It was news to me that chilli leaves could be eaten, and now I rue all of those chilli plants over the decades that could have also provided the occasional green dish as well. Chilli leaves are a little earthy, a little bitter, and not at all hot. They are vibrant green when they are cooked – hence they are often included in Thai Green Curry Paste to enhance the colour without adding more green chillies.
My Asian green grocer had these in stock today, so a luscious bunch of large leaves that could not be avoided. She recommended soup, but in fact different countries use them in very different ways – from salads with soy sauce and sesame seeds (blanch the leaves first), to stir fried with garlic, to steamed with tofu. They also go well with noodles, topped with some crispy fried garlic and onion.
I have to thank my Asian green grocer – since I moved into this area we have a number of greens now available to us that were difficult to source or unknown to us previously – tamarind leaves, betel leaves, mustard leaves, amaranth leaves and chilli leaves are the ones that are now part of our kitchen.
Chilli leaves are used from Korea down through Asia and India to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and other parts of SE Asia. They are not an everyday green, but common enough. Here we cook them in a very simple Indian dish with peas and spices. You can make it in under 10 mins.
Chilli Leaves with Peas
1 bunch chilli leaves, trimmed of hard stalks (about 350 – 450g), coarsely shredded
1 Tblspn ghee
1 tspn black mustard seeds
1 tspn cumin seeds
1 red chilli, sliced or chopped (or adjust amount to taste)
1 green chilli, sliced or chopped (or adjust amount to taste)
1 Tblspn ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
150 g peas, fresh or frozen
good squeeze fresh lemon juice
Heat the ghee in a kadhai or other pan and pop the mustard seeds. As the popping subsides, add the cumin seeds. After some seconds, as the cumin seeds turn golden, add the chopped chilli and ginger root and saute for 30 seconds.
Add the chopped greens and stirfry until wilted. Then add about 80ml water, cover, and allow to gently steam the greens for 3 – 4 minutes.
Stir through the peas with a pinch or two of sea salt, cover again and simmer for another minute or two.
Remove from the heat, hit with a good squeeze of lemon juice, and serve.
recipe notes and alternatives
This recipe can be used with any greens, but chilli leaves are particularly good to use.
Ginger-garlic paste can be used in place of the ginger root.
Add a Tblspn or two of coconut shreds with the greens.
Sprinkle the top with kalonji seeds or sesame seeds.
This is delicious with rice and even better stirred through cooked rice to create a pilaf.