Nutri Palak - Soya Chunks Spinach Curry
A traditional Indian Punjabi dry spinach curry with soy chunks (nutrela) cooked in Indian spices, tomatoes, onion and garlic.
From Punjabi, I don't mean that it is only prepared in Punjab. I mean, this is as close to traditional and done right as I have grown up eating it. I think, vegetarians all over India, specially North India, love spinach cooked with soft and chewy soya chunks and I'm super fan of it.
A lot of time at home and even in restaurants, you will find Nutri Palak served with nutri soaking-in little water which does not taste appealing. That's not the way it should be prepared and I'm sharing an easy trick with you to get it right. No spongy watery soya chunks and a delicious palak curry, every time!
Even though it is served with dollop of yogurt or a little salted butter.... unlike modernized Indian creamy curries like Tikka Masala.... base of Nutri Palak preparation has no cream or dairy and not even butter in it. So not just good for vegetarian meal days, it is also perfect to serve for "vegan" diet.
PS: You guys, expect anything but vegetarian recipes from me this week. Due to auspicious week of Navratri going on in India, we are on all vegetarian diet and that's what I'm sharing on blog too.
Honestly, spinach is a watery green. And Nutri/soya chunks are like "sponge" so these love soaking water. Result is a water-soaked spinach curry which is no good.
when I started cooking Nutri-Palak for Vishal... he was never so excited about it. And often said, it needs to be cooked more. I was like "I already cooked it to death! How much more?!" lol!!! Then I realized, from cooked more he meant no watery soy chunks. One day, I stood in kitchen for some extra time and made sure to understand the technique of no-water deep flavored Nutri Palak.
In two attempts, I made Nutri Palak worth liking for Vishal. These days, he looks forward to the dinner when Nutri Palak is on the menu. (condition applies: only when we are one meatless diet.)
PS: Indian homemade dry curry "sabjies" are often cooked extra for deep flavor and natural carmalization in the pan.
If you reading so far, I'm sure you know by now that Soya Chunks are often known by name - Nutri (short of a soya brand name - Nutrela) in India. So for the rest of post, I will refer Soya Chunks as Nutri. :)
I start by boiling the nutri in salted water. I boil'em until soya is very tender. I mean, you can take a piece out and easily tear with hands. (use a tongue though it will be super hot. :))
Once nutri is soft, I remove nutri from the water. Put nutri in colander with a aluminium foil on top and put some weight.. say mortar-pestle or chakla. This removes most water from nutri. Also, cooking nutri extra soft really helps remove water from spongy nutri, later. I leave it under weight until I finish rest of the cooking.
I also blanch spinach in same water which cooks it partially and also removes moisture. See, water helps spinach loose water. :) A pound of fresh spinach becomes 1-2 cups after blanching.
Most Indian masalas or flavor base is tomato, onion, garlic, and ginger with curry spices. So, a quick saute of chopped onion, garlic, and ginger with tomatoes and spices make a delicious masala base, and then spinach and nutri goes in. Cooking few minutes more brings the flavor together.
Amazingly, with a little extra care and removing water at right time.... make nutri palak not watery. This will be your favorite if you try it once.
Nutri or Nutrela is easily available in Indian stores and even in regular stores by name of Soya Chunks (Nutrela). Just in-case you don't find Nutri or don't like it? I recommend trying this dry spinach gravy with Indian Paneer or Tofu!
Start week healthy with a vegetarian dinner! Wish you all a wonderful week ahead.
Nutri Palak - Soya Chunks Spinach Curry
- 1. Bring pot of water to rolling boil. Add spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Drain in to a bowl and set aside. In same boiling water, add salt (1/2 tsp), and nutri/soya chunks. Boil for 3-5 minutes or until soy is very soft. Drain water.
- 2. Transfer Soya Chunks to a colander, place a folded aluminum foil on top and put weight on it, like a heavy pan or mortar-pestle. (whichever fits safely on top) Set aside to drain fully for 10 minutes.
- 3. In a wide saute pan, heat oil, add asafoetida and cumin seeds and let them sputter. Add chopped onion, garlic, ginger and saute until onions are soft.
- 4. Add grated tomatoes with salt and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium-high heat until oil separates. Now, add all spices and continue cooking for 1 more minute.
- 5. Usng hand blender or food processor, puree chopped spinach until smooth. Or if you like spinach(palak) chunky, just rough chop and add to the onion-tomato mixture with soya chunks.
- 6. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes until everything comes together. Serve with chapati or rice and salad of your choice.
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