Growing up in Tamilnadu, yet being a native of Mangalore,I never really understood the passion my Mom had for this Malabar Spinach or Basale.Honestly I dreaded it when on our trip back from Mangalore after our holidays, my Mom religiously packed this Basale to carry it on our train journey,to grow it back home.Needless to say I still get nightmares to think of the endless relatives who would come to say goodbye at the train station each brandishing another roll of Basale/Malabar Spinach for my Mom & then till the train left the station they would get into a rhapsody on the luscious green & healthy home grown leaves of Basale,I slid deeper into my seat dreading the endless basale recipes we will have at home,once this shoot survived.Needless to say it was my Mom’s pride & joy when these deep green,dinosaur sized leaves grew in her make shift mantap/dhompa/support for the growing vine in her kitchen garden,which she had nurtured with vegetable peels & water used to clean fish,as the compost & manure… you see this was purely organic,though we never really were familiar with the word then:).I never developed a liking for these slippery slimy leaves & their tender stems,except when they were cooked with prawns or some dry fish.Those days we never had a choice,we just had to finish what was in the plate, so I sulked & toyed with my food somemore( God knows the nights when I had secretly prayed that this make shift Dompa/support just flew away in a storm & we never had to endure the basale for lunch again).My precious Pappa tried to say some amusing childhood stories about Basale dhompa,just to reduce the blow, it still did not help with this one.I dared not look up from my plate, lest I hear another mouthful from my Mom about the benefits of basale/malabar spinach( I swear I’m not so tough on my lil one while trying to market broccoli & its benefits),so you can imagine my shock when I visited a family friend here,she affectionately took me to her kitchen garden( knowing my passion for gardening) & showed me her”Basale dhompa”…I literally fainted.I know Mangaloreans to be passionate about their food,but out here in this tricky weather,that basale has a long story indeed.It certainly cannot be tamed & grows wild !To me it reminded me of the tentacles of mutant plants seen in science fiction movies.
On doing a little research on this Malabar Spinach,I found that their botanical name is “Basella Alba” .They grow in moist monsoon areas hence they are very popular in Mangalore & parts of Kerala.They have different names,in Konkani they are called(Vali Bhajji),Mayalu( Marathi),Pui Shak(Bengali),Bacchali( Telugu),Kodip Basale(Tamil) & also have International tentacles in Vietnam they are called Mong toi,Paag Prung in Thailand & so forth.They grow their luscious best during monsoons & are rich sources of Vitamin A,C,Calcium & Iron.My recipe today is with Malabar Spinach & prawns in Coconut milk gravy,since I have noticed that these green leaves have an uncommon affinity for fishy flavor.Enjoy this healthy dish,the only thing you might want to worry about if you are growing them in your garden is the bugs that hide under these thick giant leaves, clearly proving its organic value of being free of being doused with pesticide.


Malabar Spinach- 1 bundle
Prawns- 20- 25
Oil- 3 tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Curry leaves- 4-5
Onions-1(big) sliced fine
Tomato sauce- 2 tbsp
Ginger garlic paste 2 tsp
Bell pepper-3-4 tbsp ( different colors for esthetics)
Coconut milk-1/4 cup Chilli powder- 2 tsp
Turmeric powder-1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste

!.Heat oil in the tawa & add cumin seeds,fry a little then add curry leaves.
2.Next add the onions & saute them for a few minutes till they turn light brown.Then add the bell pepper & the tomato sauce & keep stirring a little.Add the ginger garlic paste & stir it till the raw smell disappears.
3.Next add the chilli powder & turmeric powder & saute a little.Now add the coconut milk into the mix, let it cook for 5- 10 minute,then add the cleaned & deveined prawns into the mix & let it cook for 10- 15 minutes on medium heat ( since over cooking prawns make them rubbery to chew).
4.Add salt to taste & serve hot with chappathis or rice.

P.S: This recipe of mine with the addition of bell peppers,tomato sauce & coconut milk instead of ground coconut is a little twist from the traditional one, but equally good.So for those of you like me who have this inborn repulsion for Basale/Malabar Spinach, I dare you to try this one, coz the effect is masked well by the delicious prawn& one can still believe we are healthy eaters:

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Padmavathi Aravindan says:

    So you didn’t add basale !


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