All sorts of Crack

It only took us four years to finally hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, apparently one of the most visited wilderness areas in the US.

Diamond Lake has been on my list of must-do hikes for a long time. The problem is that you - we - need to get to the trailhead rather early, not just to get a parking spot but also to ensure that you are back before the afternoon thundershow. Diamond Lake is not an easy hike but we've graduated to moderate and slightly strenuous hikes with Medha (and me, but don't tell her) that it should not be a problem anymore. But the rise-and-shine early thing presents several issues on weekends; on weekdays, too. But it's summer and we are allowed these small luxuries of life even though I always feel like we're sleeping our lives away. Yet it seems to be firmly ensconced in my genes and poor Medha has it socked from both sets of genes she inherited.

So Diamond Lake, it was not. Instead we thought we'd do an easy hike to Lake Isabelle (10,870ft), 2 miles one way. Except, we didn't get parking at the Long Lake trailhead - no prizes for guessing why. We had to park near the Niwot Cutoff Trailhead (10,300ft) in the Brainard Recreation Area, making the hike a 3-mile one way trip. Someone was not very happy: "this is like doing BolderBoulder at almost 11,000ft, Mumma!" but she was glad she came along because Lake Isabelle is so worth it! The lake is nestled in a valley, almost at treeline. It's an incredible kind of high.

The lesser traversed Jean Lunning trail winds through meadows that are currently beaming and bursting with wildflowers. That equates to crack for me, for I saw wildflowers that I had only seen in books and on Jen's photoblog before.

Elephant heads (Pedicularis groenlandica)
Shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)
Friday had seen us at the Temple of Jen, where we had gorged ourselves on 'grazings' that left me so satiated that I could barely walk to the car, and very grateful that Kitt would drive us down the canyon and back home.

The Temple of Jen
Carne adovada, with fixings
Carrot cupcakes, with two types of frosting
Meals at Jen are always a work of art and I hate to add my splotch to an elaborate design but, since we were 'grazing' and I know Jen prefers savory to sweet, I thought I'd add my touch of Indian to the snacks that she was going to lay out for us. I took chivda. Little did I know that grazings would be more than an entire meal, followed by three courses of dessert, punctuated by fruity piña colada and refreshing mojitos with floral minty tones. Kitt brought the mojitos and unfortunately, I did not get to taste the white wine Sangria that Dana brought with her.

Chivda is a tea-time (or any-time) snack. There is fried chivda, spicy chivda, chivda that is more sweet than savory. Chivda is made with poha, or there is potato chivda, cornflakes chivda, rice crispies chivda and so on.

Chivda, chevro, chevda; Indians have a lot of names for it. Kitt gave it a new name: crack.


  • 1lb poha or thin flattened rice
  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida
  • 15-20 fresh kadipatta or curry leaves
  • 15 Thai chillies, sliced fine
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup raw peanuts
  • 1/2 cup cashew halves (optional)
  • 1/2 cup split dalia
  • 4 dried red chillies, broken into 2-3 pieces each (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • pinch citric acid crystals (optional)

  1. In a large pot or saucepan, add a tsp of vegetable oil and heat. Add 3-4 cups of thin poha at a time and roast on medium flame for 4-5 minutes until the flakes of poha are crisp. You can skip the oil, if you wish.
  2. Spread on a large cookie sheet and repeat until all of the poha is crisp.
  3. Wash, dry and slice the green chillies.
  4. Wash and dry the kadipatta, too.
  5. Wipe the pot clean and heat 1/4 cup ghee and 1/4 cup vegetable oil.
  6. Add mustard seeds and when they start crackling and bouncing about, add asafetida.
  7. Have a splatter guard or lid ready because if you didn't need it before this, you will certainly need it now.
  8. Add the green chillies and kadipatta and quickly cover the pot else you will have droplets of oil everywhere.
  9. Open the lid to give you enough space to stir the oil mixture. Or hold the pot and swoosh it about every so often. The goal is to have crisp kadipatta and green chillies but you don't want to burn them either.
  10. After a minute or so, add sesame seeds. Be a little careful at this stage as they tend to pop right out and into your face when they get hot.
  11. Add peanuts, cashews and dalia.
  12. Add cumin seeds and dried red chillies and stir some more.
  13. Add turmeric powder last as this tends to burn and leave an undesirable flavor if added earlier.
  14. Turn off the heat and add salt, sugar and citric acid. Mix well.
  15. Add 3-4 cups of crispy poha at a time to this oily mixture of spices and nuts and toss together each time. The oil should coat the crispy poha in a tight embrace.
  16. Taste for spice level and if you need to up the heat, add red chilli powder now and toss to mix well.
  17. If you feel that it is not salty enough, hold that thought for at least another half a day.

  • You can skip the ghee and make this with 1/2 cup vegetable oil. Using ghee adds a level of homemade flavor not found in store-bought chivda.
  • If you are lucky enough to have pure or near-pure asafetida, you won't need more than a pinch.
  • I like the flavor of green chillies in this chivda and prefer not to add dried red chillies or red chilli powder. If you are like me, make sure you have a lot of green chillies on hand. I ran out of green chillies the second time I made it and they were not spicy enough either, so I had to add dried red chillies, and that was not enough either, so I had to add red chilli powder. It was Kashmiri red chilli powder so I didn't mind.
  • Do not even think of attempting to make this if you don't have fresh kadipatta or fresh green chillies. Go buy yourself a packet of chivda from the nearest Indian store instead.
  • This chivda is often called kaccha chivda or uncooked chivda as the poha is not deep fried.
  • A core ingredient that I left out is thin slivers of dried coconut. About 1/4 cup. The dried coconut I had at home was a little too old and the bag of slivered dried coconut at my Indian grocer's was a little too big. Dried coconut does not score very high with the rest of my family so no-one missed it.
  • There are many variations of this chivda. A friend of mine fries onions till they are a crispy brown and adds it to the chivda.
  • Another friend makes thin garlic chips and adds those.
  • This recipe uses some garam masala made just ahead of time.
  • Find the recipe that appeals to you most or try all these variations. But do try this chivda at least once and like Kitt, you might get high on a healthy kind of crack.

Now, my patio beckons, so I will be off. Hope you had as interesting and as fulfilling weekend as I did. But before I go, let me share some of the madness that my family indulges in every time they are near a body of water.

I'll save you with my eyes closed this time, Daddy!


Unknown said...

Manisha, I haven't checked in with you for a while, and this post was just the thing. I so much enjoy your recipes and slice of life.

I wanted to let you know I finally did your lemon pickle recipe - it's sitting in the sun on our deck as we speak, and I can't wait to try it. Got a few weeks to go though.


Fergie said...

Oh, i have got to make this...


Anonymous said...

the pictures are fantastic and looks like you had a fab time.... i'd love to join you on the patio for some of that chivda!!

Doloncookbook said...

Wow nice pictures .. Seems you have enjoyed very much ...
& chivda is my favourte snack with evening tea ...Looks great ...

Nirmala said...

Manisha, thats a gala time over the weekend! perfect end to end! Love the chivda and with a book in hand a cuppa I am all set to spend several days ;) Love the last shot!

Parita said...

My mom just got this chivda for me :) its my favorite, looks delicious. Gorgeous clicks and looks like you had a grt time!

raj said...

this is my first visit to your blog! love it :)
-the hungry cook

Deepthi Shankar said...

awesome place .. chivda is one of my fave snacks

Anita said...

Wacchu reading?

Pritya said...

Dear Manisha, the sounds like an awesome made me want to get away for a few days.

Indian Food Rocks said...

YNL, let me know how the pickle turns out. I have to put out a few jars myself. I've been procrastinating, using the afternoon thunderstorms as an excuse but I don't have much time left! School starts in another 3 weeks!

Fergie, do it! It's easy and so much taste for such little work!

Arundati, we are very lucky to live where we do! The mountains in less than an hour and the Flatirons in Boulder, if we don't want to go that far. Come over whenever you can - I'll share more than just my chivda! ;-)

Doloncookbook, me too! Do you make your own?

Nirmala, I wish I could spend more time on my patio but we have mosquitoes the size of Mongolia this year. And guess what? Odomos seems to work because these moskies have not been exposed to it!

Parita, we certainly did have a great time! Did you mom make the chivda for you? You are so lucky!

Raj, I hope you come back again and again!

Deesha, it totally is awesome!

Anita, Shantaram, courtesy of Kitt. Have you read it?

Pritya, I hope you get to take a vacation soon! We are stay-cationing this summer as neither my husband nor I can get away. So we're tryign to hit all the local hikes and get a quick fix every weekend. It's not a bad thing, you know even though chores get put off and the laundry never gets done!

TKW said...

Great pictures, girlfriend! I love that last looks like you had a terrific time.

And thanks for bringing the crack to Stitch and Bitch!

Srivalli said...

Lovely pictures manisha....