Enter Summer….Enter Malabar Spinach. Malabar spinach (Basella alba) also known as “Ceylon spinach”, “Indian spinach”, “Surinam spinach”, “Chinese spinach”, or “Vietnamese spinach” is actually not spinach at all! Raw Malabar spinach has very fleshy, thick leaves that are juicy and crisp with tastes of citrus and pepper. When cooked, though, Malabar spinach does look and taste a lot more like regular spinach. It doesn’t wilt as fast, and holds up better in soups and stir-fries. You can find Malabar spinach at Asian or Indian groceries since it is a popular green in Asian, Indian, and African cuisine.
Malabar Spinach Chutney is deliciously spicy and tangy, topped off with a browned garlic flavor. It tastes absolutely awesome with steamed brown rice and ghee. This is one of my all time favorite chutneys. Regular dal is made with Malabar spinach, just like with normal spinach. There is a slight difference in taste again- while there’s hardly any flavor in normal spinach, there’s a noticeable flavor when Malabar spinach is cooked.
Spinach and other greens are used in a number of Indian recipes. There are many North Indian recipes made from greens, of which ‘Saag‘ (the word for greens in Punjabi) is very popular. Saag Aloo for instance, is a spicy curry made from greens and potatoes. Saag is a combination of greens. There is one particular saag dish ‘Sarson ka Saag‘ which uses a combination of multiple greens, including mustard leaves.
Malabar Spinach Chutney has a texture that is very similar to Sarson ka Saag in the sense that it is cooked and blended to make it almost into a paste. But that’s where the similarity ends. It may seem complicated when you see the number of steps and ingredients involved, but it’s actually fairly simple.
Make sure you refrigerate it within a couple of hours of cooking so it stays fresh. Though it is mostly had with hot steamed rice or roti, it works great as a spread on tacos.
Malabar Spinach Chutney
- 3 Cups Malabar Spinach Washed, rinsed, chopped
- 5 Chili Peppers Dry Red Chili Medium length
- 1 Cup Onion Fine Cut
- 2 Cloves Garlic Medium size
- 1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 Teaspoon Fenugreek Seeds
- 1 Teaspoon Tamarind or to taste
- 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
- Gather all ingredients
- Cut spinach, onions and garlic and set them aside in separate piles
- Sauté spinach in a half teaspoon of oil for about 3 to 5 minutes and set aside in a bowl
- Sauté seasoning ingredients (red chili pepper, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds) and set aside to cool
- Gather sautéed seasoning ingredients, tamarind, salt and turmeric in a bowl and transfer to blender
- Blend to coarse powder
- Add sautéed spinach to the powder and blend one more time to ensure they are mixed well
- Sauté onions and garlic in one teaspoon of oil till golden brown
- Mix with the blended ingredients and transfer to serving dish