Thursday, July 14, 2011

VaaLi Ambat - Malabar Spinach in Lentil based Gravy

I can survive on only Ambat and Rice for months together. Amma used to make an array of Ambat for lunch back home. For the non Konkanis, it is a preparation of lentils cooked with veggies or greens, blended with coconut and spice paste and concluded with varieties of tempering. We would have our lunch on banana leaves and the flavour that these leaves impart to any hot dish that is poured on them is unique. Having your meal on banana leaf is an art in itself and it is a hearty experience. Especially I never miss pouring ladles of Ambat on my banana leaf / plate and by just using my fingers pick the gravy and quickly suck it in with a distinguished ‘Srrrrrrrrr…..’ sound. Mmmm, this sure is the best part of my meal. In Konkani we call this act as ‘Burkuche’ and I sure am a Burkofying freak!

This particular ambat is made of a variety of Spinach called Malabar Spinach. It is called ‘VaaLi’ in Konkani and ‘Pui Shaag’ in Bengali. Pui Shaag has a respectable designation of its own in Bong cuisine as it is widely cooked with Bengal’s most sought after fish Hilsa. We never spotted Malabar Spinach anywhere after leaving Kolkata. Recently when one of my dad’s aunts visited us, she brought these for me. It had to be Ambat as my VaaLi deprived thirst had to be quenched.

Toor Dal – 1/2 cup
Malabar Spinach – 1 bunch
Salt to taste
Onion – 1 large, diced
Onion – 1 large, finely chopped
Oil – 2 tbsp

For the masala:
Coconut – ½ cup grated
Red chillies – 7-8
Tamarind – 1 marble sized ball

  1. Separate the spinach leaves, cut tender stem into 1” size pieces. Avoid using hard stems. Wash thoroughly.
  2. Grind red chillies, tamarind and coconut together.
  3. Pressure cook dal, spinach leaves, stem and diced onions along with salt for 2-3 whistles.
  4. Mix the ground masala along with cooked dal and add enough water to achieve desired consistency and let it boil for 10 mins. It should neither be runny nor too thick. (Adjust salt at this stage)
  5. Heat oil and add finely chopped onions. Let it brown on low flame. It will take time and its better done on low flame. Once onions start turning brown, pour the seasoning on cooked dal. Immediately cover and set aside.
  6. Serve with steamed rice.
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  1. Delicious Ambat seema,luks healthy and yummy...

  2. Hi Seema

    The gravy looks delicious and I am already drooling over it. Great preparation.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  3. Such a nice homey recipe ~ Love the simplicity of the dish.
    US Masala


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