Vaali Ambat/Malabar Spinach curry is a coconut-based Konkani delicacy (from south India) with a special type of spinach called Malabar spinach or vaali bhaji (in Konkani, a south Indian language). It is often relished with a steaming bowl of hot rice, a vegetable stir fry and a salad on the side!!
Vaali bhaji is a highly nutritious variety of spinach (but with thicker leaves and thick stems; tender portions of the stems are also used in the curry), very low in calories but high in vitamins A and C and rich in Calcium and iron. It is a leafy vegetable grown as a creeper and can be easily be grown in your own backyard!! For an easily available substitute, you can use any leafy vegetable like spinach, amaranth leaves etc.
Ambat is a Mangalorean style coconut masala gravy/curry with cooked chopped onions in the gravy and a tempering of fried onions. It is traditional dish from the Konkani community of Mangalore (in south India).
Spinach is cooked with some chopped onions along with a coconut masala (blended with red chillies and tamarind). A tempering of fried onions (in coconut oil) is added to the curry and mixed well; as simple as that!!!
Do try this simple, exotic south Indian Konkani style vaali ambat today with some rice and Green Beans Stir Fry or Cluster Beans Stir Fry and do let me know in the comments below or on my facebook page!!
Other coconut-based Konkani dishes you can try are: Avre Ghashi with Bamboo Shoots, Mangalore Pumpkin with Jackfruit seeds etc.
- Wash and chop the vaali bhaji. Place in a pressure pan along with the onions and required water to come up to 1 inch in the pan.
- Close the pan and cook the bhaji for about 2 to 3 whistles.
Meanwhile, prepare the coconut masala:
- In a blender jar, place the coconut, red chillies and tamarind and blend to a fairly smooth paste with a little water.
- Once the pressure has dropped, remove the cooked spinach and place in a deep saucepan or pot.
- Add the blended coconut masala along with the water which was used to wash the blender jar, additional water to the required consistency and cooked dal (if using) and mix well.
- Add salt to taste and bring to a boil.
- Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, let us prepare the seasoning:
- In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil and once hot add the finely chopped onions.
- Fry on medium heat till the onions turn light brown.
- Add this seasoning to the vaali ambat and mix well.
- Remove from heat and serve hot with rice or chapattis, rotis or even bread.
- Adjust the number of chillies according to your taste.
- If you cannot get Malabar spinach/vaali bhaji, ambat can also be prepared using regular spinach too.
- Dilute vaali ambat according to how thin or thick you want the curry to be.
- If you do not have and do not like coconut oil, use any oil you prefer. But to get the authentic Konkani flavor, please use only coconut oil!!