Pui Charchari or Malabar Spinach (Eastern Indian-vegetarian)
Weekend Recipes

Summary: A speciality Saak or Green cooked in East Indian style goes along with rice
Pui Shaak Charchari-Sony DCS

Introduction: Internet is making the geographical boundaries hazy and blur. A Google search on Pui Saak or Malabar Spinach(Basella alba) revealed that it is also quite popular in some other South East Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and even in China. Childhood memories get faded out, but I remember vividly of preparing a dark purple colour out of the ripe fruits of this creeper and making some ink blotches on a piece of paper. Malabar Spinach is in the part and parcel of Bengali culture. So much so, Bengali Novelist Tarashankar has written a short story named “Pui Maacha”. Pui Shaak Charchari is one recipe that has got unique mixture of taste and texture. The recipe shared here is from my Mom’s kitchen, made to perfection for the Rice-n-Curry team
Recipe of Pui Shaak :
Preparation time 1 hour
Cooking time 30 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
Difficulty Level Medium
Ingredients:
1 bundle or about 8 to 10 creeper of 2 feet long Pui Shaak or Malabar Spinach chopped
1 Large Potato diced into medium pieces
2 Sweet Potato peeled and diced into medium pieces
1 medium Eggplant diced into cubes
8-10 diced pieces of Red Pumpkin
1 White Radish, scrapped and cut into medium pieces
1 Ridged Gourd or Jhinge scrapped and cut into medium pieces
1 Large Onion sliced
8-10 cloves of Garlic peeled and chopped into large pieces
4-5 whole Green Chillies
4 Tablespoon Mustard Paste
1 tablespoon Red Chilli Powder
1 Tablespoon Turmeric Powder
1 Teaspoon Panch Phoron or whole 5 spice mix
1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
1 Teaspoon Sugar
Salt to taste
Instructions:
Heat oil on a large Wok or Kadai
Add the Eggplant cubes and Potatoes, deep fry for 2 minutes and keep aside
In the same oil add the Panch Phoron or whole 5 spices, allow it to splatter
Add chopped Onions and sauté till translucent, then add the Garlic
Add all other vegetables and green chillies (except eggplant and potatoes- those are already fried) one by one and stir well for 4-5 minutes
Now add the chopped Pui Shaak or the Malabar Spinach
Fold well and let it cook for 5 minutes
Fold once or twice in between so that all the greens mix well
The greens will release lot of water by now and reduce to half.
Add salt, Turmeric Powder, Mustard Paste, Red Chilli Powder and mix well.
Add eggplant and potatoes and mix well
Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or till the greens start wilt
Fold well, check for seasoning and adjust salt and sugar
Serve with Rice and Daal
Non-Veg Variations:
With Shrimps: Add 1 cup shelled and deveined shrimps while adding the fried potatoes and eggplant and follow rest of the recipe as it is.
With Hilsa Head: Deep Fry Hilsa Head and keep aside. Do the entire cooking on this residual oil to retain the flavour of Hilsa. Add the fish head while adding the Mustard Paste. Break the head with a spatula as per preference. Follow rest of the recipe unchanged.