The Magic Of Gongura, Andhra's Most Loved Spinach

Gongura (Sorrel leaves) is an intrinsic part of Andhra cuisine. Its Tamil name refers to its sour flavour that sets this spinach apart.

Ashwin Rajagopalan  |  Updated: October 22, 2019 18:13 IST

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The Magic Of Gongura, Andhra's Most Loved Spinach

Gongura (Sorrel leaves) is an intrinsic part of Andhra cuisine.

Highlights
  • Gongura (Sorrel leaves) is an intrinsic part of Andhra cuisine
  • Many people in the state refer to it as Andhra Matha (Mother Andhra)
  • It's also used extensively in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

Some childhood memories will never fade. Especially those intertwined with food. Almost every summer I would patiently wait for a large ceramic jar of gongura pachadi or chutney that would travel all the way from my paternal village - Tadimalla in West Godavari district. Just a couple of months ago, I finally visited Tadimalla, and the first thing I ate there was piping hot rice mixed with the same fiery gongura pachadi with a dollop of fresh ghee. It didn't just bring back childhood memories but reaffirmed my love for this dish.

Gongura (Sorrel leaves) is an intrinsic part of Andhra cuisine. Its importance cannot be understated given that many people in the state refer to it as Andhra Matha (Mother Andhra). It's also used extensively in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka where it is referred to as Pulicha Keera and Pundi Soppu respectively. The Tamil name refers to its sour flavour that sets this spinach apart. It's not just the flavours that make it a 'go-to' ingredient. It's rich in iron, antioxidants and vitamins (including B6, C and A).

(Also Read: Andhra Pradesh Food: 10 Local Dishes You Must Try)

1jkcnseoGongura (Sorrel leaves) is an intrinsic part of Andhra cuisine.

After a memorable day at Tadimalla, where the Gongura pachadi was one of the highlights, I savoured an elaborate Andhra feast. Vinay Talgadadevi is the Executive Chef of the new Novotel Vijayawada Varun. He spoke to me about his homecoming, rediscovering family recipes after he moved back to Vijayawada over an authentic Andhra meal that he had his team prepared. The conversation drifted to gongura pachadi. It's a dish that you will find on the tables of many Andhra restaurants across India along with the famous dal powder (that some people like to call gun powder). You can typically preserve this for two to four weeks. But that's not the only dish that features gongura. I love the gongura pappu - a quintessential Andhra-style dal that also benefits from the gongura's tangy flavour profile. 

Gongura Chutney or Pachadi recipe
Recipe courtesy - Vinay Talgadadevi - Executive Chef, new Novotel Vijayawada Varun

Ingredients:

Gongura: 1kg
Oil: 200 gm
Jeera: 50 gm
Coriander: A bunch
Garlic: 50 gm
Red chilli: 50 gm
Green chilli: 50 gm
Tamarind: 25 gm
Salt to taste
Chopped onion: 100 gm

Method:

  • Pluck the gongura leaves from stem and wash them under lukewarm water.
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom vessel and add green chillies, garlic and coriander seeds. Slightly saute the mixture. Add dry chillies and gongura leaves. Keep it on medium flame and simmer for 5 minutes. You will notice that the gongura leaves will become soft and release a sour smell. Add tamarind water.
  • Switch off the stove and let it cool completely once the mixture turns dry and soft.
  • Grind this mixture in a small mixer jar along with salt (while grinding). You don't have to add any water. Blend multiple times.
  • Add the gongura mixture to the pan. Finally add the chopped onions.

Gongura Mamsam (Mutton Curry) recipe
Recipe courtesy - Vinay Talgadadevi - Executive Chef, new Novotel Vijayawada Varun

One of my favourite dishes made with gongura is the gongura mamsam or mutton gravy. This combines the tangy flavours and goodness of gongura leaves with a mutton gravy. 

Ingredients: 

Mutton curry cut: 800 gm
Ginger-garlic paste: 15 gm
Gongura: 100 gm
Green chilli paste: 15 gm
Tamarind: 5 gm
Poppy seeds paste: 30 gm
Salt: 10 gm
Turmeric powder: 10 gm
Red chilli powder: 10 gm
Garam masala powder: 10 gm
Coriander powder: 20 gm
Cardamom powder: 10 gm
Whole garam masala: 10 gm
Cumin powder            : 10 gm
Curry leaves: a few sprigs
Ghee: 20 gm
Onion: 150 gm
Coconut paste: 50 gm
Oil: 100 gm

Method:

  • Boil the meat with turmeric powder, salt and ginger-garlic paste, keep aside.
  • Now heat oil in a pan.
  • Add cloves, cardamoms, cumin seeds and chopped onions.
  • Saute onions till they turn translucent.
  • Then add ginger-garlic paste, gongura leaves, red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, curry leaves, slit green chillies, chopped coriander leaves, boiled meat, water and salt.
  • Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Garnish it with fried red chillies, curry leaves and clarified butter.
  • Serve hot with rice.

These dishes are quite easy-to-make. The challenge is sourcing gongura outside Southern India. It's widely available in cities like Chennai and Bengaluru aside from Andhra, where it's probably the most popular spinach. Even if you can't get your hands on gongura, you can surely sample gongura mutton or gongura pachadi when you're at your favourite Andhra restaurant.

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Comments

About Ashwin RajagopalanI've discovered cultures, destinations and felt at home in some of the world's most remote corners because of the various meals I've tried that have been prepared with passion. Sometimes they are traditional recipes and at most times they've been audacious reinterpretations by creative chefs. I might not cook often but when I do, I imagine I'm in a cookery show set - matching measuring bowls, et all!

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