Sarso or Mustard Greens are the leaves of the mustard plant (we use the seeds for preparing tadka). It is very popular in Punjab and northern parts of India. The leaves are normally available in abundance during the winter season. Just like spinach (or palak), these are very nutritious and 'dirt' cheap and it is a very good idea to include this leafy vegetable at least once in your weekly diet.
The below table from WHFoods shows how healthy and nutritious mustard greens are:
Low in calories, they contain a large amount of antioxidants that enhance detoxification in our body along with reducing oxidative stress. Being rich in vitamin K, they also provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Sarso is also an excellent source of other nutrients like vitamins C, E and B6, folic acid, calcium, carotenes, manganese and fiber (who knew something that comes so cheap provides so much huh?).
Unlike spinach, mustard leaves have a slight pungent flavour and bitterness. So usually they are cooked with a little spinach, in order to tone down this strong flavour, which also thickens the curry. But I think its unique flavour adds more taste to the dish and we usually cook it on its own. My rules with greens: 1) avoid adding too many spices so that the flavour of the leaves is preserved and 2) keep salt to minimal as leaves tend to have a bit of salt in them. While buying, look for fresh, crisp green leaves - they are bit prickly to the touch. If you are using the stems (I use only the leaves) you would want to chop them very finely. Adding 'desi ghee' (home made butter) is what really brings out the taste and flavour of this dish so don't be stingy on that!
The original Punjabi combination is Sarso Ka Saag (Mustard greens with Spinach) and Makki di Roti (Roti made with maize flour) but this dish goes well with any other roti - just serve it piping hot with a dollop of ghee (Yummm!). Apart from the taste, it is so simple to make this dish (only washing the leaves takes some time and effort); one of my favourites when I want to cook up a wholesome dinner meal in a jiffy. May I also add that this is my easy way of cooking mustard greens and I am making NO claims whatsoever that this is an 'authentic/traditional Punjabi' recipe!
Sarso bina Saag: Recipe
- Sarso or Mustard Greens - 1 huge bunch (approx 2-3 cups when roughly chopped)
- Onion - 1 medium, finely chopped
- Asafoetida or hing - a pinch
- Ginger paste - 1/4 tsp
- Garlic paste - 1/4 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
- Green chillies - 2 slit
- Desi ghee (or store bought) - as required
- Wash the leaves thoroughly and drain well. Roughly chop them and set aside.
- In a pressure cooker, add the chopped greens, ginger paste, garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, green chilies and asafoetida. Mix gently and set it on high flame. Turn off the stove after 2 whistles. Let it cool.
- Blend the mixture - need not be too fine and set aside, while you prepare the tadka.
- Heat ghee (take at least 1 tbsp), add a pinch of hing and saute the onions till it is nice golden brown.
- To this add the blended mixture of greens and cook for a few minutes till it is creamy. Do a taste test and adjust the salt before taking it off the stove. Add a dollop of ghee and serve hot with rotis.