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Veggies in a Sweet and Savory Sauce

If you’ve ever enjoyed the subtly sweet and oh-so-mildly spiced Indian dish known as Malai Kofta, your tastebuds will experience a similar ecstasy when they meet this dish that I offer you today—Methi Malai. This sumptuous side dish, which is perfect for spring, can be served alone or over some basmati rice.

 I cannot claim this recipe as my own, as I have adapted it from a traditional dish made in many Indian homes. I first tasted Methi Malai in December 2023 when my husband and I spent five weeks in India at the Ayushakti Ayurved clinic in Malad, near Mumbai. We were there for panchakarma, a medically supervised detox program, where we were privileged to work with some of India’s most renowned doctors of Ayurvedic Medicine—while eating some of the most divinely inspired cuisine. Yes, even while doing a detox, you can eat deliciously in the world of Ayurveda!

Hats Off to the Chefs

The Ayushakti Ayurved medical clinic boasts a restaurant called Swadshakti on its first floor. It features dishes primarily based on the recipes of the clinic’s co-founder, Vaidya Smita Naram. Dr. Naram is not only one of India’s most proficient pulse masters, clinicians, and educators but also an amazing cook!

I had so much fun spending some time in the kitchen with two of the restaurant’s marvelous chefs while we were in India. Manoj Kenny, who taught a small group of us how to make Methi Malai, is the warm and engaging master chef who served this dish to panchakarma clients in early December. Thank you, Manoj, for this wonderful dish and indulging me with a photo of the two of us.

Methi Leaves

Methi leaves—also known as fenugreek leaves—are the unique ingredient in this dish. Methi is a leafy green that is typically found only in Asian food markets. Like other greens more readily available in American markets, methi leaves are somewhat bitter with a distinct flavor that is unlike kale, chard, or other common greens that you’ll find in your grocery store.

Because I was not able to find organic methi leaves in our local Indian store, I tried making the dish with dried methi leaves. (Yuck! I do not recommend this, although dried organic methi is plentiful online.) Even though I soaked the dried leaves in water before cooking them, the final dish was too much like eating a bowl of crisp autumn leaves picked up off the ground!

Adaptations for Home Cooks

To make acquiring the ingredients easier for American cooks, I’ve offered a substitution in this recipe, using fresh Swiss chard or spinach instead of the methi leaves. By adding a pinch of fenugreek seeds for the methi flavor, the final dish is exquisite! (I’ve also made it without fenugreek seeds, and it was still quite delicious.)

I’ve also simplified the recipe for home cooks. For instance, the master chef steamed the vegetables separately and then added them to a giant wok in which spices and onion were cooking. You can certainly do that, but it may be easier to cook the dish in one pot. Swadshakti chefs make their own masalas, their own spice mixtures, and they use a sweet masala with several ingredients for this dish. I picked up some of the flavors without calling for roasting and grinding spices for a masala.

NOTE: I’m not giving up on cooking with fresh organic methi! Once cooler weather arrives in the early fall, I’ll plant some fenugreek seeds hoping they will flourish. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy this delightful side dish of Methi Malai.




Preparation Time: About 45 minutes
Serves 4

You can use any assortment of vegetables, totaling 5 to 6 cups diced, including squash, broccoli, and Indian pumpkin. I recommend that you try the recipe first with a combination of carrots and green beans, with or without asparagus.

½ cup diced sweet onion
2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
⅛ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
3 to 5 fresh curry leaves (not powder!)
2 cups cut green beans
2 cups diced carrots
12 thin asparagus
1 cup chopped methi leaves, Swiss chard, or baby spinach
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly pressed garlic
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 or more tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 cups high-fat coconut milk
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 to 2 teaspoons mineral salt

1. Dice the onion. Heat ghee or oil in a soup pot on medium heat. When the ghee or oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover until the seeds pop like popcorn. When the seeds finish popping, cut off the gas (or move the pot off of the burner) to prevent the seeds from burning. Add the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves and let sizzle briefly. Add the onion and cook on medium-low heat, allowing the onion to slowly caramelize.

2. While the onion is cooking, clean all the vegetables. Line several green beans up at a time and chop them into small pieces, about ½-inch long. Dice the carrots. Snap the tough part of the asparagus off and discard; then snap the spears into ½-inch long pieces. Chop the methi leaves or other greens into bite-sized pieces.

3. When the onion is caramelized, add the cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cloves, and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the carrots and green beans with ¼ to ½ cup water, cover, and let steam for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

4. While vegetables are cooking, prepare the garlic, ginger, and cilantro. Add the coconut milk, asparagus, and greens. Cook on medium heat for another 5 to 10 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Finish with the garlic, ginger, pepper, and salt to taste. Stir in the cilantro and serve immediately as a side dish or over rice.

Coconut milk should be avoided if you have a cold or cough as it increases kapha. Otherwise, double mustard seeds.

2 Responses

  1. Karin Anderson says:

    Malai kofta is my favorite Indian dish so I will make this one for sure. Copied it by hand since my printer is out of black ink.

  2. Lisa says:

    Me too, Karin! I love malai kofta. This dish is not meant to mimic it, but the sauce has some of the same yummy flavors!

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