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Asha's Saag

Recipe by: Asha Loupy

Serves: 4–6

Asha's Saag
Photo by:  

Melati Citrawireja

Saag—often relegated to "spinach curry" outside of India—actually translates to "leafy vegetable." A beloved dish across northern and northeastern India—from Punjab down to Bangladesh—saag varies from region to region and household to household. Some bolstered with garam masala, others with cardamom, cumin and coriander. Some with tomatoes and some without. The non-negotiables are the holy trinity of onions, garlic and ginger, plus green chillies and, of course, lots of leafy greens! This version uses heartier greens like kale, spinach and mustard greens. The other integral ingredient to saag is ghee—the buttery, toastiness taming the intense greenery and lending a silky, luscious texture.

While it's not traditional, I like using a 3 tablespoons of ghee and 1 tablespoon of mustard seed oil in the saag base. Mustard seed oil—a Bengali kitchen staple (see Shaz & Kik's Creamy Mustard Fish)—has a bold, bright horseradish-like flavor that complements the deep, vegetal notes in the dark, leafy greens. 

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  • 4 tablespoons ghee, store-bought or homemade
  • 2 Baraka Green Cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground Jodhana Cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely ground Nandini Coriander
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Indian green chillies or 1 serrano, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pragati Turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered Guntur Sannam Chillies
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes or 1 large roma tomato, diced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2–3 large bunches dark, leafy greens, like spinach, mustard greens or kale (we like a mix of a couple), hearty stems removed and leaves & tender stems roughly chopped
For the tadka
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, store-bought or homemade
  • 1–2 whole Guntur Sannam Chillies
  • 3/4 teaspoon Jodhana Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered Guntur Sannam Chillies
  • Pinch of kosher salt
For serving
  • Basmati rice, chapati or makki ki roti


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin, coriander and cardamom and sauté until they just start to turn light golden, 1–2 minutes. Add the onions and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they turn translucent and start to caramelize, abou 5–7 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, green chillies, turmeric, powdered chillies and hing and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, preserved lemons, if using, salt and 1/2 cup water and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes start to break down, about 2–3 minutes.
  2. Add half the greens and stir to coat in the spiced tomato mixture. Allow the greens to wilt for a couple minutes and then add the remaining greens, stirring again. Cover and cook until the greens are cooked through and very tender, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer the greens to a food processer and blend until a semi-coarse, but uniform purée forms. Transfer the blended greens back to the skillet and place back on medium heat until reheated through. If the mixture is a little thick, add a few tablespoons of water at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. Reduce heat to low and keep warm while you make the tadka.
  4. To make the tadka, heat the ghee in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and whole chillies and cook, swirling the spices, until the cumin seeds start to pop and sputter, about 1–2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the powdered chillies and salt, mixing well.
  5. To serve, transfer the saag to a shallow bowl or serving dish. Pour the tadka over the saag. Enjoy with basmati rice, chapati or makki ki roti.

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