Here’s a quick guide to some of the spinach varietals you are likely to find in Chennai or Bengaluru:1. Mulai Keerai (Amarantus Blitum): It is probably the most common variety in Tamil Nadu and high in vitamin, iron and calcium. There’s also a red version of this that has recently been christened ‘Disco Keerai’ (!). The stem of this spinach (keerai thandu or dantu in Kannada) is used in sambhar or More Kuzhambu (a yoghurt/ buttermilk-based curry, similar to the Gujarati Kadi).2. Pasala Keerai or Basale Soppu: also called Delhi Spinach, this is the conventional palak used in dishes like Palak Paneer.3. Manthakali keerai or Kaake Soppu: it’s also called Black Nightshade and is packed with goodness – high quantities of riboflavin and niacin (usually a home remedy for mouth ulcers).4. Murungai Keerai or Nugge Yele: Moringa (adapted from the Tamil and Malayalam word for drumstick) has emerged as one of the 2010 global superfoods. Drumstick leaves (saijan patta in Hindi) are considered one of the most important varieties of Spinach for their proven health benefits.
South Indian Spinach Recipes to Try at HomeYou can try one of these nutritious South Indian spinach recipes that are simple to make:1. Mulakeerai Kodamilagai KadayalThis recipe by Junior Sous Chef Shankar Padmanabhan from Southern Spice, at the Taj Coromandel, Chennai, adds visual appeal and a crunchy texture, courtesy the coloured capsicum. It is a lentil curry made with amaranth leaves, similar to Dal Palak of North India.Ingredients:2 bunches mulakeerai (amaranth leaves)
100 gm coloured bell peppers
150 gm split moong dal
10 gm turmeric powder
20 gm ghee
5 gm mustard seeds
5 gm split urad dal
5 gm cumin seeds
3 gm button chillies
3 gm asafoetida
A few curry leaves
Salt to tasteMethod:1. Boil the moong dal until it’s cooked.
2. Wash and blanch the Amaranth leaves and make a paste.
3. Clean and dice the bell peppers.
4. Heat ghee in a pan and temper mustard seeds, chillies, urad dal, cumin seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida.
5. Add the boiled lentil and paste of amaranth leaves, and mix well.
6. Serve with steamed rice.2. Koora PappuI first tried this dish at Andhra restaurants like Nagarjuna in Bengaluru and Amaravathi in Chennai. However, the best version of this simple spinach dal is a family recipe shared by my friend Sunita Suresh.Ingredients:A bunch of spinach leaves (palak or amaranth)
2 cups toor dal
1 large onion
4 green chillies, sliced
100 gm ripe tomatoes
2 coloured bell peppers
8 garlic pods
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
1-inch tamarind piece
A pinch of asafoteida
Salt to tasteMethod:1. Pressure cook all the above ingredients for about 10-12 minutes.
2. Remove excess water (if required) and mash it.
3. Heat a teaspoon of ghee and fry a few additional garlic slivers with another pinch of asafoetida. Add the dal and spinach mixture and serve after stirring in the pan.
4. Tastes best with steamed rice and some ghee on top.
3. Gongura PickleLarge jars of this spinach preserve used to make their way from my father’s ancestral village – Tadimalla in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, every summer. This tastes equally delicious with steaming hot rice or as an accompaniment. Ingredients:A large bunch gongura (sorrel leaves)
8 dried red chillies
1 tsp jeera
2 tsp coriander seeds (dhaniya)
1/2 tsp fenugreek
1/2 tsp urad dal
100 ml gingelly oil
5 garlic pods
Salt to taste (use judiciously; this spinach is already sour)
A pinch asafoteidaMethod:1. Dry fry the red chillies, jeera, coriander seeds, fenugreek, urad dal on a medium flame and keep aside.
2. Clean and chop the spinach into small pieces.
3. Fry the spinach in two tablespoons of oil until it is partially cooked.
4. Grind the roasted spices and add to the spinach. Add salt, a pinch of asafoetida and more oil. Cook on a low flame adding the oil in frequent intervals and keep stirring till the spinach is fully cooked and the oil separates from the spinach. 4. Drumstick leaf soupMore and more homes in Tamil Nadu are discovering this simple recipe packed with all the magic of moringa.Ingredients:1 bunch drumstick leaves
1/2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
5 garlic pods, crushed
1 green chilli, slit
1 tsp crushed pepper
1 tomato, ground
2 tsp tur dal
3 cups of water
1 drumstick chopped (optional)Method:1. Pressure cook these ingredients for 10 minutes.
2. Stir the mixture and then strain it.
3. Add salt (to taste) and additional pepper (if required) before serving.About the Author:Ashwin Rajagopalan is a cross cultural training expert and lifestyle writer. When he's not writing about food, he thinks about gadgets, trends and travel experiences. He enjoys communicating across cultures and borders in his weekday work avatar as a content and editorial consultant for a global major and one of India's only cross cultural trainers.Disclaimer:The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.