Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Basale Koddel: Mangalore Style Basella Alba (Malabar Spinach) Curry

Basella Alba is not a familiar ‘green’ in our house. In fact, the first that I ever heard about it was when I accidentally came across the leaves on my online store. (Wiki however tells me that the Malayalam for Basella Alba is ‘Vallicheera’. So I guess it’s just that I never happened to cross paths with the climber in Kerala, though the name sounds very familiar.)

Considering that I don’t really care much for green leafy things in general, it is surprising that the slightly weird looking, thick stemmed vine interested me at all. Except for my Mom's 'Cheera Thoran' (Stir Fried Amaranth Leaves with Ground Coconut) and a few other curries made with home grown leaves, I have always left all that is green and leafy quite alone. Now that I think about it, nothing even remotely resembling spinach has entered my kitchen in the last couple of years, but for a rare occasion or two (much to The Techie’s delight). It sounds quite bad, but it is the truth. I put the blame partly on the fact that the store bought greens taste quite different from the leaves that used to come from my mother's kitchen garden.
Basella Alba however was strangely alluring, probably because while reading up on it, I saw quite a few people describing it as a hideous looking vine. I just had to see what was so repulsive about it. Then again, I have made a pact with myself this year to try out a few local recipes. So I went ahead and ordered a couple of bunches of 'Basale Soppu' (as it is called in Kannada).
While I wouldn't really go as far as to call them an eye sore, they do hold your attention, with their stout stems and comparatively thick leaves.

(I apologise for the sad looking leaves. The grocery people, for ease of packing had zigzagged the lengths of vines and tied them up with a chord. Good for them in terms of packing, but bad for me as the leaves all got bruised by the time they reached me and it was impossible to do anything to make them all right.)
One of the recipes that I wanted to try out was this Mangalore/Uduppi Style Basale Koddel, where the leaves are cooked and then simmered in ground coconut gravy. It sounded quite good, and for a change did not have any sort of lentils that seemed to be a permanent fixture in almost all gravies made with Malabar Spinach Leaves. I’m delighted to say that the curry, with its sweet and tangy notes, has become a new favourite of ours.

Source: Slightly adapted from Sushma's Kadhyaa.


 To Pressure Cook:
  1. Green stemmed Basalle Alba (Malabar Spinach), chopped - 3 cups (Use both stems and leaves.)
  2. Tamarind Paste - A scant tsp. (Or to taste.)
  3. Jaggery, grated - About 1/2 tbsp to 3/4 tbsp. (Start with slightly less than 1/2 tbsp. and add the rest if needed at the time of boiling the curry.)
  4. Salt
  5. Water - 1 cup
To Boil Separately:
  1. Onion, sliced - 3/4 cup
  2. Water - 1/2 cup
To Grind:
  1. Coconut, grated - 3/4 cup 
  2. Onion, sliced - 1/3 cup
  3. Garlic, chopped - 1 tsp.
  4. Coriander Seeds - 2 and a 1/2 tsp. (It is okay to substitute this with the same amount of ground coriander seeds. However, if your coriander powder is very fresh, reduce the amount to 2 tsp.)
  5. Dried Red Chillies - 3, chopped. (I have used 2 Kashmiri Chillies, which are very mild along with 1 of another mild variety. The original recipe uses 'Byadgi/Bedgi' chillies (native to Karnataka), which look somewhat similar to Kashmiri Chillies, but have less wrinkly skins, are lighter in colour and are spicier.  The original recipe calls for 7 to 8 Byadgi chillies. Also see Notes.)
  6. Cumin Seeds - 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. (I used 1/4 tsp. as I don't like a prominent note of cumin in curries.)
  7. Fenugreek Seeds - 1/4 tsp.
  8. Mustard Seeds - A pinch
  9. Water - To grind 
To Season:
  1. Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp.
  2. Garlic, chopped - A scant tsp. (Optional.)
  3. Curry Leaves - 1 stalk
  4. Oil - Enough to fry the ingredients to season.

Pressure cook the ingredients mentioned under 'To Pressure Cook'.

Grind the ingredients mentioned under 'To Grind' to a smooth paste and keep aside.

Boil the onions in water and once they get cooked, add the cooked leaves followed by the ground masala. Let the curry simmer on a low heat.

Meanwhile, heat up some oil and sputter mustard seeds. Add the garlic if using, followed by the curry leaves. Tip all the fried things along with the oil into the simmering curry.

Allow the curry to boil vigorously for five minutes, check for salt, jaggery and tamarind. Add more if required. Adjust the consistency if needed before switching off. (Boil the curry again for a few minutes if you add more water.)
Serve with rice and other sides.

  1. The colour the curry will depend on the type and number of chillies as well as the type of tamarind and jaggery used. As long as it tastes fine, you shouldn't worry about the exact colour of the Koddel.
  2. Note that neither Kashmiri nor Byadgi Chillies are as spicy as the smoother and shinier skinned varieties like the 'Guntur Teja' or even the berry like 'Gundu Chillies'. So be careful if you are using a different variety of dried chilli.
  3. If you are not sure of the number of Red Chillies that you can tolerate, start with one or two, grind and do a taste test. Keep in mind that this will be added to the sweetened and cooked leaves. If you think more spice is needed, you can put more chillies and grind the mixture again (If your grinder is good and will grind the extra chillies well.). Alternatively, wait till the curry is cooked, taste and then if needed, add a small quantity of dry roasted Red Chilli Powder. (Dry roast by heating up a small heavy bottomed pan and adding the chilli powder after switching off the flame. Quickly stir the powder around - it can burn very quickly - and just add it to the curry. Mix, taste and bring to a boil again.)
  4. The curry is better consumed within two days as the ground masala is 'raw' (that is, the ingredients are not roasted before grinding) and it might not keep for long. (It is also the reason why it is important to boil the curry well as mentioned in the directions.)


  1. This is such a timely post. We call this green pui shak and just the other day I was asking Maa for a recipe with it. At home Maa uses it in Panch Meshali, a homey mixed veg and sometimes fries the individual leaves in besan batter. The simplest alternate recipe I could come up with was to fry it was lots of garlic. That was good but this recipe is intriguing. Booking it... will let you know how it fared with the boys.

    1. Thanks a lot, Tanu. I had to google and now I want to cook 'Panch Meshali' - it sounds delicious. I had come across the besan batter coated fritters while searching for Basalle Alba recipes. The fries too are on my 'to do' list now :)

      Hope the boys would like it and would be glad to know how it turned out for you.

  2. Such an interesting curry to go with rice... looks delicious...

  3. Ha haa I too tell the grocer here not to bruise my fruits and greens while putting in the bag. When I tell them I need to take pics they give a weird look :)
    Yummy looking cheera kootan.....

    1. Ha ha :) I know that look :)

      Thanks a lot, Meena :)

  4. looks so tempting...must have tasted great with rice....

  5. My brother recommended I might like this website.
    He was totally right. This post actually made my day.
    You cann't imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info!



I love reading your comments and feedback, so feel free to leave a word.

PS: There is some issue with images (not loading) in some recipes. I would be much obliged if you can notify me of blank spaces/crossed out thumbnails in any of the posts. TIA.

Comment moderation is enabled. You might not see your comment published right away.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...