Chilli leaves were a great find in our local shops. They are delicious with an earthy flavour. They can be used in any dish with greens.
Occasionally the local Asian shop has Chilli Leaves and we are always excited to bring a bunch home. We have a few favourite ways of using them – they are so unusual in Australia. One of our favourite ways is to make a Chilli Leaf Sambar. It is a standard sambar with an onion tadka, into which the cooked leaves are stirred. The flavours are allowed to develop and the sambar is served with rice.
I have topped it with melted ghee mixed with some Indian chilli powder for a spicy lift to the dish. This isn’t necessary, but a small pat of ghee on top of the sambar makes a delightful finishing touch.
This sambar can be made with Mustard Greens, Drumstick leaves or Amaranth Greens too.
Browse our Sambar recipes, and Chilli Leaves dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Early Spring dishes.
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It is fascinating how traditional ways of composing meals have included what we now recognise as health-promoting elements. For example, the salad courses of France and the USA. And yoghurt included in every meal in parts of India. And in parts of Italy it is common to serve a green vegetable on its own as a pre-dinner course or snack.
The Italian greens course is so easy to bring together – simmer or toss some greens, dress, season, serve. It is a great practice – why not try it this month, for the whole month?
Khar is a unique Assamese dish, traditionally served as a starter. Traditionally, pure khar uses kola khar as its main ingredient. Kola Khar is prepared by sun-drying the peels of the bheem khol banana tree trunk, burning them to ashes, and then filtering water through them. It is an alkaline preparation that is believed to have medicinal properties. The dish is served before the main meal to help prepare the digestion for the flavours to come in the main meal.
These days kola khar is often substituted with other items, usually baking soda. Khar can be made with a variety of ingredients – pulpy vegetables such as gourds, papaya, pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant and cucumber, as well as lentils and a variety of greens. Today we are using Mung Beans although toor dal and urad dal are also common. We have seen it made with rice flour and no lentils.
Mustard greens and some chilli leaves are used in our dish today, although Spinach would be equally as fine. I have added a couple of betel leaves, because they are in the fridge and they give a lovely flavour. However, there is no need to be so exotic. Use spinach and/or mustard greens, or whatever greens you have. The recipe has a lot of garlic in it which softens its raw bite due to the cooking and adds a lovely umami flavour. Don’t confuse this dish with Lebon Khar, which is a Middle Eastern dish of cucumber and sour cream or yoghurt with a vinegar and mustard dressing.
When there is an abundance of greens available, what is better to make than Sarson ka Saag. Our green grocer stocks mustard greens now, so for the first time they are easy to obtain. We don’t get bathua greens though. It is traditional to use these but we have to substitute with other greens.
This is a rustic Punjabi dish, common in the Winter when the fields are filled with mustard. It is so loved it can bring tears to the eyes. The dish is easy to make – the greens are cooked with spices until tender, then coarsely pureed. Some people prefer to be pureed to a smooth paste, but traditionally the greens would be hand-ground with a wooden mixer called a mathani to get a puree. However, you can make this to whatever is your preference.
Browse all of our Mustard Greens recipes, our Chilli Greens recipes and all of our Spinach dishes. All of our Indian recipes are here, and our Indian Essentials are here. Or explore our Late Spring recipes.
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.
Similar dishes include Collapsed Beetroot Greens, Chilli Leaf Sambar, Eat Your Greens Every Day, Khar, Steamed Mustard Greens with Sambal, Simple Greens for Every Meal, and Chinese Greens with Garlic and Sesame.