The first time I had Crackling Spinach was at a Pan Asian restaurant in Goa. I have since had it many times and it seems a standard in restaurants serving South East Asian or Chinese food. In fact, it seems to be a dish that is standard fare in the better restaurants that serve Indian Chinese or Indo-Chinese food.
I’ve never been a fan of spinach by and large. I’m fine with tender spinach in salads or in this dish where it is cooked with lentils and coconut. I like Palak Paneer too but that’s a s far as it goes. Now, I’ve added Crackling Spinach to the list.
So what is Crackling Spinach? In India, this an Indian Chinese dish of crisp fried spinach ribbons. Topped with red chilli flakes and sesame seeds, it is salty with a hint of sweet and pleasantly crunchy.
Like many other popular Indian Chinese dishes, this one is an Indian take on something that used to be Chinese in origin. Apparently, in North Eastern China, this is a dish made with a particular kind of seaweed not available elsewhere. It turns out that in the UK, Chinese restaurants serve something called Crispy Seaweed. This is quite like the Indian Crackling Spinach except it’s not made with seaweed at all. There they use shredded Savoy cabbage, Bok Choi (Pak Choy), collard greens, or even kale.
This recipe has been partially adapted from the Mainland China’s cookbook. Crackling Spinach is usually found in the starter section of menus in Indian Chinese restaurants but it may also be served on the side as part of the main meal.
I’m also taking this opportunity to announce the winner of my giveaway of Jamie Schler’s cookbook Orange Appeal. You might remember that Gibbs-Smith, the publishers of Jamie’s cookbook were very generous and offered a copy of the book to a lucky winner, to be shipped worldwide.
Well Manisha of Indian Food Rocks, congratulations to you! You just won that copy of Orange Appeal. Keep a lookout for an email from me and you can look forward to your book some time soon.
- 45-50 spinach leaves
- 2 tbsp corn-starch
- Oil for deep frying
- 1 tsp powdered sugar
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp chili flakes
- 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
- Wash the spinach leaves and pat them dry. If the leaves are damp, it will clump together when corn-starch is added and your Crackling Spinach will be greasy. Take 8 to 10 leaves at a time and lay one over the other, roll and chop into fine strips/ ribbons. Do this with all the leaves. Separate the spinach strips/ ribbons with your fingers.
- Sprinkle the cornstarch over the spinach and then toss well so the spinach is evenly and well coated. Make sure the spinach is well separated and not clumped together.
- Heat the oil in a wok. Fry the spinach in about 4 or 5 batches. When it about smoking hot, drop the coated spinach and fry till crisp but not brown. This should not take more than 2 or 3 minutes.
- Drain on paper towels. While still hot, sprinkle red chilli flakes, salt, powdered sugar and toasted sesame seeds. Toss lightly to mix well. Serve immediately.