Sunday, June 26, 2011

Atho - Burmese Style Greens With Peanuts & Sesame

Atho is another recipe that Amma passed along to us. Amma was an amazing cook - she took the greatest care in making even the simplest of meals and it showed. She also reveled in the joy of friendship and learning about different places and cultures - she had ample opportunities for both in her travels all over India and abroad. Her genuine love, simplicity, and gracious acceptance of everyone naturally made her very attractive to people. She made friends easily - better yet, cherished them. She also enjoyed tasting make new dishes and learning to make them. This is one such dish that she learned from her Burmese friends who migrated to India as refugees during World War II. Although traditionally made with field greens called "Bathua", spinach or other leafy greens work quite well.

Greens are very important in a vegan/vegetarian diet as they provide calcium and protein in addition to lots of other vital nutrients essential for everyone regardless of the type of diets. We ate greens of one kind or another every day in our household. Leafy green veggies are inexpensive and readily available in most markets worldwide; some examples are regular and Malabar spinach, collards, kale, radish & turnip greens, Swiss chard, etc. If you like exotic ones, try Malabar spinach, amaranth, and moringa leaves which are sold in Asian or Indian markets; you may also like sweet potato leaves. Another good reason for eating greens is that besides being tasty and nutritious, they are also very low in calories.

Atho is packed with protein from the greens and peanuts and redolent with the aromatic sesame. The combination of the sweet caramelized onions, earthy greens, smoky tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients combine to produce an amazingly delectable dish.

Note: Almonds/cashews can be substituted for the peanuts if anyone is allergic to peanuts; tried, tested, and terrific :D.

4 to 6 Servings


1 lb Spinach or other greens, cleaned
2 large ripe Tomatoes
2 - 3 Tbsp Oil
1 clove Garlic
1 large Red Onion
1/2 tsp Organic Sugar
1/2 tsp red chili powder/flakes
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup Sesame Seeds, toasted
1/3 cup roasted Peanuts


Toast the sesame in a dry skillet until golden and let cool. Roast the peanuts also if they are raw.

Wash all the veggies; thinly slice the onion, mince the garlic, and finely chop the spinach.

Broil, roast or grill the tomatoes until their skins char and blister. When cool enough to handle, peel and strain out the seeds. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and reserve along with the juices until needed.

Heat a little of the oil in a skillet or kadai and cook the garlic until golden and crispy; remove to a bowl.

Heat the rest of the oil in the same skillet/kadai and add the onions with a pinch of salt and the sugar and cook until caramelized and golden brown - they should be on the crispy side. Stir in the red pepper, stir and cook for a minute. Add to the bowl with the garlic and set aside.

Cook and steam the spinach in the same skillet until tender with the turmeric and salt; add a tiny sprinkle of water only if necessary. Spinach cooks in a couple of minutes; other tougher greens may need more time to become tender.

While the spinach is cooking, pound the sesame seeds first using a mortar and pestle until they are crushed well; add the peanuts and crush them coarsely.

When ready to serve, mix the onion mixture, tomatoes and half of the nuts and seeds into the spinach. Sprinkle with the cilantro, rest of the nuts and sesame.

Serve hot or warm with rice or roti and dal. Delicious! Enjoy!!

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