Eat your greens: Saag Paneer vs. Palak Paneer

Palak PaneerHaving eaten and enjoyed Indian food in the US for many years there were a couple things I learned: it’s a great way to eat vegetarian and they have this amazing bread called naan. What took me a few years, and now international experience, to realize is how limited the food selection is in US Indian restaurants. We’ve already talked about the variety of breads, so this is a good opportunity to discuss Saag Paneer.

Simply put Saag is any form of pureed greens turned into the base of an Indian curry; in the US, the base is typically spinach because it’s commonly available. In India, the spinach-based Paneer dish is called Palak (spinach in Hindi) and is generally a bit more soup-like as opposed to the thicker, more stew-like Saag Paneer. Outside the US, Saag Paneer is generally made with mustard greens, which also lends very well to American taste buds. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Can anyone say kale paneer?!?

Does any of this matter? Not in the least. This is a friendly reminder of how some traditional dishes have evolved in the mainstream of American restaurants, ethnic or otherwise. But what this should do is open your eyes to the possibilities in making Indian cuisine in your own kitchen.

We had a great time playing with spinach, carrot tops (the greens) and kale for pesto, so it was just a matter of time until we pivoted from a more familiar Italian dish to one of our favorite Indian dishes. If kale, mustard, or turnip greens are in season, go to town creating your own Saag Paneer dish. Find the basic, simple Saag Paneer recipe here and experiment like crazy. That’s what the joy of cooking (and eating) is all about!

Do you have your own twist on Saag Paneer? The best part of cooking is sharing, so don’t be shy — give us a tweet at @MIEWfoodsLLC