Recreating Rasika’s Palak Chaat
One of my favorite dishes at Rasika is the palak chaat (fried spinach). It’s so simple and yet so addicting. The problem is that sometimes I need a palak chaat fix (damn it!), but I can’t always get into Rasika when I want to because of the restaurant’s popularity. Recently, in an act of defiance, I thought: “Hmmph, who needs Rasika?? I can make this myself.”
I turned to the web and my friend Google. I found several different recipes that called for various degrees of complexity. I decided to skip those that called for lightly dusting the spinach with flour and went for the more straightforward “drop plain spinach in hot oil” method. Below is my recipe for recreating this popular dish, which draws ingredients and techniques from several of the recipes I found. I must admit it came out pretty close to Rasika’s version. It’s good enough to satiate your craving when you just can’t get to the real thing. However, the truth is that frying spinach is a little tricky. It must be absolutely dry before dropping it in hot oil. Even with dry spinach, there is a significant amount of oil splatter because the oil is reacting to spinach’s naturally high water content. The process, even with my extreme caution, resulted in a few oil burns on the inside of my wrist. I think using a deep fryer is preferable because it does a better job containing oil splatter than a pan or Dutch oven.
Continues after the jump.
Vegetable oil (see notes below on amount needed)
½ bag of baby spinach (about 4 oz, completely dry)
Kosher salt, to taste
½ c Greek yogurt
2 dates, pitted and chopped
Juice from ½ lemon
1/8 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp turmeric
1-3 tbsp water
1 tbsp tomato, chopped
1 tbsp red onion, chopped
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, chopped dates, coriander, cumin, turmeric, lemon juice, water, and a pinch of salt. Use enough water to transform the mixture into a drizzle. Set aside.
Stovetop: Fill a heavy bottom pan or Dutch oven with enough oil so that it comes about a ½ inch up the sides. Basically, you need enough oil so that the spinach can float. I have a low-tech method for knowing when the oil is hot enough: stick the end of a wooden spoon in. If the oil starts bubbling around it, it’s hot enough. If the oil starts splattering, however, the oil is too hot. Lower the heat and wait a few minutes to let the oil temperature drop.
Deep fryer: Fill it, according to the fryer’s instructions, and heat to about 350.˚
Once the oil is ready, gently drop a few spinach leaves in at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan or fryer. Wear an apron and keep your distance from the stovetop to avoid burns. After about 30 seconds, remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and place them on a few layers of paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Spread the leaves out so they do not overlap and to keep them crispy.
Once you’ve finished frying all the spinach, pile it up on a plate, drizzle with the yogurt mixture, and top with chopped tomato and red onion. Serve immediately. The leaves will not stay crispy for long after they’ve been stacked.