If we should call a ‘spade’ a ‘spade’, then there should be no shock to call ‘Pui Shak’ – Pui Shak. Sure to quench the thirst of the curious minds, I am talking about Basella alba which is also known under various common names, including Malabar Spinach, vine spinach, red vine spinach, climbing spinach, creeping spinach, buffalo spinach and Ceylon spinach among others. However, given this is also a leafy vegetable making frequent appearances in the lunch and dinner menu in Bengali households that the true honour will be to call it by the name it is called at home – Pui Shak!
May be rather unusual or unknown to readers who have never heard of it, let alone seen it or even trying it out – rest assured that this vegetable is just abound with vitamins, minerals, irons and all the good forces you need from your food. In London atleast, you will surely not get it in highstreet super markets, you certainly have to venture out in the Asian shops and not all of them actually keep it.
The leafy encounter in the kitchen today was in conjunction with two more peers who joined the shaky start by the Pui Shak itself. While the leafy vegetable doesn’t take much time to get sautéed or boiled for consumptions, some gently fried and tossed succulent prawns add that bit of fleshy features in the dish. Like the sun playing hide and seek through the heavy green forests, you must keep aside some happy and mediumly chopped pumpkins to show up with its sunny orangey smile through the vegetable-prawn mix.
This Bengali dish doesn’t have any parallel to be drawn because its not only rich in all the super food powers but also its tasty, colourful and very easy to prepare. Knowing that its hard to get in the West adds to its yearning. So ditch the packed spinach leaves in Waitrose, get some Pui Shak from any Sri Lankan store (there is one in Wembley, if you are in London) to shake things up a bit in your kitchen today.
Ingredients I Used:
Pui Shakh 500 gm, chopped medium sized with stems on
1/4 Pumpkin (medium sized) cut into medium cubes
250gm prawns, deveined, cleaned, skin peeled off
2 dry red chillies
1/4 teaspoon Nigella seeds(Kalonji)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger paste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon of mustard oil
Lets cook now
Step one: Heat oil in a deep pan or wok.Toss the prawns with a little turmeric and salt and stir fry them for about 5-7 minutes until they are a light golden yellow. Don’t fry them too much, they become hard. Remove prawns from the oil and keep aside.
Step two: Temper oil with nigella seeds and dry red chillies. Add the pumpkin pieces and fry them until they are slightly golden brown. Add ginger paste and stir for a minute.
Step three: Add the leafy vegetables along with the stems, sauté and let it cook for 3 minutes. Once the leaves start to release water, add all the spices and keep stirring.
Step four: Add the prawns, salt to taste and mix everything well. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 5 minutes in low heat but frequently remove the cover and give a good stir. The greens will release a lot of water which you want to dry up. Watery pui shaak doesn’t taste good.
Step five: When the leafy greens and veggies is almost done, add the sugar. Mix well.
Serve with steamed Basmati rice.