Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chivda, an inspiring Indian snack

Kitt, Lucy and JacksonIt's been a while. Thanks for your nice notes. I've been doing OK, adjusting to a new pattern of living with a pair of energetic dogs, and they've been adjusting, too. We walk at least three miles a day and sometimes four or five, depending on my schedule and the weather. Lucy and Jackson are quick studies; they sit at corners and stay when I tell them to. It helps that they were well-behaved to begin with. They are mild-mannered and sweet. They hardly bark at all.
I've also been traveling, gardening and cooking.

One of the things I've learned how to cook is chivda, a spicy snack that I call Indian crack. My friend Manisha brought it to a stitch 'n' bitch and I was immediately hooked. A bunch of us went out for Indian food and shopped at Bombay Bazaar, where I got the ingredients to make chivda myself. If you have an Indian grocery nearby, you can stock up on all the dry goods for multiple batches. The only fresh ingredients you need are Thai chiles and curry leaves (kadipatta). The latter are in high demand, so you may need to call ahead to make sure they're in stock. (I might try to track down a curry plant to keep in a pot.)

You'll need:
  • Thin poha, which is pounded rice flakes. One batch of chivda uses half a 2-pound bag
  • Raw peanuts
  • Daliya (roasted dal)
  • mustard seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • cumin seeds
  • curry leaves
  • Thai chiles
  • asafoetida (hing). This is a pungent powdered resin that is critical to the flavor of many Indian dishes. A warning, though: If you are gluten intolerant, you need to find the kind that is suspended in rice flour rather than the more common wheat starch. Check the label. You can buy the wheat-free kind online.
  • turmeric powder
  • sea salt
  • citric acid crystals (optional)
  • sugar
  • ghee (clarified butter)
  • vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
The most time-consuming aspect of this recipe is assembling the mise en place. You want to have everything lined up and ready to go into the hot oil, because once you start the process, you need to keep swirling or stirring the pan.

Because Manisha already posted the recipe, consider this post an adjunct with newbie notes. Click here for Manisha's recipe.

A couple of things I learned: A deep, non-stick pan works very well for this recipe.

If you have a mortar and pestle, you can use it to grind the salt and citric acid crystals to a fine powder, as well as the sugar. I saw this suggested in another version of this recipe. Maybe it's not necessary, but it helps me justify my mortar-and-pestle purchase.

When you are cooking the chiles and curry leaves, you don't need to wait more than a minute before adding the rest of the ingredients. I thought the chiles needed to be crispier, but they do continue to cook, so I ended up with them just this side of burned the first time I made this.

When you add the poha at the end, toss it gently, just turning it over and over with a spatula to coat it. If you stir vigorously, you'll break up the flakes and the curry leaves too much.

One batch is a lot! I took my first batch to work and it lasted a few days. The people who liked it really liked it. The people who didn't, well, I didn't hear from them.
The next time I need to make a snack for a party, I'm taking chivda.


  1. I have enjoyed keeping up with you (a little) on Twitter, but have missed your blogs.

    You have clearly been spending your time in all the best ways. It makes me happy to see you with Lucy and Jackson.

  2. I was checking out your food blog links and here's another you will love:

    I'm not sure how I found it, but it's a great one.

  3. Glad that you're posting again! Interesting recipe.

  4. I didn't know you were on Twitter, or like Kathi D, I would have tried keeping up w/ you a bit. But like Kathi and Elaine, I'm glad you're back. I've missed your postings. And BTW, how are your bees?

  5. Hey Kitt, glad to see you back! Chivda looks delicious, and the puppies are adorable!

  6. Nice to see you posting!! The poodles are just adorable!

  7. Wow, that sounds so good! A great Indian market just opened in my little suburb last year, and they nearly always have curry leaves.

  8. Glad to hear from you and the sweet doggies! Recipe looks good but that's way too many ingredients for me to deal with. BTW, I have the same blue flowered bowls--bought them at my local Asian grocery store where I always go to find pretty bowls. Happy Fall!

  9. Thanks, everybody! I will try to post more regularly now.

    Kathi, thanks for the link. Looks like a good one.

    Claire, I'm not very active on Twitter but mainly use it to keep up with some people who are. The bees are doing fine and have nearly filled the hive with comb. I'll post about them later.

    Amy, you should find everything you need there. I was happy to find a market on my side of town that has the curry leaves.

    Pam, it does seem like a daunting amount of ingredients, but once you have them all, you can make multiple batches and the results are worth it.

    Funny about those bowls: I searched all over Japantown in SF looking for something to match my brown Finnish stoneware and finally found rice bowls in this pattern. Six months later, there were knockoffs everywhere. Which was a little annoying, but it meant I could get a lot more pieces. And they're pretty.

  10. So great that you made this yourself! I love to buy Indian snackfoods, but have never tried making them.

  11. That looks good! We have an Indian market near here- now I have something to shop for. Nice to get an update on the dogs, too!

  12. Woohoo! You made it! And it looks darned good, too! Time to try variations now - garlic chips, raisins, etc etc.

  13. I wish I could get the ingredients in my rural burg, that sounds lovely!