At a friend’s request, I’ll cover a few Sindhi recipes beginning with Sai Bhaji—a favourite spinach preparation in Sindhi families. Sai in Sindhi means green and Bhaji is vegetable so the dish is simply a green vegetable…but not all green vegetables are called Sai Bhaji in Sindhi cooking, only this one gets that name. Over the years, my mother has believed in teaming it up with tava-fried baingan slices that are topped with dry spices (somewhat like this picture shows but should have powdered amchoor/red chilli showing on top), and Bhuggal Chawar or brown rice – long grain rice browned with fried onions–also shown in that picture but needn’t have peas in them.
Here’s what you’d need for it:
Chopped garlic – 4 fat cloves or 8-9 thin ones
1 large onion – thinly sliced
Channa dal (chickpea dal) – half cup – soaked for 30 min
Spinach – 500 gms – chopped
Methi (fenugreek leaves) – a handful
Tomatoes – 2 roughly chopped
1 medium potato – peeled and chopped in quarters
Green chillies – 2 slit into 2 pieces
Salt/red chilli powder/haldi
Cooking oil – 1 tablespoon
Now to cook it all,
Fry garlic for 30 seconds in a pressure cooker
Add the sliced onion and brown it with garlic (5 minutes)
Reduce the flame and add the washed and chopped spinach and methi
Make a little depression in the middle of spinach and put in washed and drained channa dal—making sure the dal doesn’t touch the bottom of the cooker as it may burn
Quickly add the rest of the things one after the other, which are: 2 slit chillies, minced ginger, chopped tomatoes, potato pieces, salt, red chilli powder and haldi (turmeric)
If the heap of vegetables is too high, cover the cooker with a plate for a minute so the spinach shrinks up and leaves some room on top.
Shut the cooker (without adding any water)
After the first whistle, let the vegetables cook for 15 min on a slow flame and then switch off the flame.
As the pressure is released, open the cooker and mash the vegetables quite thoroughly with a wooden masher in a circular and forward-backward motion.
Taste the spinach, add more salt if needed. Add 1/3rd cup of water if the mixed spinach feels too dense. It should look thicker than pureed tomatoes. The channa dal may need conscious mashing with the wooden masher.
Once the dal and vegetables look well mashed, give it all a quick boil.
End it with a tempering of bits of garlic fried in 2 teaspoons of oil for a smokey and glazed look. I usually avoid this step but seasoned Sindhi cooks love to see oil floating on their Sai Bhaji.
Enjoy it with brown onion rice and some mango pickle. Sindhis like to eat this dish for dinner.