Sambar Avalakki (Poha/Aval) – A light, no-cook snack!
I love food with fresh ingredients and lots of flavor. The vegetarian fare from the Indian state of Karnataka is a harmonious blend of natural ingredients and fresh flavors. Coconut is used heavily and the spices used are very mild. There is also a little bit of sweetness in every dish (even savory) which balances the flavors beautifully. Isn’t that the reason all of us love the Udupi sambar!! My co-sister Bharati hails from Karnataka and I got wonderful insights into this region’s cuisine from her. I had an opportunity to interact with Bharti’s mom, Hema aunty for a few days and I learnt so many interesting recipes from her. This avalakki, hashi, tambli, cucumber dosa, tomato saaru, chutney podi and the best – bella thuppa (I’ll tell you all what this is later!)! Thank you Aunty!!! This is one of aunty’s recipes and I loved it the moment I took the first bite! Its savory, sweet, tangy and crunchy all at the same time and can be made in no time! And so, I’ve been making this regularly ever since.
Avalakki means flattened rice in Kannada, also known as Poha in Hindi and Aval in Tamil. This is a really simple and a no-cook recipe!! It is called sambar avalakki because a lot of ingredients used to make this are also used in making sambar. Actually if you do not have time to make the cumin-coriander powder, you may go ahead and use sambar powder (though it will be slightly low on flavors). Another important note about this recipe is that you need to buy the THIN poha, not the thick ones. Because this is a no cook recipe, the thick poha will not be suitable. And you need freshly grated coconut or thawed frozen grated coconut for this. Sorry you cannot substitute dry/dessicated coconut in this recipe. We need the moisture from the fresh coconut to moisten the poha. Another unique thing about this recipe is that you don’t normally see coconuts and onions together in a recipe. You will see them together in this recipe, and those flavors together are amazing.
Aunty also adds some kind of mixture/namkeen to this recipe. It adds a lot of texture and crunch to the otherwise soft poha.
Thin Poha/Avalakki/Flattened Rice – 3 cups
Mixture/Namkeen – 1 cup
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Coriander seeds – 1 Tbsp
Roasted peanuts – 1/4 cup (optional)
For the masala:
Freshly grated coconut – 1 cup
Onion (preferably red, finely chopped) – 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder – 1/8 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp (or less)
Sugar – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp (more or less to taste)
Coriander/Cilantro leaves (chopped) – 5-6 Tbsp plus 2 Tbsp
Curry leaves – a sprig
Salt – to taste
- Dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds separately until aromatic. Cool and grind into a powder. Keep aside. This keeps well for several months in an airtight container, but the flavor of the freshly ground powder is unbeatable!
Note: You can also use ready made cumin and coriander powders if making fresh powders feels like too much work!
- Combine 1 tsp of the cumin-coriander powder and all the ingredients mentioned for the masala in a bowl and get ready. Using your hand and mix well, like you are making a dough. Rub everything together to release all the flavors! Taste the salt/sugar/tang. It will be difficult to adjust later. This is how this masala looks when ready.
- Now add the poha and rub this masala on it. Use your hands and mix everything together evenly. Taste and adjust seasonings if you would like to. Mix in the mixture/namkeen and the remaining coriander leaves. Add more lemon juice if required.