Friday, July 27, 2012

Gongura = Ambadi!

For the longest time, I knew Gongura as the leafy green from Andhra (a south Indian state). Reddy aunty, our neighbor and family friend in NY, used to make this wonderful tangy chutney with it to go with one of her many delicious rice preparations. The Indian store here carries Gongura pretty often but I never ventured into trying it. I finally bought a couple of bunches yesterday and started looking for recipes to make that chutney. Leave the chutney aside, what do I find?? Gongura is the same vegetable we Maharashtrians love and call Ambadi! Once I got over the fact that I didn't know Gongura was my most loved Ambadi, I picked up the phone and called mom to express my joy. Mom goes, "Of course, I knew it. Don't you remember I made ambadichi bhaji in NY a few times?". I don't know why, but I don't recall it at all. The Ambadi we get in Maharashtra doesn't have stems as red as the Andhra variety, but tastes exactly the same. Sour, tangy leaves that remind you of the taste of tamarind.

Ambadi is a popular leafy vegetable, especially in the southern part of the state where I come from. The leaves are cooked thoroughly so that they get gargatta, or almost mashed. Then they are tempered with the most fragrant combination of garlic and red chilies. There are no powdered spices, garlic providing most of the flavor and smokiness. A little bit of jaggery balances the sourness of the greens perfectly. People from my hometown Kolhapur tend to use jaggery much more than sugar since it's a prime sugarcane producer.  Ambadichi bhaji with some bhakri, raw onion, garlic chutney or spicy thecha is my kind of comfort food. It's a regular lunch combination of the farmers in Maharashtra too. All the ingredients are dry enough that they can be wrapped up in a piece of cloth and carried to the farms without worrying about containers or spills. I don't have to worry about any of that, but I could eat Ambadichi bhaji every day if I had to!

Ambadichi Bhaji

2 Bunches Ambadi or Gongura
Fistful of rice, toor daal and chana daal combined
1 Small piece of jaggery (~1 teaspoon grated jaggery)
3 Tablespoons oil
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 Teaspoon cumin seeds
5-6 Garlic cloves - smashed and chopped into chunky pieces
3-4 Dry red chilies
1/4 Teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste

  • Discard the stems of ambadi and wash the leaves well.
  • Wash the rice, toor daal and chana daal. This is just to add some body and bite to the bhaji. A fistful of the combination is enough. Take a little more of rice than the daals. 
  • Pressure cook the leaves, rice and the daals with 3-4 whistled until soft. Discard the water that it's cooked in so it takes away some sourness out of the leaves making them more palatable.
  • In a kadhai, heat oil, add mustard and cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add garlic and fry it until golden brown. Garlic smells heavenly when fried like this and adds a lot of flavor to the bhaji. Add dry red chilies cut in half and turmeric powder at the end so they don't burn.
  • Add about a tablespoon of this tempering to the cooked leaves, add jaggery and season with salt and cook for a couple of minutes, mashing with the back of your spoon.
  • While serving, pour some of that extra garlic tempering over the bhaji and enjoy with bhakari or rice. 

1 comment:

Jenny VintageSugarcube) said...

That sounds heavenly! And the photos are gorgeous. Please tell your hubby, I said he is a lucky man. You keep him well fed.


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