Sai Bhaji – the Sindhi delicacy


Returned from an all too short trip to India 2 days ago and desperately missing my family. I was there for my cousin’s wedding, which serves as a great family reunion – for the maternal side at least! With a few glorious days in Goa and Mumbai, my appetite for India’s been whetted all over again.

And while I was there I had the chance to speak with a physician who recommended that I move off my rather haphazard diet to something simpler – he suggested that for my hypersensitive and hyperactive system, I should do the following:

  1. More fruits
  2. Eat at home
  3. Eat more yoghurt
  4. Reduce fatty foods
  5. Reduce oily foods
  6. No Eggs and less meat (none preferably)
  7. Less Alcohol

So I’m working on improving my diet. I’ve already had a chance to break it by gobbling large quantities of Leberwurst and Bratwurst at the German Bazaar yesterday with a bit of beer after. But never mind that.

Shopping at Metro, I picked up some green beans, parsley, spinach, rucola, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots, bananas, guavas, apples and some nectarines and spices.

Cooking seemed a bit of a chore so I decided to go for a bigger amount than usual and store a bit of it in the freezer. I picked up some ziploc freezer bags for that.

And to Sai Bhaji now! A few months (maybe a year or more) ago I picked up some gram lentils (chana dal) with the intention of making myself some delicious sai bhaji. Sadly I’ve never had the occasion to since I really am lazy about buying spinach and doing all the cleaning and chopping.

Finding some prepped spinach at Metro’s was a boon and one that I intended to take full advantage of! So as soon as I arrived at home, I fired up foodblogsearch.com and searched for sai bhaji – feeling confident that it’d be online. No surprise there. It was! However, I found three recipes and they were a bit confusing. The one I liked most was this one. And my final version followed this one quite closely.

Ingredients:

– Spinach 250 grams
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 2 medium onions
– 3 medium tomatoes
– 2 small carrots
– 1 large courgette (zucchini)
– 1/4 teaspoon (tsp) turmeric
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1 and 1/2 tsp red paprika (chilli powder) (modify to taste) 
– 1 tablespoon (tbsp) coriander powder
– 1 and 1/2 tbsp salt (modify to taste)
– 100 grams of gram lentils (chana dal)
– Cooking Oil (I used some sunflower oil, but ghee or other stuff works fine – just not olive oil)

Prep stuff:

  • Chop onions and garlic and group them together
  • Chop courgettes and carrots together
  • Soak and wash the lentils
  • Chop the tomatoes up
  • Wash and chop up the spinach

Cooking:

I started with 2 tbsps of oil in my 2 liter pressure cooker (you can do it without the pressure cooker, but with the cooker it’s faster and better cooked – the only difference would be that you’d cook it in your covered pot with a bit more water and let it boil and simmer for nearly 20 mins or so). Heated that up on medium heat and added in the cumin. Let it sizzle. Then add in the garlic and onion mix with another spoon of oil and the turmeric.

When the onions and garlic go golden brown (after they’ve gone soft and a bit more), add in the courgettes and carrots. This is wet stuff, so you just need to keep the heat up and keep stirring it a bit. Wait till they go soft. Add the spinach. Now this will fill up your pot, but give it a few stirs and you’ll find that in no time it’ll all fit in nicely. The leaves will go bright green and take on a wet look. After doing this for about a minute, add the drained lentils and keep stirring gently for about a minute.

Finally, the tomatoes. Generally it’s a good idea to use the tomatoes last in any dish. They take very little time to cook and usually if you add it up front, it’ll slow down cooking the whole meal considerably. After the tomatoes wilt a bit and start going mushy, add enough water to cover the whole mix. Then add just a bit more. You’re all set for the cooker now. Put that lid on and leave it for say 5-6 whistles. 7 is fine too. If you open it and it still appears uncooked just close it back up and keep cooking for a bit longer.

To know when to stop, try a bite. If the lentils are done, but just a bit crunchy that’s fine. The rest will taste great too. This batch should feed 4-6 people comfortably if you give ‘em some rice too. You could eat it with bread, but you may need to dry it a bit by cooking it on medium heat for a bit longer.

Happy munching! Now I’m off to a quick shower and some birthday festivities!

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