As kids (me & sis) we never liked this green vegetable because of the texture and also the taste. I vaguely remember my mom cooking this vegetable and we refused to try it, as lots of other green veggies were abundantly available. After coming to california, green veggies are not as widely available as in India, but I had a good choice and I use to excuse myself from eating this vegetable. After moving to Virginia my choice was completely narrowed down, still managed with Spinach and Methi for couple of years. Last year when my in-laws visited us my mother-in-law told me how to cook this vegetable the right way.
Besalla Alba or Malabar Spinach is called Bachhali kura in telugu, other common names include Climbing spinach, Indian Spinach and vine spinach. My dear friends guessed it right (Basale in Kannada, Vaali in Konkani, “Mong Toi” or Vietnamese Spinach). This wonderful leafy vegetable is high in Calcium, Vitamin A and C, also rich source of Iron and chlorophyll, also low in calories by volume and high in proteins per calorie. It is a fast-growing soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 m in length, thick and semi-succulent. The succulent stem is particularly a rich source of soluble fiber, thought to remove mucus and toxins from the body. These leaves have a mild flavor and gluey/gooey texture when cooked. It may also be used to thicken soups or stir-fried with garlic and chile peppers. This plant is also used in medicine field. (Source wiki)
Bachhali kura is extensively used in South-Indian cooking. Kanda-Bachhali kura is very famous dish in Andhra Pradesh, other common dishes include sambar, majjiga pulusu. Aava pulusu, snacks and pappu.
1 medium bunch tender bachhali kura (clean and chopped)
½ cup toovar dal (cooked)
8-10 pearl onions (peeled)
2-3 tbsp tamarind paste
2-3 green chillies
Big pinch of turmeric
1-2 tbsp grated coconut (fresh/frozen)
2-3 tsp Sambar powder (according to taste)
Salt to taste
2-3 cups water to make sambar
1-1 ½ tsp oil
1 broken dry red chilli
½ tsp mustard seeds
Big pinch of methi seeds
Pinch of hing
In small pan heat oil add the dry chilli, mustard seeds, and methi seeds and allow mustard seeds to splutter, add hing and remove from heat and keep aside.
Heat a heavy bottom pot with little oil on medium heat. Add green chillies, onions (you can use whole of cut in half) and sauté for 3-4 mins. Add the chopped bachhalaku (leaves and stems), turmeric, salt and sauté for another 3-5 mins. Add tamarind paste little water and cover with lid and reduce the heat a little and cook for 8-10 mins or until soft not mushy. Stir in dal, grated coconut and mix well, add remaining water, increase the heat and bring it to boil, adjust the seasoning and reduce the heat a little. Add sambar powder and the seasoning and cook for another 5-8 mins and turn of the heat.
Notes and Tips
You can add jaggery if you like. Onions are optional. You can also add drumsticks. I like my sambar with onions. You can use / substitute spinach instead of Bachhalaku, and the dish will be called spinach sambar:).