minute; then turn heat to low and let them cook until they become translucent. Add salt to taste.
Add the potatoes and turmeric and stir. Pour in the flattened rice mixture, stir once and cover pot with lid for 2 minutes, over low heat. Turn stove off. Serve with chutney.