A few weeks ago a wonderful friend — who is always trying to feed me — gave me a container to take home. It was full of a delicious and unusual “spinach” and soybean curry. And then when the neighborhood lady who regularly shows up at my gate with little bits of vegetables to sell came with a bag of greens and soybeans, I decided to try to recreate it. She is really friendly and what she brings is always so cheap, I pretty much buy whatever it is, even if I have no real plan of how to use it. Actual spinach is rarely found in Nepal — rather, all greens are called saag, and can be the leafy part of pretty much anything edible. I think what she brought me was mustard greens, but I’m not completely sure. You can use any green leafy vegetable you have to hand, but this is best with smaller and slightly more bitter greens. The most time consuming part of making this was shelling the soybeans – if you can get them preshelled where you are, more power to you. This is a lighter curry, a kind you often get here in Nepal, as opposed the heavier, saucier type some people might be used to thinking of as a curry. The original dish had no potato, but I had one lonely one on my counter that needed to be used and I like potatoes in my curry so I added one – but you don’t have to.
A Simple Curry of Leafy Greens and Soybeans
500 grams/ 1 lb greens of your choice
250 grams/ 8 oz soybeans
1 medium red onion
3 – 4 cloves of garlic
2-3 plum tomatoes
1 medium potato
1 heaping teaspoon of cumin (jeera in Nepali)
pinch of cinnamon
several whole dried chilies, to taste (or chili flakes)
half a vegetable or chicken stock cube
salt to taste
oil for frying
Parboil the soybeans and shell them. This is best done while listening to an audiobook or watching TV so that you won’t notice how slowly the beans are accumulating. If you get too bored, boil twice the amount and eat half of them Japanese style (edamame) as you shell. 🙂
Wash the greens well to remove any grit and lose the roots, if there are any. Roughly chop if the leaves are large.
Chop the onions and garlic and fry for a minute or so. Add the cumin, salt, pinch of cinnamon and the dried chilies. If you don’t have whole ones, you can use a pinch of chili flakes.
Cut the potato into small cubes so it will cook quicker and let it fry with everything for a few minutes while you chop the tomatoes, then add them to the pan, and let everything cook together for a minute or two more. Then add the greens and soybeans and stir well, and crumble in the half a stock cube. Cover and let cook over medium-low heat until the potatoes (if using) and greens are done — it depends what kind you are using, some greens can be rather tough. You might need to add a splash of water to loosen things up and help everything cook, but see how much liquid your tomatoes and greens give off first.
I served this over brown rice and topped it with a fried egg, but it would also be good with rotis or other flatbread. This is enough for two people if you eat it as a main meal like I did, or four people as a side dish. It reheats well and I happily enjoyed it for several days.