Sunday, February 24, 2013

Are You Saag Savvy? A Simple Recipe Big On Flavor

Saag recipe

I come from a small community and didn't try Indian food until I was in college. My best and worst experiences actually came from living abroad in Japan.

Yeah, I know... authentic Indian cuisine in Japan??!!

Much as my small town in the US is dotted with Mexican restaurants filled with family recipes, Japan has a large Indian population scattered throughout the islands. Many foreign workers travel to Japan for construction work or technical training. When I taught English on the island of Shikoku I became very familiar with all the best Indian restaurants there and, as fellow foreigners, got to know the people cooking and running them. From watching the wood fire ovens bake fresh naan to experiencing a whole new range of spices and flavors, I was hooked. Now, back home in Oregon I haven't found a good substitute for those favorites.

Saag recipe

One thing I really fell in love with was Saag. What is it? Well, Saag is a leaf-based dish that uses spinach or mustard greens, etc. and is often served along with naan, roti or rice. My top ways to enjoy it are with chicken, tofu or paneer cheese simmered in. Yes, it is bright green, and yes it is healthy... but it has a mild sweet flavor with wide appeal.

I usually use spinach in my recipe for simplicity, but have also thrown in kale or chard with great results. This recipe only takes 8 ingredients, under 30 minutes and you can sub in your own protein. So, let's get started, shall we?


Seems like all my favorite recipes start out like this... a little olive oil and sweating down some yellow onions.

Wilt in your leaves, or warm up frozen spinach. I have used both with great success.

Saag recipe

Add in the coconut milk, stock and spices. The cinnamon and cumin are an amazing blend that goes so well with the onions and greens.

spinach saag

After a nice simmer, the mixture is ready to puree in the blender. It can be as chunky or smooth as you like, but the deep green color is so earthy.

Spinach Saag

I would brown any meat separately and then add to the sauce to simmer and let the flavors really meld. I like sliced firm tofu or paneer cheese the best.

Serve it over the starch or base of your choice. Brown Jasmine rice is my husband's favorite, but it is also pretty yummy on a simple baked potato.

Saag recipe

Saag with Tofu

You Will Need:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed or 1 lb of fresh greens
  • 1 c. chicken stock + more to achieve desired consistency
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 package extra firm tofu
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Grain or base of your choice. I enjoy brown rice, brown jasmine rice, quinoa, naan baked potato, etc.


  1. Saute the onion in olive oil till translucent and soft. Add in the chicken stock and spinach over medium heat. Allow thawed spinach to warm through or fresh greens to wilt.
  2. Add in the coconut milk, cumin and cinnamon and simmer for 7 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a blender and puree to desired consistency.
  4. Put the mixture back into a saucepan, add in cubed tofu (or chicken, paneer cheese, etc.) and bring back to a simmer for about 8 minutes. Stir gently so the tofu doesn't break. Season to taste.
  5. Serve over rice or alongside naan. Enjoy!
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