Authentic Palakachi Patal Bhaji / Spinach Buttermilk Side

Palakachi patal bhaji is a traditional delicacy. The gravy is made of buttermilk and besan (bengal gram flour). For it to be called perfect there are a bunch of rules. The consistency should be thick and viscous such that it can be scooped up like a liquid but it should not be liquid enough to pour. When a spoon is dipped in the gravy and held up spinach should not hang from the sides. The spinach though cut into pieces should become one with the gravy. It should however, retain its green color. When served on a plate it should not be runny or water should not separate and run from the sold mass. Whole peanuts and channa dal (split bengal gram) are added to the gravy. The peanuts and dal should retain its shape but should be very soft, not crunchy.

Maharastrian food has to have a balance of all the flavors - tangy, sweet, hot (as in pepper heat) and savory. Based on personal preference one or the other flavor may be stronger than others. Tamarind juice and jaggery is usually added to gravies. Lemon juice and sugar are alternatives. Tamarind juice is not added to this spinach bhaji as the buttermilk provides the tangy flavor. Jaggery is never used with buttermilk so sugar is added to provide the sweet flavor. This may sound like a lot of rules but if they are followed the food tastes delicious. Besides if you cook this food often it becomes a matter of habbit.

Patal bhaji literally means a sides with a liquid gravy. Most greens can be cooked this way. In fact the most delicious of them all is aluchi (patra/arabi/colocassia) bhaji. I did not get fresh alu today so that will be another post. Alu bhaji is not cooked in buttermilk. Neither is methi. Spinach is one of the exceptions as buttermilk is supposed to bring out the flavor in spinach. Patal bhaji taste best with bhajri (millet) or jwari (sorghum) bhakri. We had it with chapati. Once I get my dry grinder I will have fresh flour to make the bhakri.

It takes a lot of time to get this dish right. It took me a better part of the hour. My husband said I should have just run the blanched spinach thorough a blender, consistency issue solved. That is usually my quick and easy way out but the appearance is altered. And today I wanted to post the authentic traditional recipe. After all that I was not happy when the weather refused to co-operate. It was a cloudy day that got dark and gloomy by the time I was done. Weather service called for rain the next day. So the pictures were taken under my kitchen lights.

You will need
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cups channa dal (split bengal gram)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. dry coconut flakes
2 large bunches spinach (I used baby spinach)
3 tbsp. besan (channa dal flour)
2 cups buttermilk
3-5 cups water
1 tsp. cayenne pepper powder (red chili pepper powder)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. garam masala

For the tempering
1 tbsp. olive oil (vegetable oil)
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 green chili pepper (you can use more to increase the heat)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. asafoetida

Soak the peanuts and channa dal in water for 3-4 hours. Pressure cook for 10 minutes (3 whistles) until soft. Roast the cumin and coconut flakes in a pan. Cool, grind to a powder and keep aside until needed.

Heat the water in a large pan. Wash and clean the spinach. Drain out all the water. Let it dry enough to be handled and cut without bruising. Align a bunch of leaves together and cut as fine as you can. Repeat for all the leaves. Soft and tender stem can be used if diced finely. Blanch the diced spinach in the hot water for a couple of minutes using a fine mesh sieve. Reserve the water.

In a large pan add the cooked peanuts and channa dal. Add the blanched spinach and put it on low heat. Whisk the channa dal flour in the buttermilk such that there are no lumps and add it to the spinach. Add another 3 cups of reserved blanched spinach water. The spinach should be completely submerged and the liquid should be runny. Add more water if needed. Bring it to a boil stirring frequently. When it is at a full boil increase the heat to high.

Let the spinach mixture cook until the liquid reduces and thickens. Add the salt, sugar and cayenne pepper powder. Add the garam masala and the cumin and coconut flake powder. Continue to cook until the consistency is that of a very viscous liquid.

In a separate pan heat the olive oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they crackle turn off the heat. Add the fenugreek seeds and green chilis. You can break up the chilis or slit them so that they flavor the oil. When the seeds and chilis sizzle add the turmeric powder and asafoetida.

Add the tempering to the gravy. Bring it to a boil.

Turn of the heat. Tastes best with bhajri (millet) or jwari (sorghum) bhakri. We had it with chapati.


This is my entry for week one, day two of BM #46 for the theme No onion no garlic. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.


  1. Varada such a wonderful and healthy recipe, bookmarked and going to make this for today's dinner..

  2. This spinach bhaji is truly irresistible, quite a new dish for me.. will give a try soon.

  3. What a different dish Varada and sounds so interesting! I am so glad that I am learning so many new and traditional dishes :)

  4. Wonderful. Love combination of green and yellow color

  5. wow such an interesting gravy , it looks so delicious and tempting !!

  6. I loved this recipe and read it thrice to understand all the detais..would love to tey it soon.

  7. Varada, I am enjoying all your traditional dishes here..this is so healthy!..not to mention on the lovely green..:)

  8. That is a very interesting buttermilk and spinach combination. Looks creamy and delicious.

  9. I am absolutely in love with this traditional green bhaji. Bookmarked.

  10. love the color and consistency of this one. bookmarked

  11. This is a new one to me. Bookmarking this for the next bm


Post a Comment

Please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.