I think I am an ‘Obsessive Foodie’ because I don’t know what else to call myself. I obsess about food a lot. And the obsession grows even stronger when I stumble upon a dish that I love or that has many memories associated with it. Which effectively means that I am in a constant state of obsession as far as food is concerned.
As I flick the pages of a good cookbook or watch a chef enthrall me with his or her words and the food they cook, or I just check out a recipe online, there is a constant desire to try that dish. And if the dish is something special, I obsess, and I obsess and oh my god I still obsess till the cows come home. And I will only rest when I end up making the object of my fixation and devour it happily.
Lately, I have been watching this show online called “The Foodie” hosted by the very affable ‘Kunal Vijayakar,’ who by the way looks like a brother from another mother because the man loves his food more than anything else. I don’t know whether it is his easy going way of hosting the show or the fact that he uses the slang that we associate with as a Mumbaikar (someone who is from Mumbai). Maybe it is the way his eyes light up when he eats his food, or maybe it is the way he talks about food as if it is his only love in life. Whatever it is, I am hooked on the show.
So when he covered an episode on “Sindhi Food”, you can totally imagine my obsession levels reaching dangerous peaks. The whole week after watching the show I missed my childhood home and missed the delicious Sindhi food that my very Punjabi mother made. I dreamt of Sindhi Kadhi, Tuk Patata, Dal Pakwan, Seyal Mani, Bugha Chawal. So that whole week the only cuisine cooked in my kitchen was, yes you guessed it “Sindhi Cuisine.” It is such a shame that the beautiful food of the people of Sindh is not very popular, and it made me happy that there was someone who was showcasing the richness and deliciousness that this community offers with their delectable food.
A favourite dish from my childhood was “Sai Bhaji” which was a complete wholesome dish which had Sai (greens) and Bhaji (means vegetables) with some Dal cooked together to make a lip smacking dish that was much loved by all at home. There is a certain freshness to this dish due to the addition of all the Green leafy vegetables and it is very nutritious. Eaten with Rice and Tuk Patata as accompaniment this is one meal that I can never have say not to.
Recipe (Cooking time 60 minutes, serves 6)
3/4 cup Channa Dal (soaked in water for at least 10 minutes)
One large Onion finely chopped
2 Tomatoes finely chopped
One tsp Ginger paste
Two tsp Ghee or Vegetable oil
One tsp Cumin seeds
2 – 3 Green chillies finely chopped
A pinch of Asafetida (Hing)
One tsp Turmeric powder
One tsp Coriander powder
One tsp Red chilli powder
Salt to taste
One bunch of Spinach leaves
½ cup Dill leaves (you can reduce the quantity of Dill if you don’t like the flavour but it is Dill that gives the Sai Bhaji its distinctive smell and taste)
½ cup Fenugreek leaves ( you can sprinkle one large tsp of Kasuri Methi in the end if you don’t have fresh Fenugreek, which is what I did)
Chop all the greens and wash them under running water and drain in a colander. Keep aside till we are ready to cook.
If you are using dried Fenugreek (Kasuri Methi) do not wash it. We will just sprinkle in the end when the Sai Bhaji is ready.
2 cups of equally chopped Vegetables (you can use any of these or just one of the vegetables, Dhoodhi/Bottlegourd, Eggplants, Carrots, Zucchini)
For the Final tempering
One tsp Ghee
Two Garlic cloves finely chopped
Heat the Ghee in a big pan or a pressure cooker. Add the Cumin seeds, Asafetida and Green Chillies, Garlic paste.
Now add the chopped Onions and cook till translucent on a medium flame.
Add the Tomatoes, Turmeric powder, Red chilli powder, Coriander powder and Salt to taste and cook till the Tomatoes are mushy.
Drain all the water from the Dal and put it in the pan with the Tomatoes mixture and mix well.
Add all the Greens and the Vegetables and just stir this mixture once. Add 1 ½ cup of warm water and cook till the vegetables are done. If you are using a pressure cooker, cook for six whistles.
Once the dish is cooked, put it back on the gas and using a masher, mash all the vegetables that have not mixed well. All the dal, greens and vegetables have to mix well and become the green mush that we recognise as Sai Bhaji. If the dish is too watery, keep it on the gas and let some of the water evaporate. The consistency is usually thick for Sai Bhaji.
When you are ready to serve heat ghee in a small pan and add the chopped Garlic, once the Garlic has browned a bit pour it on the Sai Bhaji and mix well. You can add the dried Fenugreek if you are using it at this stage.