Takeaway

Chivda, the mix of all things nice

Shabnam Minwalla | Updated on June 11, 2021

Crunch factor: The Madras mixes are a combination of sev, boondi, chana dal, nuts and bits of ribbon pakodas   -  ISTOCK.COM

The crunchy, munchy mixture was a steady companion during the lockdown

* Chivda — also known as chevda, bhusa, chanachur, Bombay Mix, Punjab Mix, simply mixture and, rather irritatingly in recent times, Indian Trail Mix — is a happy higgle piggle of sinful ingredients

* Various ingredients are mixed and matched with copious quantities of salt, sugar and spices

* I’ve long loved chivda— but in a fussy, precise manner

* When the British left India, they took along with them a recipe for Bombay Mixture

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I am hereby making a confession — even though it shows me in a light that is neither positive nor particularly as a foodie-with-fine-taste.

Over the last year, we’ve been through numerous lockdowns and limbos (“lockdown-like restrictions” they are called). We know now that once the WhatsApp messages and newspaper headlines turn shrill and start talking about shutting shops and night curfews, it’s time to stock up on essentials such as dals and pastas. And, more important — in my case — sackloads of chivda.

At a time when life has been split into the essential and the non-essential, I am clear about one thing. Chivda falls squarely into the former . The crunchy, munchy medley of all things nice and spice has been — along with Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Margaret Atwood and Barbara Pym — my boon companion during the lockdown.

Chivda — also known as chevda, bhusa, chanachur, Bombay Mix, Punjab Mix, or simply ‘mixture’ and, rather irritatingly in recent times, Indian Trail Mix — is a happy higgle piggle of sinful ingredients. There are a few roasted versions, but the truest, bestest chivdas are born in great, swimming pool-sized vats of sizzling oil. From these vats emerge sevs made of besan, and sevs made of nachni (finger millet). Crunchy boondis, crisp poha and fragments of flaky fafda. Various golden nuts and chewy raisins.

These are mixed and matched with copious quantities of salt, sugar and spices to come up with chivdas so distinctive that connoisseurs will trek to the far corners of Jaipur and Ahmedabad, Matunga and Lalbaug’s Chivda Galli to stock up on their favourite mixtures. There are the Madras mixes with their wicked combination of sev, boondi, chana dal, nuts and bits of ribbon pakoda. Crunchy cornflake chivdas, where fried flakes of makkai poha are dotted with raisins. Garlicky lasun chivdas. Roasted poha chivdas with their demure, healthful auras. Sabudana chivdas and oat chivdas. And various speciality mixes which — for reasons unknown — sometimes attempt to replicate the flavours of butter chicken, palak paneer and chocolate bars.

I’ve long loved chivda— but in a fussy, precise manner. As a child I spent many summers snarfing down a sugar-sprinkled mixture of potato sallis, fried cashews and raisins. This artery-blocker was sold by Modern Stores and was dispensed from a vast glass case the size of a small refrigerator. Which is a good indicator that I was not the only candied-salli addict in Colaba.

Once Modern Stores went, so did my favourite treat. But then, a few years ago, I discovered another mixture of roasted dals, sev and raisins — only this time the sev was made with nachni, and the flavouring was salty-spicy rather than sweet. Although fabulously fried, I felt pleased about my new find. Firstly, I procured it from a health-food shop. Secondly, it was made with nachni. I felt positively virtuous.

The other chivda that I adore is whipped up by Kamal — the wizard who presides over my kitchen in normal times. She starts the magical process by covering the kitchen counters with newspaper and firmly tucking in her sari for the marathon ahead. Then she fills a kadai with oil and proceeds to fry poha into plumpness, raisins into a toffee consistency, and peanuts and cashew nuts into crisp perfection. After which she adds a seasoning of mustard seeds, curry patta and fried chilli. (While this ritual is underway, I work hard at ignoring the oil and assure myself that nothing home-made can be all that wicked. Ha!)

I also take comfort from the fact that I’m not the only deluded, chivda-vacuuming soul out there. When the British left India, they took along with them a recipe for Bombay Mixture which is now sold across the UKin the most mundane grocery stores. Queen Elizabeth is so fond of the stuff that bowls of spicy mixture are left in various rooms of the palace. Moreover, Her Majesty minds if her protection officers dip into her stash and she wanders about the palace with a felt-tipped pen, which she uses to mark the level of her nibbles. Maybe I should write to tell her that I feel the same way about my nachni chivda.

At the moment, however, the nachni chivda is inaccessible, as is Kamal’s poha spectacular. This has compelled me to get experimental and sample a variety of Nadiadi Bhusas, Jaipur Mixes and Gujarati Chawanas. The highlight of my adventure is definitely the roasted poha chivda made by a small born-in-the-pandemic, home-catering outfit called Roti Mania. And the realisation that there is a whole world of chivdaout there, waiting to be explored.

SHABNAM MINWALLA   -  BUSINESSLINE

 

Shabnam Minwalla is a journalist and author

Published on June 11, 2021

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