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  • Rohan Kamicheril

Pasalai Keerai Kootu | Malabar Spinach Kootu

Malabar Spinach (or vine spinach, or basale soppu, or pasalai keerai) is one of my favourite Indian greens. I love the slippery texture it lends to dishes as it cooks. Though it makes for a delicious stir-fry, because of this curious property, I think it’s particularly good in stews.

This pasalai keerai kootu is based on a traditional dish from Tamil Nadu, with some small modifications. It’s an incredibly simple thing to put together, and takes little more than half an hour to prep and cook, but it’s incredibly satisfying on a cold day when you’re lucky enough to be able to get your hands on some of these very special greens


Serves 3-4


1 tbsp ghee

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 clove garlic, finely sliced

3 green chillies, whole

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup toor dhal

4 cups water

4 cups pasalai keerai

1 cup finely ground fresh coconut


2 tbsp ghee

1 tsp black mustard seeds

4 dried red chillies

1 tsp urad dhal

¼ tsp hing


In a heavy-bottomed pan with high sides, fry the onions, garlic, and green chilli in the ghee till they are lightly browned and aromatic. Next, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring and breaking it up into the oil till it has turned a dark rust red and smells toasted and sweet.

Add the toor dhal to the pan along with the water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes or so, or until the dhal is cooked through.

Add a teaspoon of salt and the chopped keerai and cook for three minutes more. When the greens have wilted, turn off the heat, add the coconut to the mixture and stir to combine. Cover and set aside in a warm place while you prepare the seasoning.

In a small pan, heat the ghee till it’s hot but not smoking. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to cook briefly, just till they pop and turn a light grey. Add the urad dhal and red chillies and cook for just a moment longer, till the dhal is a light golden brown and the chillies are blistered in places. Turn off the heat and add the hing.

Tip the seasoned oil and all the spices into the cooked dhal mixture. Stir to combine well.

Season with more salt if needed.

Enjoy with hot white rice and a drizzle of ghee.

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