The Malabar Spinach or Vine Spinach is a climbing vine much akin to the usual spinach, except that it has very thick, edible stems. It is also called Pui Shak in Hindi/Bengali, Mayalu in Marathi, Basale Soppu in Kannada & Vaali Bhaji in Konkani. (see picture below)
This plant has numerous health benefits & is considered a delicacy in Saraswat cuisine. Both the leaves and thick stems are cooked together here and hence there is zero wastage.
In traditional Saraswat cuisine, a bendi is a type of side dish made with vegetables or pulses, cooked with a paste of grated coconut, roasted red chillies & tamarind, then finally topped with a delicious seasoning of golden-brown garlic with skin. A teaspoon of raw rice is usually added while grinding the masala to prevent the coconut from splitting during boiling.
This is also an ideal dish cooked during Shravan or Lent season when several communities abstain from eating meat.
You can also make this gravy with Yam and Black Chana /Bengal Gram, or Black Eyed Peas or Field Beans/Vaal.
Try my recipe for Fiery Red Sardines Fry.
Recipe for Malabar Spinach Curry – Vaali Bendi
Ingredients (Serves 4 Persons)
- ½ bunch Malabar Spinach / Basale soppu / Mayalu bhaji, about 250- 300 gms
- 2 teaspoons jaggery
- Salt to taste
- 3 cups water for cooking
- 1 cup grated coconut
- 5-6 dry red Chillies, roasted
- Lemon sized ball tamarind
- 2 tablespoons raw rice
- 3-4 tbsp water for grinding to a smooth paste
- 8-10 cloves garlic with skin, lightly crushed
- 2 tablespoons oil
- Wash the Malabar spinach leaves and thick stems thoroughly. Separate the leaves from the stems.
- Roughly chop the leaves & cut the thick stems into 1 inch size pieces. Keep separate.
- In a deep cooking vessel, cook the thick stems in 3 cups water with ½ teaspoon salt.
- After 5 minutes of cooking, add in the chopped leaves & jaggery as well. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, take a mixer jar & grind together the grated coconut, roasted red chillies, tamarind and raw rice to a smooth paste adding just the required amount of water to make it a smooth paste.
- Add the ground paste and salt to taste to the cooked leaves, stems and mix well.
- Adjust the consistency by adding required amount of water and bring to a boil.
- Now lower the flame and let it simmer for 4-5 minutes stirring from time to time.
- In a small seasoning pan, heat 1 tbsp oil, add lightly crushed garlic cloves and sauté till they become golden brown.
- Add the seasoning to the green mixture.
- Serve hot with steamed rice & crispy white butter murukku or chakli.