Malabar Spinach is a thick spinach like leaf that grows on a vine – it is often confused with other greens, but look for leaves that are thick, a little mucilaginous, and are on twining stalks. It may also have white or purple flowers and seeds on the vine. These leaves are common in India and throughout S. E. Asia. It has various names and may be called Basella Spinach, Poi leaf, Bacchalikura, Vasalakkirai, Basale Soppu, Ceylon spinach, Buffalo spinach, Indian spinach, Red vine spinach, Vine spinach, Upodika and Poi. There are more – Bachali in Andhra, Basale in Kannada, Vaali Bhaji in Konkani, Mayalu in Marathi and Pui Shak in Bengali.
Malabar Spinach is not really a spinach at all, but the taste is similar and it is better suited to summer growing than real spinach.
Malabar Spinach Pakoda
approx 15 Malabar spinach leaves, washed and chopped shredded
1 cup chickpea flour
1 Tblspn rice flour
1 Tblspn fine semolina/rava
0.25 tspn chilli powder
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
0.5 tspn plain eno or baking soda
0.5 white or red onion, chopped
2 Tblspn yoghurt
sea salt to taste
canola or peanut oil for deep frying
In a large bowl, mix the chopped malabar spinach leaves with all other ingredients apart from the oil. Add enough water to make a batter, and allow it to sit for 10 mins.
Heat the oil in a kadhai or large pan. When hot reduce the heat to medium. Take a little of the batter, flatten, add to the oil and fry until it is golden brown. Do this in batches, frying 4 or so at a time, depending on the size of your pan. Drain them on kitchen paper towel.
Serve as a snack with tea or coffee, with a side dish of little yoghurt mixed with chilli paste, or a spicy Indian chutney.