There are a number of Amaranth greens available in South India – Mulaikkeerai, Muli Thandu or Thandukkeerai, and Arikkeerai. The most common variety of amaranth that is grown here, Foxtail Amaranth, is Thandukkeerai, but it is grown for ornamental reasons in gardens, not culinary ones. It is very difficult to find the different varieties in shops unless you search the Asian markets.
The different varieties do have different tastes and properties – for example, some are heating to the body and some are cooling to the body. In India, the crops of Amaranth are also dependent on the season – the cooling ones in the hottest parts of the year, the heating ones in the coldest times of the year. Here, there is no such availability, information or attention to detail. Do use whichever amaranth is available to you.
We generally think of Masiyal as being made with toor dal or a mixture of toor dal and mung dal. However Meenakshi Ammal in her books Cook and See has several recipes for Amaranth Masiyal (in Vol. 1) that do not contain any dal. This one mashes the leaves, and I have to say it is very delicious. One of the defining characteristics of Masiyal is that there are no ground or powdered spices, only seasoning with a few selected whole spices. It allows the ingredients to shine rather than being overwhelmed with spices, onions or garlic. That is the beauty of all traditional Tamil food.
This is the Foxtail Amaranth in my garden
More leaves from another variety of Amaranth in the garden.
Keerai Masiyal | Amaranth Leaf Masiyal
bunch of amaranth leaves (mulaikkeerai)
0.25 tspn cumin seeds
pinch baking soda
1 tspn rice flour
o.5 tspn brown mustard seeds
1 tspn urad dal (black gram dal)
2 Indian dried red chillies
8 curry leaves
2 tspn ghee or Indian sesame oil
Wash the amaranth leaves well. Cook in boiling water with salt, cumin seeds and baking soda, until very soft.
Crush the leaves with a churner or stick blender. Mix the rice flour in a little water and add to the masiyal, stir and simmer for a few minutes, stirring as the rice flour cooks out.
Add the asafoetida and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Make a tadka by popping the mustard seeds in the ghee or oil, and then add the urad dal. As it darkens, add the dried chillies, and then the curry leaves. Pour the oil and spices over the amaranth leaves, and serve.