Malabar or Chinese Spinach is a god-send during the Summer months. A hardy green with a slightly succulent quality, it cooks delightfully in dals, soups and vegetable stews. It also makes the BEST pakodas.
Malabar Spinach is freely available in Asian and other shops from Mid Summer, and is a lovely alternative to real spinach and other greens. Today we cook it fairly simply with urad dal for a very earthy dish that has a slight bitterness. It does not use many spices, and is gorgeous with some potatoes with chilli and onion.
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.
Pulusu is an Andhra gravy dish with tamarind. It is often called a soup or a stew, and can be made with a variety of vegetables. Okra is common, but today we make it with Malabar Spinach, one of the many different greens sometimes referred to as Chinese Spinach. It is also called Basella Spinach, Poi leaf, Bacchalikura, Vasalakkirai, Basale Soppu, Ceylon spinach, Buffalo spinach, Indian spinach, Red vine spinach, Vine spinach, and Upodika. Boy! So many names! There are more – Bachali in Andhra, Basale in Kannada, Vaali Bhaji or Valchi Bhaji in Konkani, Vallicheera in Malayalam, Mayalu in Marathi, Kodip Pasali in Tamil, and Pui Shak in Bengali.
The dish is spiced with mustard seeds and sesame seeds, and can be eaten soup-like, or with hot rice. I love it over rice. It doesn’t take very much time to make, so in this household, it is a perfect lunch dish.
Also try Malabar Spinach Pakora.