Sarsoon ka Saag (mustard leaves) is a quintessential Punjabi dish, usually paired up with the makki di roti (corn flatbread) and eaten during winter evenings! Ah, the joys of makki di roti and sarsoon ka saag!
Thanks to Bollywood and commercialisation of Punjabi food, Sarsoon ka saag and makki ki roti needs no introduction. There are enough movies showing us the lead couple romancing in the fields where the yellow mustard flowers are in full bloom. While most food that get the attention might not stand up to their popularity, this particular does.
Like regular readers of this blog have heard multiple times, all my life I have tried to run away from my roots. I have done all I could to avoid anything that tied me to my “Punjabiness”. Whether it is avoiding food, language or festivals. Story is a different now, while I am growing older. But one thing I couldn’t avoid even in my most rebellious phase was this winter special dish.
Sarsoon ka saag and makki ki roti have a special place in my heart. It is a dish that I crave all year and which makes me do cartwheels for the arrival of winter. The gorgeous greens boiled and mashed (we call it ghotna, basically the hand mashed to a near puree consistency). The greens are then sauteed in ginger, onions, tomatoes & spices. Served with curd, salad, pickle, makki (maize flour) ki roti and a bit of shakkar (powdered jaggery) and ofcourse the trademark of Punjab – a dollop of white butter. I don’t think my young mind understood this but the dish is a fine example of balance of flavours and texture. And it provides the perfect nutrition for the bitterly cold Punjab winters.
Tips to make best Sarsoon ka Saag
I learnt to make saag from my mother, who according to me makes the best saag in the whole universe. But I am ok if you want to say your mother does, we can claim they are the best in their own universes. Jokes apart, here are a few things I have learnt from her which has lead me to make brilliant saag every time.
- The star of the show here really are leaves and if they are not perfect, your saag won’t be either. So select leaves which are green and don’t have many blemishes, or haven’t turned yellow. A fresh mustard leaf will also have a stem which isn’t very thick or split.
- We typically always mix bathua and some palak while boiling the saag. It adds a bit of body and cuts down on the slight bitterness of the saag. Now, my luck with finding bathua in Bangalore has been not great. So overtime I have figure out a mix of greens that work very well as bathua replacement. For every 100 gms of bathua replace it with 50 grams of khatta palak, 50 grams of radish leaves and a handful of dill leaves. It works as a perfect substitute, giving a very bathua like flavour and texture.
- Always throw in one chopped turnip while boiling the saag. I love the flavour twist it brings and this is not my invention, it has been followed in Punjab forever.
- Never ever grind the boiled saag in a mixer, always mash or like we say in Punjab “ghoto” with the help of a wooden madhani. Grinding it in a mixer will change the flavour a bit and also make the saag a bit stikcy and goey.
And if you keep these four things in mind, you will be all set to crack this delicious dish.
Makki Ki Roti
And if you want to learn how to make makki ki rotis, stay tuned! I have a complete Makki Ki Roti 101 coming up soon, where I will show you how to make it three ways!
PS – This is a post from Jan 2011 which has been updated with new photos and re-published.