Making Village-Style Sarso Ka Saag? Do’s And Don’t's To Ensure
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The long weekend of Diwali was significant in many ways. After many years, I felt a genuine nip in the air that I have grown up associating with Diwali; indicating that the winter may make an early appearance this year. Now I may not be the biggest fan of the season, but there are certain things that you look forward to anyway. Take the winter greens, for instance, sarso, bathua, methi, pui; all these lovely greens are dominating the vegetable carts in our local markets, and there is no dearth of delicacies you can prepare with them. Bored of plain paratha? Try sneaking in some methi leaves in the dough. Need something extra to jazz up your regular dal-chawal fare? How about whipping up a quick Bathue ki Sabzi? In Punjabi and several North Indian households, this is the time to make heaps of Sarso ka Saag. Sarso or mustard leaves are grown in abundance during winter. While it is called Sarso K Saag, this delicacy is usually a blend of many green vegetables, fresh spinach and bathua. From the looks of it, the ‘Saag’ looks like a puree of green vegetables, and it is only when you take one bite do you understand that it is so much more.

Upon interacting with a vegetarian Punjabi friend, I learned that a sizeable population of vegetarians in Punjab. After partition, scores of Punjabis who arrived from the North-Western frontier introduced eastern Punjab and the world to a slew of decadent non-vegetarian delights such as Tandoori Chicken and Mutton Beliram. Traditionally, this side of Punjab was renowned for its rustic delicacies like Sarso ka Saag and makki ki roti, where the Sarso was freshly taken from the farms. Sarso ka Saag and Makki ki Roti are also common in many winter festivals such as Lohri. Since the Saag is made with several greens, it is said to have many health benefits. A delicious feature is using onions that is broken with fist first before adding, which lends a strong, pungent quality to the saag. Dried red chillies, garlic and ginger further add to making the saag so bold. 

You would find many recipes of Sarso ka Saag, but there are specific tips with which you can make authentic, village-style Sarso ka Saag at home. 

1. Chop, clean and wash the mustard leaves very carefully. Chop off the lower end from the base, do not lose more than a centimetre, remember you can chop off those tender stems very fine and use them in your saag. 

2. Pick only fresh mustard leaves, and even their stems should be tender. Sarso ka saag is best prepared with terminal buds of saag or the ‘Gandal’. They usually appear in sets of three. 

3. Gandal is sweet, as opposed to the outgrown mustard leaves, which is very bitter, so prioritize this portion when chopping. 

4. Adding leafy greens of other varieties has a purpose, so pick your greens wisely. Such as cholia saag (hare chane ke patte) adds a pleasant astringency to the saag or radish that adds a little sweetness. 

5. Make sure you add ginger that is cut thick since Saag is cooked over time so that ginger releases its flavour gradually. Garlic is equally essential in the saag, but do not overdo the garlic's quantity, or your Saag becomes very pungent. 

6. Do not be stingy with butter; it accelerates the cooking of leaves, roasting the leaves as they cook slowly in the pot. White butter, in addition to creaminess, also has a lovely tang about it. Salted butter may make your saag very strong in taste.


7. Green chillies bring in the hotness in the saag, so when you are adding red chilli powder, you do not have to go overboard. About a teaspoon suffices in most cases. 

Here is a lovely recipe for Sarso Ka Saag. Try some at home and let us know how you liked it.