Crackling Spinach; that's one of the quintessential starters in Chinese (or Indian Chinese) restaurants across India. It's that rare spinach dish that kids and adults enjoy with equal fervour. Yes, spinach is usually a bad word for most people on the dining table. Whether you're a pesky kid or an adult, we all need that extra goading to eat our greens. But spinach coated in maida and fried doesn't qualify as a healthy option.
Most Indian cuisines have their share of healthy spinach dishes that add all the goodness that spinach brings to your diet - from multiple vitamins and iron. It's the same in south India where spinach is an integral part of daily meals across homes.
We round up 3 dishes from Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu that are also very flavourful:
Dill Leaves Vada/Soppu Vade:
Spinach in a deep-fried snack? It might not be the most healthy way to eat spinach but vadas with spinach are quite the thing across south India. Soppu vade in Karnataka and Keerai vadai in Tamil Nadu; these versions are essentially the masala vadais (that's made with channa dal) with the goodness and flavour of spinach. The masala and spinach vadas are equally delicious at room temperature. In terms of sheer flavour, my favourite version is the soppu vade in Karnataka that is crafted with dill leaves.
Ingredients of soppu vade:
- Channa dal: 1cup.
- Urad dal: 1 tablespoon
- Red chillies: 2 or 3
- Dill leaves: one fourth cup (Finely chopped and cleaned)
- Finely chopped onions: one fourth cup
- Refined oil: For frying
- Salt: to taste
Method of soppu vade:
- Wash and soak the lentils and chillies for two hours.
- Remove water and drain.
- Grind the lentils very coarsely.
- Add salt, chopped leaves and onions.
- Mix and make into slightly thick and small vadas and fry crisp till they turn golden brown in colour.
Alo Read: Kothimbir Vade Recipe
More Keerai/Spinach Lentils:
As a child I was more partial to Delhi spinach (conventional palak or pamala keerai in Tamil or basale soppu in Kannada) in dishes like palak paneer. But this wasn't available year around. Mulai keerai (Amarantus Blitum) is the more commonly available spinach variety in Chennai and most of Tamil Nadu. This varietal is high in vitamin, iron and calcium. There's also a red version of this that has recently been christened 'Disco Keerai'. Mulai keerai is not my favourite spinach variety unless it's cooked with yogurt. The yogurt adds a nice tangy flavour to this otherwise bland steamed spinach dish. This is my mother's time-tested recipe:
Ingredients of more keerai:
- Spinach (Amarantus/Mulai keerai): 2 cups washed and finely cut
- Grated coconut: Half cup
- Green chillies: 3 or 4
- Jeera/Cumin seeds: 1 tablespoon
- Mustard seeds: one fourth teaspoon
- Thick, beaten curd (slightly sour): half cup
- Salt: to taste
- For the seasoning:
- Coconut oil: 1 tablespoon
- Mustard seeds: 1 teaspoon
- Urad dal: 1 teaspoon
- Channa dal: 1 teaspoon
- Red chillies: 1 or 2
- Curry leaves: a few sprigs
Method of more keerai:
- Cook the spinach well and mash to a fine consistency.
- Grind the cumin, green chillies and mustard to a fine paste.
- Add to the cooked greens.
- Place oil in a pan and heat.
- Add broken red chillies, mustard, urad and channa. When it starts to splutter, toss in the curry leaves. Add to the gravy.
- Add the beaten curd once it cools and stir well.
This is one of my favourite palak (Palakura in Telugu) dishes in south India that combines the goodness of spinach and dal. It's cooked in homes across Telangana and Andhra. I tried this first at my friend Mythili Reddy's house in Hyderabad. This is her family recipe from Telangana that's simple and yet packed with flavours:
Ingredients of palakura pappu:
- Tur dal: half cup
- Palak: half a bunch
- Red chillies: 2
- Garlic pods: 2
- Turmeric: 1 teaspoon
- Salt to taste
- Jeera/Cumin: 1 teaspoon
- Rye: 1 teaspoon
- Onion (medium-sized): 1
- Green chilli
- 4-5 curry leaves
- Lime juice: to taste
Cooking Method of palakura pappu:
- Pressure cook the dal.
- Boil dal with palak, slit green chilli and turmeric.
- Mash a little.
- Heat oil. Add jeera, rye, dried red chilli, garlic (crushed) and the onions. Fry till soft and then add the boiled dal, curry leaves and the palak along with salt. Bring to a boil.
- Add the lemon juice once you remove from the flame.
Also Read:Curd Rice: 3 Delicious Variations to Cooking This South Indian Dish
You can try these recipes at home. The soppu vada with dill leaves is a great anytime snack especially with a tumbler of filter coffee on the side. The more keerai (yogurt spinach) is a tangy, non-spicy accompaniment with rice and sambar or a spicy Kuzhambu (gravy). While the spinach pappu can be mixed with rice and a small dollop of ghee.
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.