Spinach in Bengali & Indian Cooking: Things to Know

India is often called a land of ‘Unity in Diversity’. You will get to see this diversity in every aspect of life from dresses, dance to culture and cuisines

. The culinary landscape of India is as diverse as one can think of. Both vegetables and non-veg items are cooked, consumed and celebrated with equal élan in the country.

When it comes to vegetable platter, the country has so much to offer that I can safely bet none would get to relish all of them in one life. Vegetables of different textures, tastes, colours, shapes and nutritional profiles are used for cooking.

Leafy vegetables are one of the most favourite with most Indians. A variety of dishes are prepared with them, from simple fries to curry to desert. Spinach is one such leafy vegetable used to whip up a decent variety of delectable dishes in different states of India.

In this blog, I will try to cover the most popular spinach dishes of the country.

Cooking Spinach

Uses of Spinach in Bengali & Indian Cuisines

Spinach finds a good use in many regional cuisines in India. It is used to make starters, dishes in main course, snacks or even simple, tasty soups that you can take a sip of, anytime in a day.

Spinach for Main Course:

Palang shaker ghanto is another Bong specialty served in the main course. It is best relished with hot piping rice and musoor dal (red lentil).

The dish nicely compliments khichuri (hodgepodge) lunch on any wintry afternoon. Bongs have an auspicious connection to the dish as it was used to serve with khichuri at the annual Saraswati Puja fest.

The celebration and the food pairing (khichuri and palang shaker ghanto) have now got reduced to only nostalgic itching for the 90’s kids. At that time, the arrangement was not unlimited but taste definitely was.

Unfortunately, khichuri has been replaced by fried rice or pulao whereas aloor dum, paneer kasha or other spicy vegetable dishes have taken the place of palang shaker ghanto. Grandeur has overpowered the soul and simplicity.

Palang shaker ghanto is made in either of two ways – without any onion-garlic combo (niramish) or with fish heads.

Both kinds of preparations use a host of common vegetables including potato, eggplant, pumpkin, radish and radish leaf.

Whole dry red chillies give it a little bit of spiciness. Fried sun-dried lentil dumplings (bari) are used for a crunchy bite.

Only turmeric and red chilli powder are added. Some people (ghatis) add sugar but others (bangals) abstain from it.

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In macher matha diye palong shaker ghanto (palang shak ghanto with fish head), fried fish heads are mixed with the spinach and other vegetables.

Usually, heads of ruhi, catla and hisla are used. It is a simple variation of niramish palong shaker ghanto.

If you plan to try it at home, make sure to cook the dish in mustard oil for the best flavours. The distinctly pungent flavour of mustard oil gives the dish an amazing aromatic taste.

Palak rice is an innovative dish. No prize for guessing the main actors in the recipe! This is a great dish for the children who often fuss over eating greens. Spinach puree is tempered with spices and mixed with hot boiled rice.

The aroma of spices and flavour of spinach get into the rice grains and make the dish awesome. You can serve it separately or with any veg curry or vegetable salad.

Palak paneer is a very famous North Indian dish though also popular in other parts of India. It is an easy-to-make recipe. The dish goes best with Punjabi-style chapatis, naan or paratha.

In fact, palak paneer is one of the front runners on the menu card in any Punjabi dhaba. Indian cottage cheese is simmered in spinach, onion and tomato gravy enriched by the flavours of a few readily available Indian spices.

For the extra richness, a dollop of fresh, white cream is added towards the end of the preparation.

Dal palang or dal palak is a lip-smacking recipe from the North Indian khana khazana. However, it is enjoyed in many parts of India. This dish is also known as Chana palak.

It is an easy-to-make, nutritious and delicious spinach dish. Chickpeas are slowly cooked in spinach gravy and tempered with basic aromatic spices. The comforting side dish goes with a variety of staple foods.

However, it is usually paired with jeera rice, coconut rice or plain piping hot basmati rice or even Indian flat breads like chapatis

If you are a die-hard foodie but yet to taste sarson ka saag, you don’t know what it means by ‘mitti ki khusboo’. This famous Punjabi dish, unmistakably paired with makai ki roti, is a hot favourite during chilly months in Punjab and other North Indian states.

The dish takes time to prepare and so might be a litmus taste for the elasticity of your patience. Sarson ka saag is an outcome of pure love for food, which does not mind the time and effort that go into making it.

For the truly authentic taste, you need to follow the traditional recipe. Once you see how beautiful it turns out and experience its taste, you won’t rue your extra effort.

Palak mushroom could be a brand ambassador of ‘health vi, taste vi’ slogan. Button mushrooms are sautéed and then slow-cooked in a creamy spinach sauce enriched with aromatics.

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Enjoy the goodness of mushroom and spinach and you will simply love it. The dish is a hearty addition to your lunch or dinner menu and best enjoyed with soft chapatti, paratha or flavourful cumin rice.

Creamed spinach is an easy but delectable recipe served hot over pasta. It is a quick-to-make comfort food for those with little time to cook time-consuming spinach dishes. A bowl of creamed spinach will give you a feel of fullness for several hours.

Spinach for Snacks:

In India, a variety of rolls is a hot pick for the gen Y food crazies. Even the Gen X don’t mind digging into the delicious stuffing rolled into the soft paratha once in a blue moon.

Paneer palak rolls wrap the cottage cheese slices into the soft spinach paratha bed and are served hot with chutney or pickle.

Palak paratha is another mouth-watering recipe from North India. Spinach puree is added to wheat flour to prepare soft, fluffy dough mildly flavoured by a few chosen spices.

For the yummiest taste, slow cook it in dollops of ghee. It is best relished with simple dal fry, chutney or pickle.

If you love your evening coffee or masala tea with crispy snacks, try palak pakora. It is an exciting snack that you can serve with chutney, tomato sauce or chilli sauce.

It requires a few ingredients and is super easy to make. Spinach fillings are doused in a semi-thick batter of gram flour flavoured by a few spices and carom seeds before being added to the mustard oil for deep frying.

Spinach is one of the main ingredients in hara bhara kebab or hariali kabab. The mere mention of kebabs brings to mind the scenario of things getting grilled on charcoal fire, which gives a distinct and decent aroma to the food.

However, in hara bhara kebab, the conventional style of kebab making is not followed.

The mashed spinach is mixed with boiled vegetables and spices and then pan-fried. Unlike the pokoras, the kebabs don’t feel crunchy, rather so soft that they easily melt in the mouth.

You can serve it with evening hot drinks, sauce or even with patties or burgers. A great snack to keep you full until dinner time!

Palak omelette! Surprised? If you never get tired of egg dishes, this could be a try-next-time recipe for you.

It is a great dish to serve to your guests or enjoy with your family while raising storms in a tea or coffee cup.

Put the spinach filling into the egg omelette, fry both sides well and make a roll. It is an instant meal to satiate your craving anytime a day.

When it comes to spinach snacks, should palak chaat be a left-out option? Fried spinach pakoras are tossed with sliced onions and chopped green chillies, topped with yogurt, green chutney, sweet chutney, moderate sprinkling of red chilli powder, roasted cumin powder and garnished with generous helping of crushed papri (flat crisp puris), sev, pomegranate and chopped coriander leaves.

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In this busy world, cooking special dishes has almost become a weekend affair. But what to do on the weekdays? There are quick-to-fix spinach dishes like palak paneer bhurji to meet your craving any time.

Made with spinach and scrambled cottage cheese, the dish tastes really amazing. Relish it with roti or bread. Add the dish to your breakfast menu or make it for your snack craving.

Palak puri is a delicious variation of traditional puris. Bring the green to your breakfast table on the weekend and it will make your day.

It is made with spinach leaves, green chillies, ginger (Julian cut) and a few spices. Green puri adds colour to your breakfast table. You can serve it with chutney or a simple veg curry.

Palak idli is a fusion of spinach and idli. It is an innovative variation of idli, a famous South Indian dish. Spinach pulp is added to the traditional batter for the recipe. The look of the beautiful, green, soft, steamed idli is an irresistible teaser for your taste buds.

Palak vada, palak corn pokora, palak moong dal dosa, palak puri, palak upma, spinach and corn sandwitches etc are other interesting recipes that can be made with spinach.

Spinach for Soup:

Palak soup is a beautiful, flavourful and comforting dish. This highly nutritious soup is packed with the goodness of spinach and flavours of a few wholesome ingredients.

Sometimes, cream is added to the drink to make it look beautiful and taste yummier. A light, tasty and healthy drink to make a good start to your day!

Questions & Answers:

Is Spinach Tasty?

Raw spinach offers a mildly sweet taste. This is why it is used to bring a refreshing feel to green salads. After being cooked, it tastes more acidic and adds a robust flavour to the dish.

What Dishes Can Be Made from Boiled Spinaches?

A variety of dishes can be made from boiled spinach. These include break palak vada, palak corn pokora, palak moong daal dosa, palak puri, palak upma, spinach and corn sandwitches.

How Do You Know When Spinach is Cooked?

When the spinach is perfectly done, the leaves look bright green and completely wilted.

What Goes Well with Spinach?

Spinach dishes are pretty flexible in the sense that they are perfect to pair with hot rice or rotis. Even some of them are best accompanied by steamed rice, zeera rice, paratha and naan.

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