Banaras also known as Varanasi or Kasi as I knew it when growing up holds a very special place in my heart. My good part of childhood years was spent in the Northern India and we frequently visited Banaras for the holy bath in The Ganges. We had plenty of family and friends visiting us during the summer months and they would always want to go to Banaras. Our trips were usually religious ones and we never went anywhere beyond the banks of The Ganges.
Wish I was a foodie as I am now, so I would have had a chance to taste all the street foods. Since our trips were religious ones, we did not eat much outside, but I still have very good memories of drinking the tastiest milk I have ever drank in my life. Every nook and corner of the street would have milk vendors, boiling the milk in a large, flat, heavy vessel. The milk would be simmering for the longest time and that helps the milk to become condensed and release its natural sweetness. We used to go for a walk late at night (even past midnight) and there will still be milk vendors in the street.
When reading about this recipe which is a very popular street food of Banaras, I tried to rake my memories, but I can’t remember eating it. One reason could be because it mentions in the article that it is found all over the streets in winter as that is when we get fresh green peas in abundance. We hardly have ever visited Banaras in the winter months as it too cold to take a holy dip in The Ganges.
Talking about green peas, have I ever mentioned that it is the only vegetable I do not like? I never liked it as a kid and I do not like it now, but I can tolerate it and eat. When I was young I would spend lot of time to remove every single pea from my food and then eat the rest. But I do like one thing about peas and that is peeling the fresh ones and removing the pods.
My mother used to buy kilograms and kilograms of fresh peas in the winter months and we would sit in the Aangan (open courtyard), in the sunshine and peel away. Our neighbors would be astonished that I would peel mounds and mounds of peas, but did not eat them. Wish I could go back to those days when we all sat together in the sunshine and talked and played and worked instead of being so electronically tied up.
Coming to the recipe, this is a no onion, no garlic recipe and it tastes nowhere close to any of the other poha recipes like the Kanda batata poha or the Aval Upma that I have made in the past. This poha recipe has the sweetness, spiciness and the sourness. I had gone a little overboard and it was spicy, but I could relate how this dish was a winter favorite as the spiciness made one feel warmer inside.
If you can tolerate much heat, then reduce the green chilies or even skip it, but do not skip the black pepper powder as that adds a layer of flavor to the dish. This is my first dish towards my BM theme for this week which is ‘Street Foods’.
Talking about Banaras, also check out my Banarasi Aloo Matar recipe, where I have few more of my childhood memories. When checking that out, also take a look at the UP Thali that I have made in the past which has all my favorite dishes that I ate growing up.
Preparation time – 15 minutes
Cooking time – 20 minutes
Difficulty level – easy
Recipe adapted from – Banaras Ka Khana
Ingredients – serves 2
- Thick Aval / Poha / Flattened rice – 1 cup
- Milk – ¾ cup (I used 2 %)
- Green peas – ½ cup (I used frozen)
- Oil + Ghee – 1 tbsp
- Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
- Asafetida – a pinch
- Green chilies – 2 (slit)
- Ginger – ½ inch piece (finely grated)
- Coriander leaves / Cilantro (packed) – ½ cup (finely chopped)
- Black pepper powder – ½ tsp
- Sugar – 2 tsp
- Garam masala – ½ tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Lemon juice – 2 tsp
- Wash the poha / aval well under running water. Make sure you use the thick variety of aval for this recipe as the thinner ones can become very mushy when cooking. Soak the washed aval in milk. Initially I soaked the aval in a wide vessel, but realized that it was not helping in soaking up the liquid. Then I use a deeper bowl to soak the aval. Depending on how thick your poha is, it could take 10 to 20 minutes for it to soak up the milk and become softer. It took me about 20 minutes and it would also help if the milk is in room temperature (Not hot, just room temperature).
- In a pan, heat the ghee + oil and then add the cumin seeds. You could make it just in ghee or in oil depending on your preference, but ghee gives it a richer flavor.
- Now add the asafetida, green chilies and grated ginger and fry it for about 30 seconds.
- Add the green peas along with salt, sugar, black pepper and garam masala and mix well.
- Add about ½ cup of water and cook the peas until it is soft. I used frozen peas, so I did not need much time to cook it. If using fresh peas, you might need a little more water and time to cook the peas.
- Add the soaked poha to the cooked peas mixture. I had a little bit of milk remaining with the poha and I added it as well. Also add the finely chopped cilantro and mix well.
- Cover and cook in low flame for about 5 minutes to let all the flavors combine.
- Add the lemon juice and mix well. Turn off the flame and serve!