Another traditional dish from Mangalore is a simple saute/sukka way of preparing drumstick leaves. Today, as I know it, not many people cook the leaves as they are not as popular as the drumsticks themselves which are widely used in South Indian cuisine, especially in the preparation of sambhar. My grandma had a drumstick tree in her backyard but I have no recollection of ever eating the cooked leaves. One of Roshan's relatives told me about the health benefits of the leaves and I've been a convert since then.
The leaves apparently have been elevated to the status of a 'superfood' by the U.N and the Moringa trees have been used to combat malnutrition, especially among infants and nursing mothers. Moringa oleifera as it is known botanically has plenty of uses and goes by several common names such as moringa, drumstick tree, horseradish tree (the roots taste like horseradish), ben oil tree or benzoil tree. I was surprised to know that India is the largest producer of Moringa as it is native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India and is widely cultivated in tropical ares. Apart from its herbal uses it is also used for water purification and hand washing! Wow! Indeed a superfood.
While drumsticks are called as 'Muska Saang' in Konkani (the dialect spoken by Catholics of Mangalore) the leaves are called as 'Baji' - which refers to 'leaves' or 'spinach'. Here's how they look like. I clicked these pictures at my in law's place many years ago. I have this craze of taking pictures of flora and fauna but never thought the pictures would actually come handy some day!
Now you may be curious to know where I got my loot of these leaves from. I have rarely seen these at the Karama market or at Lulu supermarket so I was thrilled when I found a few bunches waiting to be picked at the Friday Farmers Market at the Emirates Towers. One of the ladies who I meet there told me that since they are extremely nutritious they are often sun dried and stored in airtight jars to be used in dals and curries. I tried sun drying them but due to the lack of sufficient sunlight the leaves went bad. If you do get good sunlight, please do dry the leaves (after cleaning them thoroughly) and store them to be used later.
These leaves are a powerhouse of nutrition. It helps lower blood pressure and aids good sleep. It's detoxifying properties help purify water. It is a great source of iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. So are you going to include this health food in your diet?
And if you love leafy greens, do check out some other recipes at the bottom of this post!
Muska Baji ~ Drumstick Leaves Sukhe
Prep time: 15 mins | Cook time: 15 mins | Serves 3-4
For the masala:
- 2 packed cups drumstick leaves (discard the stalks)
- 4 drumsticks, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 tsp mustard
- 1/2 onion finely sliced
- 4-5 curry leaves/kadipatta
- oil for frying
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup grated coconut
- 1/2 onion roughly chopped
- 2-3 tsp bafat powder (* see note) - adjust to taste
- 1 level teaspoon tamarind paste/ thick juice
- 1/2 inch ginger
- 1 clove of garlic
1. Pick only the drumstick leaves and discard the stick like stalks. Clean the leaves well in 2-3 changes of water and allow to drain on a colander.
2. In a non stick pan or tawa dry roast the the grated coconut, chopped onion till the raw smell goes away. Toss in the bafat powder (or spice) powders and give it a stir or two before turning off the heat. Coarsely grind these ingredients coarsely along with the tamarind, ginger & garlic and a little water (ensure that the masala is not finely ground - pulse it for 2-3 seconds). Rinse the mixie jar with 1/2 cup water and retain it.
3. In a pan heat the oil and toss in the mustard, when they splutter add the curry leaves and stir it once before adding the sliced onions. Fry them till golden brown and add the coarsely ground masala and fry for another 2 minutes on a slow flame.
4. Add the drumstick leaves and the drumsticks, add salt to taste, sprinkle the reserved water from the mixie, cover the pan and cook on a low heat till the leaves and the drumsticks are cooked. Stir every now and then to avoid scorching.
5. Serve hot with rice and dal or chapathis
If you do not have bafat powder you can use a blend of red chilli powder (abt 1 tsp)+ coriander powder (3/4th tsp) + 2 pinches each of cumin powder, pepper powder & turmeric powder
It is important that you use only the leaves as the stalks are pokey and may irritate the palates of young kids. For adults it is ok!
More Leafy Greens On Your Menu!