“Bhooja” or “Bhoonja” which loosely translates into something roasted or fried is a quintessential Bihari snack. It is also popular in Odisha by the name Chooda Baja. Made with one or more roasted or fried ingredients there can be ample varieties that can be found- some to be prepared or eaten right away and some that store well for a few days. Puffed rice (murmure or moodhi), roasted gram, beaten gram (chana choor), flattened rice (poha or chooda) , peanuts flavoured typically with raw mustard oil, lime, loads of green chilies, onion and coriander come together to create a riot of flavours and textures and make for a healthy and filling snack.
I have vivid memories of enjoying all kinds of Bhoonja at my Daadi’s (grandmother’s) home. A few jars of recycled Horlicks bottles filled with one of my favourite snacks were a common sight in Daadi’s pantry. I would make sure to scoop out extra helpings of peanuts while serving myself. Peanuts ke bina (without peanuts) no Bhoonja is complete IMHO.
So, I created my own version of Bhoonja- a little sweet, a little spicy and sour a few weeks back. To half of it I added fried onions, the version we consumed right away and the remaining was stored away in airtight containers. My favourite spicy peanut podi or dry chutney was added in good measure to spice things up a bit. Kids loved the sweet and sour flavours too. If you would like to keep things simple you could just add salt to flavour and it will still taste as good . Add friend onions only if you are consuming the Bhoonja right away; bhunja when stored with fried onions release moisture and makes the fried poha soft.
I also added raisins and nuts in good measure along with roasted chana daal and peanuts; you can modify this step as well as per your taste and preference . I roasted them in a tablespoon of ghee but you can dry roast it too in a thick bottomed wok. To add more texture you could add fried sliced coconut (fresh or dried).
Before frying onions you could also add some green chilies and curry leaves for added flavour and fry the onions till really nice and brown
While the onions are frying, you can prepare the Spice Blend for the Bhoonja. I used garlic salt, raw sugar, amchoor and peanut chutney powder. You could also use rock salt or plain salt.
I deep fried the poha as that really uplifts the taste. You can shallow fry it with little oil in a thick bottomed wok until it is well roasted and crispy but I do recommend deep frying for best results. Once the poha is fried, drain it on a kitchen towel and add the fried onions, sprinkle the spice blend all over and give its nice mix until well incorporated
Then I transferred the the mixture in the same wok used for frying onions and on a very low flame stirred it gently for another 2 minutes before serving it.
Without onions this bhoonja stores well for up to a week if stored in a dry place in an airtight container.
- Poha, thin variety- 2 cups
- Slivered onion - 1 cup (optional)
- Green chilies, sliced- 2 (optional)
- Curry leaf- 10-12
- Almonds, whole- 10-12
- Cashews, halved vertically- 10-12
- Peanuts- 1/2 cup
- Raisins- 2 tbsp
- Chana Daal- 2 tbsp
- Sliced and fried fresh or dried coconut- 1/4 cup
- Raw or brown sugar- 2 tbsp
- Amchoor (raw mango powder)- 1 tbsp
- Rock or regular salt- 1 tbsp or as per taste
- Peanut Chutney powder- 1.5 tbsp (optional)
- Ghee-1 tbsp
- Oil for deep frying
- Clean the poha well by sifting
- In a pan, add some ghee and roast the chana daal until nutty aroma arises and it just about starts to turn brown on the edges; keep aside
- In the same pan in the leftover ghee, roast the nuts and raisins and keep aside
- Add oil to a wok and once hot, fry the poha in small batches and drain on a kitchen towel; the poha will turn nice and crispy when fried well but do make sure to keep the flame on medium high and work swiftly as poha tends to burn easily
- Prepare the spice blend by mixing salt, raw sugar, amchoor and peanut podi powder
- If using onions, roast in some oil until nice and brown along with some green chilies and curry leaves, adding the curry leaves and green chilies first followed by onions; set aside
- Next mix the fried poha with fried onions, green chilis, curry leaves well
- Then sprinkle the spice blend on the above mixture and give it a nice mix
- Finally transfer the mixture to the same wok used for frying onions and bring everything together on a low flame