Sunday, October 7, 2018

Recipe of the month: Sindhi Sai Bhaji

I am unquestionably a big fat foodie (pun intended!). I appreciate all cuisines but have a discernible affinity to my own.

Indian cuisine to me, is one the most exciting and diverse global cuisines in the world. India is a microcosm of different styles of cuisine. Not only does each state of the vast country have its own distinct cuisine but there are even regional variations. Indian dishes are heavily influenced by region, climate, religion, traditions and culture. The cuisine incorporates a whole palette of flavours boosted by a medley of aromatic spices resulting in a titillating food experience.

Indian food is not just "curry" as is commonly perceived the world over. The culinary range that the cuisine offers is mind-boggling. Although the food is broadly categorized as 'North Indian' (more of bread and curry based) or 'South Indian (typically rice, coconut and lentil based), there is so much more to it than that. We can’t forget about West and East India. Western India which includes Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Goa and Eastern India comprising of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and Orissa all have their own distinct and rich cuisines, too. There is so much I need to still learn from the cuisine of my motherland. I have so many recipes from other states that I have been meaning to try but haven't gotten around to doing so. One at a time!

Today's recipe is beyond my zone of familiarity in that I hadn't even heard of it until recently! It was only thanks to my chronic lurking on instagram that I became aware that such a dish exists.

Sindhi cuisine refers to the native cuisine of the Sindhi people from Sindh, Pakistan. The daily food in most Sindhi households consists of wheat-based flat-bread (phulka) and rice accompanied by two dishes, one gravy and one dry. Today, Sindhi food is eaten in many countries including India. Despite having a few Sindhi friends in school and college, I was utterly ignorant of the cuisine. Probably because food wasn't such a big part of my life back then the way it is now!

Sai bhaji (Sai = green; bhaji = vegetables) is a potpourri of lentils, vegetables, greens and spices. The reason this dish appealed to me so much is because of my undying love for greens. Fenugreek and dill are my two favourite greens with spinach a close third. And when I saw the generous use of vegetables in the dish, the newly acquired health conscious side of me  urged me to give it a go.

This is a one-pot dish. It incorporates easily available ingredients and comes together in a fairly simple procedure. It does take some time to prepare all the ingredients but the resulting dish is creamy, mildly spiced, delicious and packed with nutrition. Along with steamed rice or chapati, this makes for a wholesome meal.

I've made this dish a few times with minor modifications each time and ultimately I'm satisfied with this version. Like I said earlier, my love for dill knows no bounds so I don't mind this dish with double the quantity of dill than what is mentioned in the recipe below. But I do know that not everyone shares my love for this herb and so it would be prudent to go easy on the quantity if you are cooking for many people.

My family liked this dish (my fussy kids included!) so it is something that is going to feature regularly on our weekday/weekend menu.

Try the recipe and leave a comment to let me know your thoughts!

Sindhi Sai Bhaji

Preparation time: ~ 1hr 15 min
Serves: 4
Recipe category: Indian/Main Course
Recipe level: Easy
Recipe source: Adapted from here

1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
A pinch of asafoetida/hing
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 large (or 2 medium) ripe tomato, finely chopped
5 garlic pods, minced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
2-3 green chilies (adjust according to spice level), finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
3 cups (~100 gm) spinach/palak, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh fenugreek leaves/methi, finely chopped
1/2 cup channa dal
1.5 cups of water
1.5 tsp salt
2 cups of roughly chopped vegetables (you can use a mixture of zucchini, bottle gourd, carrots, butternut squash or pumpkin)
2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee (I used 1 tbsp of each)


1. Soak the channa dal in water for at least 15 minutes

2. Wash all the greens thoroughly under running water. Chop them finely

3. Peel and roughly chop the vegetables you are using. I usually use carrot, bottle gourd, zucchini & butternut squash

4. Heat oil/ghee in a pressure cooker. Add the cumin seeds and allow to splutter

5. Add the asafoetida and then the chopped onions and fry till translucent

6. Add the minced garlic, ginger and green chillies and fry for 2 minutes

7. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry till soft and pulpy

8. Add the turmeric, coriander powder and red chilli powder and fry for 2 minutes

9. Add the chopped spinach, dill and fenugreek leaves and fry till the greens wilt

10. Add in the chopped vegetables and channa dal and give all the ingredients a good mix

11. Add 1.5 cups of water and salt, close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 5-6 whistles

12. When the pressure is released, open the lid and mash the bhaji with a spoon or potato masher. Let the consistency be a bit on the thicker side.

13. Serve hot with steamed basmati rice/a simple pulao or chapati along with papad, pickle and yoghurt on the side

  • If you really love the taste of dill, you can increase the quantity from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup in this recipe
  • If you want to make the dish mild on spice, add in 1-2 green chilli and omit the red chilli powder altogether
  • You can also use sorrel leaves (khatta palak) in this recipe if available which is traditionally used. You may need to cut down on the amount of tomato that you add
  • For the vegetables you can also use eggplant and potatoes if desired
  • Vegetables like carrot, butternut squash and pumpkin impart a natural sweetness to the sai bhaji so don't be tempted to add sugar or jaggery to it
  • You can give the dish a final tempering of fried garlic in ghee to take it up a notch!



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