Gongura: New Discovery

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As I continue my love affair with the local farmers market, I’m still making new and exciting discoveries.

Last week’s involved a green/herb that was totally new to me: gongura. It is a leafy green with red veins. Each leaf was about the size of a baby’s hand, and they are commonly used in Indian and South Asian cuisines.

Gongura offers a slightly sour flavor — but in a good way — and can be eaten raw or cooked. The most common use of the leaf in Indian and Pakistani cooking is to make a “pickle” — which is a tangy paste used as a condiment with curries, kebabs and other dishes.

But I wasn’t feeling the complexity of that, and opted for something simpler: sautéed gongura with spinach. Since the gongura has a slightly sour taste, I opted for coconut oil, which has a bit of sweetness, to line the pan.

A bit of online research revealed that sorrel is a similar plant to gongura — some sources indicated that the leaves were identical, while others directed cooks to use them interchangeably as related plants with similar flavors.

Regardless, I shall continue to look for both; the tangy burst was a welcome addition to our vegetable side dish, and I am confident that there are multiple ways to expand upon this interesting new discovery.

Gongura Spinach

This dish was a wonderful accompaniment to a simple summer dinner of grilled chicken, grilled corn and a tomato avocado salad. It would pair well with any grilled or roasted poultry, meat or fish.

Serves six

¼ pound gongura leaves, rinsed

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

¼ teaspoon salt

Generous sprinkle fresh pepper

1 bag chopped frozen spinach

In a large skillet, heat the oil, garlic, salt and pepper until fragrant, about two minutes.

Add the gongura and stir until it’s thoroughly wilted, about two more minutes.

Add the frozen spinach, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for about six more minutes, stirring frequently, but keeping the dish covered for the majority of time. Serve when the spinach is totally cooked.

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