Haak

If I had to pick my favourite Indian cuisine I would blindly have to say Bengali. After all, that I what I grew up with and what my grandparents, aunt and parents cooked with great love and care. The difficult part is choosing the second best Indian cuisine, and for anyone who loves regional Indian food, believe me, it’s a tough choice.

Of all the things that this country has to offer, food has got to be one of the best. It is typical that people across different geographies and regions eat different food based on local produce, weather conditions and preferences. Many regions also have a lot of similar food (for instance, you will always find some form of puri/luchi or similar fried breads and some form of vegetable dish, a subzi), but what is difficult to comprehend is, that food is not just limited to minor regional variances, but almost every region boasts of a completely different cuisine with different spices, cooking styles and core ingredients.

After many years of much gluttony, have I decided that my second favourite Indian cuisine is Kashmiri. I am deeply in love (yes, love) with Kashmiri food which is delicate and flavoursome and different! The meat is juicy and fragrant, the fried lotus stems are crisp and delicate, and the greens are tender and fresh!

Of course, as I have often heard from some Kashmiri friends, cooking meat properly and Kashmiri style, requires great patience and skill and I am not sure I possess such skills! So today I decided to give ‘haak’ a try (a super easy but amazingly tasty dish of collard greens), since I scored some fresh haak from my green grocer yesterday. I can tell you right now that haak, with hot steamed rice and a dollop of plain yoghurt can make you very very happy!

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You will need:

  • Haak (collard greens): 1 kg
  • Mustard oil: 3 tablespoons
  • Asafoetida powder: ¼ teaspoon (optional)*
  • Dried red chillis: 2
  • Green chillis: 2
  • Water: 6 cups
  • Salt: 1 teaspoon (or adjusted to taste)

 * You can totally skip this or replace this with ½ teaspoon of dried ginger powder (sonth).

Prepare the haak by removing any yellow leaves and the thick stems (keep only the tender stems connected to the leaves). Leave the leaves whole, wash and keep aside.

Dissolve the asafoetida in half a cup of water and keep aside.

In a large wok, heat the 2 tablespoons of mustard oil on medium heat until is start to smoke.

Reduce heat and add the red and green chillis and fry for 10-15 seconds.

Add the haak to the wok, add the dissolved asafoetida (or sonth), the remaining 5 and half cups of water, salt, increase heat to medium and bring to a boil.

Cook for about 40 minutes or until tender.

After removing from heat, add one tablespoon of mustard oil.

Serve hot with rice. Remember to nap after. You will need it.

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