Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lasia Spinosa

 
During the rainy season, one of the delights of buying vegetables is that many are sourced from the wild. Foraging is still a way of life for many in our region. Whenever we travel to our hometown, we stop at tiny village markets and buy a lot of local produce. These are all organically grown. Pesticides and fertilizers are not used and all they use are fallen leaves, cow manure and ash. The smell and the taste of the same vegetables are so refreshingly different from the ones we get here within the city.
Vegetables foraged during this season include a variety of mushrooms, vegetable fern, bamboo shoots, alpinia nigra, colocasia and the one shown in the picture, Lasia spinosa. This is a plant that is sourced from its habitat. In my mother tongue, it is known as "shidubu". It grows near water bodies and can grow up to 2m. This perennial plant is native to temperate and tropical Asia from China to India, Vietnam and Indonesia. The young leaves and stalks are used as a vegetable
The rhizomes are used for various treatments such as treating tuberculosis of lymph nodes, stomach aches, swollen lymph nodes, snake and insect bites, injuries and rheumatism. Source.
Curry of lasia spinosa, potatoes & dried fish
This recipe will serve 4.
3 whole dried fish, medium-size
1 bunch of lasia spinosa
2 potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise
2 large onions, finely grated
2-3 tejpatta
A quarter tsp mustard seeds
7-8 cloves of garlic, ground
1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and ground
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbs coriander powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
6-7 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tomatoes, eyes removed and sliced fine
Salt to taste
4 tbs mustard oil Serrated coriander for the garnish

The dried fish:
Cut into 11/2" pieces and place in a bowl.  Heat about 2 cups of water in a pan. When it gets warm (you should be able to put your hand in the water), switch off the flame. Pour this water on the fish. Soak for 2-3 minutes. This makes it easier to remove any dirt and some remaining fish scales. Rub the pieces with your fingers checking for any sandy residue. Wash the fish pieces under running water and drain in a colander.
Remove from the colander and rub some turmeric powder on the fish pieces. I am not adding salt here as a lot of salt is used on the fish during the drying process. While cooking the curry we have to keep this in mind.
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, reduce the flame a little and fry the fish pieces for 2-3 minutes, a few at a time.  Remove and set aside.
The vegetables:
Place the peeled and cut potatoes in a bowl of water so that they do not turn brown.
Remove the leaves of the lasia by breaking off the leaves from the stalks with your hands.
Take each stalk and break off into similar lengths till the point where it breaks easily.
Wash the leaves and the stalks and keep aside.
The cooking:
Heat the pan where the fish was fried earlier. Check to see if another tbs of oil might need to be added.
When it turns hot, throw in the tejpatta and the whole mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds sputter, add the onions. Cook till they change colour then add the rest of the spices.
Add the potatoes and stir well so that they are coated with the spices.
When the potatoes are half done, add the lasia. Cook for another 20 minutes stirring in between.  Add a bit of water so that the vegetables and the spices do not catch at the bottom. Lasia is not like spinach and will not turn really soft even after it is cooked. The texture is more like a variety of clerodendrum that we consume, the East Indian Glory Bower.
Add the sliced tomatoes and cook till they turn soft. Season with salt. But be careful here. You might need only a pinch of it.
Add about 11/2 cups of hot water. When it comes to the boil, gently add the fried fish pieces. Cook for another 5-6 minutes. Remove from the flame.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped serrated coriander.
This goes best with rice.
Braised lasia spinosa
Lasia spinosa can also be plunged in boiling water before cooking. In that case the duration of cooking will be reduced. If it is boiled you will see a thread-like substance (much like the ones from cut banana stems) on the vegetable. This will have to be removed before cooking.
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