Flattened Rice with Potatoes, Onions and Peas, or Kande Pohe, is a classic Indian breakfast. It is also healthy, delicious, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and divinely vegan.
The fragrance of Kande Pohe cooking alone is enough of an incentive to make this recipe. The round, black mustard seeds, popping in hot oil along with fresh, green curry leaves, onions, ginger and chopped chili peppers, smell so good, they will bring friends and family running to the breakfast table. But just wait until they — and you — get a taste of this classic Indian breakfast.
For Indian expatriates like me, particularly those of us from the populous yet oddly somnolent state of Maharashtra on the country’s west coast, Kande Pohe are a delicious memory of childhood breakfasts or after school snacks. In our Bombay home, my father would rustle up this dish in minutes for an easy and nutritious breakfast. When we heard the steel spatula going clackety-clack in the kadhai, or Indian wok, and the fragrance of onions in oil, we knew — to our delight — what was on the menu.
In the early days after we adopted our son, Jay, we found out that Kande Pohe topped his list of breakfast favorites too, partly because he too remembered eating it in his early life. He loves it so much that even when we travel in India and have the luxury of a hotel breakfast buffet, he’ll make a beeline not for the pastries or the pancakes or the waffles or any of the other “kid friendly foods” on offer. Instead, if it’s available, he’ll pile his plate high with Kande Pohe.
Besides being the best sort of comfort food, Kande Pohe is also a naturally healthy recipe. It’s gluten-free and entirely vegan. I buy bagfuls of the flattened rice each time I make my trip to the Indian grocery store and it’s on the menu at least once a week. Even Desi, who didn’t really cotton to it at first (although there is a Tamil version of this recipe, Aval Upma), loves it now.
Don’t let the words “flattened rice” put you off — this is not really an exotic ingredient, at least not by much. It’s just regular rice that’s been flattened into thin flakes. This makes the rice both easier to digest, and it also makes the individual grains — or flakes — more absorbent, so they can soak up all of those delicious spices and other flavors you add into them.
In India, poha, as flattened rice is known, is a popular breakfast ingredient, probably at least partly due to the fact that kids appear to absolutely adore it in just about any recipe. Poha is easily available at Indian grocery stores, and you can also find it on Amazon — I’ll link to it in the ingredients below.
Poha is available in different thicknesses — for this dish, you want the thick poha. The wonderful thing about poha is, it doesn’t really require a lot of cooking. Just a quick spritz of water is enough to make it tender enough to eat and add to this dish. This also cuts down cooking time considerably, making it a go-to breakfast for busy days.
Once you try it, you’ll be hooked.
Try these recipes next:
Flattened rice with onions, potatoes and peas, or Kande Pohe:
Flattened Rice with Onions, Potatoes and Peas (Kande Pohe)
- 3 medium red or gold potatoes (diced)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 2 sprigs (about 20-25 individual) curry leaves
- 1 medium red onion (finely minced)
- 2 tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 2 green chili peppers, like jalapeno or serrano (finely minced. Adjust up or down based on your tolerance for heat)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 3 cups poha or flattened rice
- Salt to taste
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Place the poha or flattened rice in a colander and hold it under running water until all of the poha is soaked through. Set aside while you prep the rest of the dish. (Note: Do not leave the poha in standing water or it will disintegrate. You just need a quick wash and then let it drain in the colander.)
- Cut the potatoes in a 1/2-inch dice and zap it in the microwave for five minutes with 1/4 cup of water, or place the potatoes in a saucepan with water to cover by an inch, bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and let them cook 5-10 minutes or until tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a wok or a large skillet. Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the curry leaves, onions, ginger, cilantro and green chili peppers, Add a generous pinch of salt and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes or until the onions just start to brown.
- Add the turmeric and stir it in. Then add the green peas, potatoes and the drained poha along with salt to taste. Mix well and turn off the heat once the poha has warmed through.
- Serve hot, with a quick spritz of lemon juice.