Pui/Poi/Pohi/Valchi or the Ceylon Spinach/Malabar Spinach are all but different names for this leafy Spinach like Green “fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 m in length. Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavour and mucilaginous texture.” (Wiki). The Scientific name for the Pui is Basella alba. You can read more about it in the Herb Society of America.
I had been having a steady supply of the mentioned greens all of last year from a dear friend of ours, who happens to grow almost everything in his back yard. What I did was take some of the unused stiff stalks & planted them in a pot indoors (This year they have been planted outside). They have been growing wild creeping & crawling into nook & corners & looking pretty too! The leaves, stalks & the seeds can all be cooked. Tear off the leaves, break the pliable stalks. The seeds are soft but slightly crunchy – slightly nutty while they are green & pink, however they turn really hard when they are ripe & purple. Discard these or sow them in the veggie patch. The greens can be washed chopped & frozen for later use.
In the Eastern regions (Bengal & Assam) of India, Pui Saag (saag=any edible leafy greens) are cooked with a lot of other vegetables in to a dish called “chorchori” (dry fry where the vegetables remain distinct) or “Ghonto” (almost same as the chorchori but this one is stirred a lot while cooking) , or they are blended into a very unique combination of the greens, variety of vegetables & shrimp, called Pui Chingri (chingri = shrimp).
What I have done is a very simple recipe that my mom & my grandmom would make. It is a stir fry with a lot of flavor of garlic, almost caramelized onions and a sprinkle of poppy seeds.
- 4.5 Cups Lightly packed Pui Greens, chopped into thin ribbons
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
- 1 Medium sized Onion, sliced
- 2 Hot Green Chilli Peppers
- 2 Tablespoons White Poppy Seeds/Khus Khus (this one adds a slight crunch)
- 3 Tablespoons oil
Add Oil in a flat pan/skillet. Add the chopped garlic & heat the oil. Allow the garlic to heat with the oil, this allows the flavor of the garlic to be infused in the oil.
When the oil heats up, you will see the garlic sizzle. Do not let them turn brown. Add the Onions & the Green Hot Pepper. When the Onions are soft & translucent & start to caramelize & turn brown, add the Pui Greens.
The greens will release a lot of water. Cook till the water evaporates & the color changes from the bright green to dark green.
When most of the water evaporates, increase the heat & Stir Fry till all the water dries off, & you hear the sizzle.
Sprinkle the poppy seeds on the top & toss to combine.