Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sai Bhaji (Dal & Vegetable Stew Sindhi Style)

Sai Bhaji is a wonderful rich stew brimming with protein-packed dal, greens, and veggies. I still remember when we had Sai Bhaji years ago thanks to a Sindhi friend who cooked it for us. Our friend commented that her family used lots of tomatoes in their cooking as they liked their food robustly red. Isn't it amazing that a relatively new food has found such favor in so many cuisines all over the world? I wonder how people made do before tomatoes came from the Americas! I believe that this recipe would have delighted her and her family because the ruby red Swiss chard which makes it quite red :D.

In India spinach (palak) or greens called "bathua" and Chukka/Khatta Bhaji are used to make this stew. Any leafy greens may be used in addition to spinach - chard, radish/beet greens, Malabar spinach, or kale. Gongura or sorrel leaves are good substitutes for the Indian Chukka/Khatta Bhaji which are simply sour greens. If sour leaves are not available, add more amchoor (dried green mango) to taste or finish with a little lime juice just before serving. In case fresh ripe tomatoes are scarce, good quality canned tomatoes may be used. Frozen spinach or other greens may be used instead of the fresh. Other winter squashes or orange-fleshed sweet potatoes may be substituted for the pumpkin. Sai Bhaji is delicious served with chapatis or over grains.

NOTE: The amounts of each of the different veggies can be adjusted according to your preference; to keep it traditional, there should be about a cup each of eggplant, potato and pumpkin.

6 - 8 servings


1 cup Chana dal (yellow/green Split peas are acceptable)
1 bunch Spinach/Swiss Chard
1 small bunch Sorrel/Gongura Leaves
1 small Eggplant, coarsely chopped
1 small Potato, coarsely chopped
1/4 Pumpkin or Winter Squash, chopped
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Ghee/Oil
1/2 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 Onion, chopped
1 or 2 hot green chilies, minced
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, grated
2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced (optional)
2 ripe Tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1 small bunch fresh Fenugreek OR 2 Tbsp (dry) Kasuri Methi
1 tsp Garam Masala
1tsp Amchoor (dried mango powder) or more
Fresh Lime Juice (optional)
4 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped


Sort the dal, wash well, cover with fresh water and cook until quite soft but not disintegrating.

If using fresh fenugreek, leaves and tender tips only; discard the tough stems. Wash well and chop fine; set aside.

If using Swiss chard, separate the tender leaves from the ribs; chop the greens and set aside with the fenugreek. Chop the stems finely.

Stir in the chopped veggies and Swiss chard stems with the salt, turmeric and 2 cups of water and cook until tender.

Heat a small pan with the ghee/oil and add the cumin seeds; cook until fragrant and slightly puffed.

Stir in the onions, green chilies and ginger with a pinch of salt and cook stirring until onions begin to color.

Stir in the garlic and cook until softened.

Add the coriander and mix well.

Stir in the tomatoes and cook until soft.

Mix the spice mixture into the the dal.

Add the spinach, sour greens and fresh fenugreek to the dal mixture; if using the dry Kasuri methi, sprinkle on top after cooking is done.

Simmer the dal on low heat stirring often for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with the garam masala and amchoor and cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the chopped cilantro leaves before serving.

Serve hot with rice, chapatis, or other grains or flat breads. Enjoy!

1 comment:

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