Sarson Saag or sarson ka saag is the terminology applied to describe a highly nutritious North Indian curry originally from the state of Punjab, prepared using fresh mustard or ‘sarson‘ leaves typically harvested in the winter months along with certain resonant spices. It is a simple gravy that is easily made at home from readily accessible ingredients and equally in demand at restaurants as ‘sarson da saag’ is a trademark Punjabi favourite along with ‘makki di roti’.
Ingredients and Preparation
Equal amounts of fresh mustard and spinach leaves feature in this dish apart from green chillies, ginger, garlic, onion, Indian dry spice powders, a small amount of maize flour, fresh lemon juice, salt and clarified butter or ghee.
The greens are cooked in a cup of water to which salt, and green chillies have been added. This is then ground into a coarse paste. Grated onion is fried till transparent along with ginger and garlic, then dry spice powders- coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala powders are added and fried, maize flour is added and cooked well. Once oil starts to separate from the onion-spice blend, the green paste is added and the mixture simmered on low heat till done. Finally fresh lemon juice is drizzled on top.
A serving size of 1 cup (~220 g) provides-
• Total of 182 Calories with ~ 93.0 calories from fat sources.
• A Total Fat content of 10.4 g, of which Saturated Fat is 6.0 g and Unsaturated Fat is 0g, with Cholesterol of 24.5 mg
• Sodium content of ~ 123 mg and potassium 780.8 mg.
• Total Carbohydrate content of 19.6 g, of which Dietary Fiber accounts for 7.3 g and Sugar 5. 3 g,
• Protein content is 7.4 g.
• Both mustard and spinach are high in iron, folate, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium, potassium as also vitamins A and C, and dietary fibre.
Overall, the presence of healthy greens and spices makes this dish high in complex carbohydrates, proteins, and vital nutrients like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, low in calories, fat and cholesterol, making it apt for obese persons, pregnant and lactating women, persons with diabetes ( also due to the low glycemic values), cardiovascular concerns. However it is not advisable for persons with renal disease, kidney stones and protein restrictions.
• Use of clarified butter or ghee raises the fat content in this otherwise healthy dish. Therefore it may be replaced with the use of olive oil, vegetable oil, rice bran oil, or even sesame seed oil. In this manner saturated fat is replaced by unsaturated fat which is beneficial to the heart. Also these healthy fats are needed in absorption of fat soluble vitamin A. Elimination of ghee in cooking, immediately drops cholesterol content of the dish.
• Some chopped roasted walnuts may be used to garnish the sarson saag to provide a nutty crunch to the dish and provide healthy unsaturated fats, some protein, fibre and vitamin E along with Calcium and Iron.
• Fibre adds bulk and provides the feeling of fullness and helps in smooth bowel function. Therefore even some other edible greens may be added in smaller amounts.
• Makki roti or flat bread made of maize flour is no doubt the best accompaniment to sarson ka saag. A raw salad made of cucumber, carrots and tomatoes can add value as a low-calorie vitamin, mineral and anti-oxidant source.
• Some fresh yoghurt would help with better digestion
• A glass of fresh unsweetened lemon juice or orange juice is a must in order to provide Vitamin C needed to promote iron absorption from the leafy greens.