Spring picnic idea – Masala pori / phori / puffed rice with chai

Spring is the season for so many great things. It’s the time of the year when sun shines across the horizon and peps up the mood of the people and brings a smile on their face. It’s the season where zoos, parks, beaches and amusement parks are filled with tons and tons of kids and adults. So it becomes the time of the year where yummy foods are cooked and packed in a picnic basket and everyone enjoys BBQ with chilled beer or smoothie or buttermilk. Where ever you are! What ever country you are from! Spring brings food and fun to the table.
My first picnic which still remains so close to my heart is our trip to Little Folks amusement park, Chennai. We eight kids along with M mama (dad’s cousin), our devoted driver and S perippa (dad’s elder brother), our navigator ventured out to this amusement park during my 2nd grade summer break. Our old yet sturdy Maruthi Omni Van was the car that we traveled in. It is like a mini 7 seater van, how much ever people you fit inside the car, you are sure to arrive at the destination without much trouble. Such a dependable car it was. Every huge family I knew owned this car at that time frame.
Maruthi Omni van was the first car my dad bought in 1992. I still remember the white colored car with two extra fold-able seats fixed in the boot and it was parked right infront of our apartment. My mom bought a fitting car cover from T.Nagar and every night she would dutifully cover it. Since Omni has the engine inside, the car turns into an oven on long drives. We didn’t have an air conditioner in it but there was one mini fan placed above the dash board. It was a simple car with basic fittings but we had lots of wonderful memories in it. I am reliving those days through this post. One such memorable trip in our Omni was with my cousins to Little folks amusement park in Chennai, South India.
That was a time in India where owning a car was a luxury and every home tried their best to fit in maximum number of passengers when they traveled. That’s the philosophy of huge families – adjust and accommodate. I come from a family with lots of cousins and for every vacation we look forward to fun trips, sharing treats, cracking jokes, loving each other and having a blast together.
Women at home will pack foods for us. There would be chaat for sure, lemon rice with potato chips, homemade made snacks like manoharam, adhirasam, murukku, seedai. My grandmother would send two bottles of chaat chutney, box of masala phori / puffed rice & sev (omapodi) and another box will have finely chopped onions, cucumber, tomatoes and cilantro. Our mama’s job is to mix all the given ingredients to bhel puri like dish. We ate those meals in hurry to finish and run back to the play area. There was a dance floor where we get to dance with Winnie the Poo, Mickey and Mini Mouse (people dressed in cartoon character costumes). I danced non-stop.  I think for more than 2 hours or so. Even my cousins danced with me but only I ended up getting a prize for being so enthusiastic. LOL! I find it so funny now.The picnic foods are always more delicious to me. There would be gallons of water tucked in the corner of the car. Spring and summers are intense, humid and hot in Chennai and during picnics we carry a lot of water and chilled buttermilk. After a long exhausting day we would head back tanned and dark.Wow, I am surprised that I remember everything about that day from the food to the outfit I wore. It has been a trip down the memory lane for me. I am sure even you would have thought about the trips you made with your cousins and grandparents after reading this post?

Left: My impatient little one digging on to a bowl of masala phori set for the photo shoot. Right: My son was ready with his packet for Happy Hollow
Since spring is on the full spell in California, I am recreating memories through food for my son. We pack our picnic bag together – there will be his favorite masala phori, cheerios, sweet potato nuggets and fruits. For drinks there would be neer mooru (buttermilk), chikko milkshake and masala chai.
This month’s theme for World on a plate is Spring picnic ideas and I am sharing the recipe for an easy breezy snack – masala phori (puffed rice). The pungent garlic and crispy curry leaves compliments wonderfully with the crunchy puffed rice. I have added turmeric powder to give it a milk yellow hue. Overall its a quick and filling snack for toddlers, kids, adults and for everyone in between. Masala phori is a common snack made by U perimma and as a gang of three (perimma, D and me), we are big addicts to tea time snacks (norukku theeni) and our family fondly refer us  as “Santha Grinders” as we always munch something or the other. From uppu kadalai to kai murukku to yelandha vadai, we are game to eat it anyday anytime.
Source: U perimma
Serves: 4 – 6 , a cup each
1 large packet of phori/ puffed rice from Indian stores
1 tablespoon olive oil or any oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10-12 curry leaves
4 garlic with skin on – crushed
4 dry red chillies -snapped
1 or 2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup roasted peanuts (optional)
1. Remove about 6 cups of puffed rice to a fresh bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large cooking pan / kadai. Once they oil ripples, add the mustard seeds and let it pop. Then throw in the curry leaves and let it crisp up, about 60 seconds. Then add the garlic and dry red chillies. Saute for 30 seconds. Finally add turmeric and cook till the raw smell disappears, about 60 seconds.
3. Add the phori / puffed rice and cook on medium low flame for 30 minutes, sauteing every 5 minutes and wait till they crisp up. Do a taste test after 30 minutes to check for crunchyness.
4. Sprinkle salt and roasted peanuts. Mix well and serve with hot chai.

Additional notes
1. Since puffed rice is made from rice, masala phori is a gluten free snack.
2. Can be eaten in moderation by people who are on a weightloss journey.
3. An ideal snack (baby food) for toddlers above 12 months.

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  1. I love masala poori. I used to make it frequently.

    Now, seeing this picture of masala poori, I'm inspired to make it…

  2. Wow this is again something new to me, we have something similar but its the sweet variant and formed into balls.

  3. Perfect picnic recipe….i sometimes add corn flakes too….love the pic of the lil one ready to grab those…

  4. What a wonderful snack! And I really enjoyed reading about the trips of your childhood and jamming everyone into the hot car 🙂

  5. Such wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing them with us. This masala phori is new to me but I would like to try it. Sounds delicious!

  6. Perfect picnic snack 🙂 Love those teeny hands playing around with phori 🙂

  7. Wat a fabulous and guilt free snack,i wont mind to munch some rite now.

  8. The snack looks awesome, love the cup of tea to go with it 😉

  9. Looks just beautiful pics and memories both 🙂 Just finished making north Indian version of this and here I am liking this one too… so I think this one is going to be next !

  10. Enjoyed reading your fond memories. I love spices on this puffed rice. Great picnic post!

  11. Romba nanna edarel. I was thinking what to do with so much puffed rice since the stores sells huge quantities. Thanks for sharing this simple recipe. You write really well & keep up the good work ESP the childhood memory was so nice to read. Relived my childhood reading your article. Hope to see you at the WF workshop.

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