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Apr 14, 2011 07:45 PM

Channa saag

A couple of months ago, I was in the Sacramento area and had some delicious channa saag at Mehfil in Roseville. I've been looking for a recipe that would make something similar, but haven't found anything that looks right.

Mehfil's channa saag had no dairy or tomato (I think), and was seasoned with spices in the cinnamon/nutmeg family. Do any of you have a recipe like this?


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  1. There's a recipe in Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries, a book I highly recommend. (I don't believe in posting recipes out of cookbooks.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: sushigirlie

      I've been reading good things about that cookbook, so maybe this would be a good time to buy it...

    2. My chana saag is dairy free. The garam masala provides the cinammony taste you are talking about, I think. This recipe does have crushed tomatoes but you don't notice them at all. You can see in this picture that it doesn't appear tomato-y:
      Let me know if you make it!

      Chana Saag

      1 pound baby spinach
      1 or 2 small hot green chiles (such as serranos), minced
      3 tablespoons organic canola or high-oleic safflower oil
      1 teaspoon cumin seeds
      ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
      3 green cardamom seeds
      1 pinch asafoetida powder
      4 cloves garlic, chopped
      1-inch piece ginger, minced or grated
      1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
      1½ cups canned crushed tomatoes, or 3 ripe tomatoes, roughly pureed
      1 teaspoon lemon juice
      4 teaspoons ground coriander
      2 teaspoons ground cumin powder
      1 teaspoon turmeric
      ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
      1 teaspoon salt
      2 15 ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed
      2 teaspoons garam masala

      Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the baby spinach and cook until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain well and squeeze out excess liquid. Place in a food processor along with the green chile, and process until smooth, adding a bit of water only as necessary to create a puree.

      Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large deep skillet or dutch oven. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom and asafoetida and cook for 2 minutes. Add the onions, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until onions start to brown around the edges, about 4-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lemon juice, coriander, cumin powder, turmeric and cayenne. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the spinach puree, salt and chickpeas. Partially cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes, adding a bit of water if mixture seems too thick. Add garam masala and additional salt if needed, and serve.

      9 Replies
      1. re: cathyeats

        Thanks! That looks delicious. What brand of garam masala do you use? I've found that a little of my store-bought variety goes a looong way. I thought of blending my own, but there are so many different garam masala recipes out there that I chickened out.

        1. re: cathyeats

          Maybe I'm crazy but I heard you aren't supposed to use garlic and onion in a dish with asafoetida since that spice is meant to replace onion and garlic for Indians that don't eat them for cultural/religious reasons?

          1. re: rezpeni

            Asafetida is used to give the same pungency as garlic and onions in communities that don't eat these. However, asafetida is also considered as something that de-gasses foods and aids in digestion of heavy foods, so you can find recipes that contain hing as well as garlic and onions among other communities. Anyway, the taste of hing isn't an exact replication of the aromatic effect of garlic and onions so it is not overkill.

            1. re: rezpeni

              Not exactly a food question, perhaps, but: who doesn't eat garlic and onions for cultural reasons?

              Is there some sweet-breath-worshipping culture out there?

              p.s.: not that Asafetida smells at all good itself...

              1. re: Bada Bing

                Jains are one of the sects that do not eat onions or garlic or any root vegetables.
                It is because you kill small ( micro)animals when pulling these crops from the ground.

                1. re: chefj

                  Thanks--I'm glad to learn of that.

                2. re: Bada Bing

                  Jains don't eat them because they are root vegetables as chefj says.

                  Onions and garlic are though to awaken negativity and passions in the body, so some orthodox Hindus don't eat them, especially Brahmins from specific communities. Kashmiri Brahmin Pundits eat meat, but not garlic and onions, so one can't correlate meat consumption with avoiding garlic and onions. Krishna devotees avoid garlic and onions. I can't recall other specific communities in detail.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    A number of groups - not only ethnic/cultural, but also medical/scientific and religious/spiritual - do not eat garlic/onions and other plants in the allium family.

                    Devotees of Krishna do not eat garlic or onions, which are unacceptable to Krishna (God) as they stimulate passion, which invokes such negative qualities as lust, anger, greed, and envy. Followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and other faith traditions have a similar understanding.

                    Ayurvedic medicine recommends against consumption of alliums, due to their passion-stimulating qualities, except as required by medical treatment. Homeopathy and Reiki also discourage allium consumption. Recent scientific investigations are also discovering the negative effects of alliums.

                    A more detailed explanation may be found here:

                    1. re: shruti108

                      Jains also avoid onion and garlic, as previously stated, along with other root vegetables, to minimize their potential to harm life.

              2. You should also try searching the term "Palak" instead of "Sagg" it will turn up a whole other list of recipes for you.
                The recipes for this dish vary greatly. Some are super simple just a Tarka of some whole spices, onion and garlic-ginger paste. While others are complex as the one mentioned above. Very few that I have had were less than good so try a few versions.
                Also you can vary the greens, Mustards and Kales work very well and add a deeper more robust flavor.

                1 Reply