Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pui Chingri -- Pohi Saag with Shrimp


“On the subject of spinach: divide into little piles. Rearrange again into new piles. After five of six maneuvers, sit back and say you are full.”
Delia Ephron from How To Eat Like A Child

There was a phase last year when I was unable to cook. We outsourced to a local bengali caterer and between him and D managed to feed the family okay. This guy however was pretty monotonous with his menu, he had some 4-5 items which he would repeat over the weeks and after a month you would think that alu-posto, dhokar dalna and charchari were all there is to a bengali menu.

To satisfy my cravings for authentic vegetarian bangla food a friend came to the rescue and would send over a little of whatever she cooked each week. Now she is a damn good cook and has a vast repertoire of Bengali recipes, she also likes to cook and eat well and prepares a full 6 course meal for dinner almost every day. No doubt that food from her kitchen was much awaited while the caterer's supplies languished in the refrigerator.

She used to make this Pui Chingri (Pohi Greens with Shrimp) which I fell in love with. I am sure my Ma would make it the same way but I was a typical kid regarding food choices and so though my Ma would force greens down my throat I don't have fond memories of them. Now with age I am not scared of my greens any more and even the slimy Pui has joined my list of favorites.

I have also learned greens don't make you stronger, it takes much more to grow into a person of character and strength, the 5 serving of vegetables merely sustains you in that journey.


"There was a Young Lady of Greenwich,
Whose garments were border'd with Spinach;
But a large spotty Calf,
bit her shawl quite in half,
Which alarmed that Young Lady of Greenwich."

Edward Lear, English artist, writer

Pui Shaak or Pohi Saag has the scientific name of basella alba and some other fancy names like Climbing Spinach, Malabar Spinach etc. Basella alba is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine, reaching 10 m in length. Its thick, semi-succulent, heart-shaped leaves have a mild flavour and mucilaginous texture.

Typical of leaf vegetables, it is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It is low in calories by volume, and high in protein per calorie. The succulent mucilage is a particularly rich source of soluble fiber, thought to remove mucus and toxins from the body. The plant is also a rich source of chlorophyll. You can apparently grow this plant from the stems/stalks and with tips from Soma I have planted some of those stalks in my backyard

This dish goes to WHB # 185 hosted by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook


Pui Chingri/Pohi Greens with Shrimp

This is a very simple and approximate recipe and serves about 3-4 people

Prep: Devein and clean shrimp if fresh. If frozen defrost shrimp and remove the tail. Toss about 8-10 shrimp with a little turmeric and salt and keep aside for 15-20 minutes

Wash and clean the pohi greens(I had about 1lb) and chop in small pieces. Chop the stems too.

Start Cooking

Heat Mustard Oil(or any white oil) in a Kadhai

Fry the shrimp till they are a light golden yellow. Don't fry them too much, they get tough. Remove shrimp and keep aside

Fry 1 small potato chopped in slices till it is light golden in color. Remove and keep aside

Temper/chaunce the oil with 1/2 tsp of Paanch Phoron and 4 slit green chili. If you cannot stand the heat of green chili ignore

Once you get the beautiful flavor of paanch phoron add the greens along with the stems

Saute and let it cook

You can cover and cook to make it cook faster, but frequently remove the cover and give a good stir. The greens will release a lot of water which you want to dry up. Slimy pohi doesn't taste good.

When the greens is almost done add the potatoes, salt and 1/4-1/2 tsp of Red Chili Powder. Mix well and cook till potatoes are done

Add the shrimp and mix well with the greens

Serve with hot rice


  1. Darun..eita amar besh favorite, even when i was a kid...& i never said no to any greens.. in fact ma would get tired as i would get upset if there were no saager torkari on any day:-)

    order diye dhokar dalna...LOL roj khete holeo khetam. .. amra ekbar ekjoner theke try korechilam bangali khabar order, dorkar e porei, kintu eto baaje ranna je 1 week er pore bondho korte holo.

  2. Shrimp with Pohi saag sounds great and healthy....I'll try this dish with spinach due to unavailability of Pohi saag.

  3. Amma used to add "pasalai keerai" to prawn kuzhambu. As the green has a coolant effect she says that would reduce the heat created by the shrimp or prawns. Thats the only place I had seen greens and seafood. This combo looks interesting. Long live those anna poorani's who feed us during difficult times! I had my keralite neighbour who usd to send us goodies everyday when my mom was sick and hospitalised!

  4. hey sandeepa,
    The small poem on greens was so cute :) dish looks interesting with an interesting combo.
    as a kid I too was a fussy fish with greens and veggies :) Over the years I grown to like it for it's healthfulness . Loved the way u've written the importance of greens in ones spells so much of maturity...*I bow to u oh! wise one!!!* :)

    Enjoy the weekend!

  5. greens and shrimp! quite a nice combo!! :)

  6. Pui is the only shaak i didnn't mind and your post brought back a fleeting memory of dinners in Calcutta. Never seen them in Bombay. Would you know the Hindi name for it?

    1. Malayan Karmakar, try asking for Vaali. That is the Konkani name for pui shak.

  7. I am trying real hard to remember my moral science classes ... but since nothing was said about not to be jealous of your friend's greens, I think I can go ahead and match that shade of pui. :-)
    Sandeepa ... chingri and pui ... dutoi favourite. Pui lagiyecho!? Ebar Soma ke jalabo adviser jonne. :-)

  8. How nice and homely!

    "I have also learned greens don't make you stronger, it takes much more to grow into a person of character and strength, the 5 serving of vegetables merely sustains you in that journey." - LOL!

  9. I love shrimps with veg and this looks really yummy.

  10. Greens and Shrimp and Potatoes looks and sounds good. Malabar Spinach/ Pui Chingri tastes so much better than spinach.
    They grow easily Sandeepa, try growing them.
    Whenever someone asks me about Palak Paneer all I can do is cringe. Why bother with that when there are so many tasty variations to cooking with greens. How do you think Chard will fare in such a dish?

  11. Oh this looks great! I had this a few weeks ago when we were visiting my in-laws. Thanks for posting it!

  12. That's an interesting combination. I am new to this blogging world and nice to see you all!

  13. We make stir-fry (only slightly bitter taste green with prawns (small)- Reminds my mom cooking, but i never did here! I imagine this delicious curry taste, slurp!

  14. The Knife

    I guess it is called Pohi Saag, at least that is what Our Patel Bhai (the grocery)calls it

    I have planted some of the stalks. I also planted swiss chard seeds but those I did in a pot, now me thinks that is not enough space for those chards

  15. Can this be cooked with spinach ?

    I don't think aami pui paabo..

  16. What a delightful recipe . Amra ehane Pui Saag pai na . So ...
    Kintu kolkata gelai maa banai .
    R tomer lekha Poem ta darun .
    Keep it up .

  17. lovely post and this looks so so yum,,..:-)

  18. Sandeepa, looks good. I too did not lobe pui saag as a child - could also have had something to do with the fact that my mom did not usually put shrimpo in it. Isn't it amazing show chingri can make anything so yummy :-)

    BTW, planting swiss chard in a pot was a good idea. I planted them in the backyard last year and they were covered in slugs. I did not want to put too much slug repellant. Plan to plant in pots this year.Lets see how it goes.

  19. The number of greens that we eat in India and the even more numerous regional names we have for them , makes it impossible to figure out what someone else is talking about...:)
    And you're right, it takes much much more to grow up and build character and strength!

    I'm not sure why dabbawalas are so monotonous - when my mother was very sick, I distinctly remember (at age 5) we used to get a Parsi dabba (dont ask why, we had Parsi neighbours and I guess this was their way of helping). I couldnt eat DHansak for many years`after that overdose!
    I have never heard of shrimps and greens but seems like a great idea!

  20. Love your blog Sandeepa! First visit here, am adding you to my blogroll :)

  21. Oh such lovely friends Jee, I wish I had some like them!!! cook and send me some food when I am tired and sick!!! this saag and shrimp dish looks very tempting and sounds healthy!!!

  22. I love shrimp anywhere you add, specially in any greens, it increases the taste the recipe..I also make sometimes

  23. darun hoyechhe........pui shak ami gardene lagiyechhi ...........ekhun chotto gachh, pore erokom recipe try korbo.......
    first time here n enjoyed reading.yes i find the pui saag very slimy n the stems sometimes taste to make it better, do you know?

  24. I've always loved greens, and adding shrimp to it just an added bonus!

  25. Sorry to be nitpicking, but a traditional pui saag with chingri would have a few more veggies thrown into it (given that it is a chorchori), i.e. jhingey, kumro, and according to taste - begun and mulo.

  26. Aparna

    As far as I know only if that is a Pui Chorchori. This is just Pui Chingri

    Again this according to what I have had and cook. I am sure there are various other versions in each home

  27. I brought some greens from Cal with me last night! They are not these but are farm fresh. My friend told me to cook it with some potatoes and I think I am going to cook it like this - in mustard oil, sans the shrimp.
    The greens are on a foot long shoots...I hope I am supposed to just wash and cut them up...pray that I know what I am doing! (will continue to look thru your archived to make sure there are no other recipes for something like what I have got!)
    I also brought jute greens, lime sampler!, green bananas, and a green fruit that I am expected to eat raw - with salt!

  28. Anita

    I have never had Jute greens, is it called paat shaak ?
    What is lime sampler and the green fruit ???

  29. yumm...i also cooked a pohi dish few days back, but i wasnt aware of its accurate name as they dont hae a specific name for 'pui shag' in CANADA

    LOOKS amazing!

  30. Hi Sandeepa,
    Bhalo Rogan Josh khunjte giya tomake aabishkaar korechi.. Taarpor hariye gelam tomar bloge.. Bhishon bhalo lekho.. Ranna try korbo.. Bashtotar maajhe ki ranna korbo bhebei harai.. Ebaar prottek robibar shokale uthe dekhbo Whats cooking in Bong Mom's kitchen..
    Thanks a million.. Joya

  31. Authentic Bengali Pui chingri would have a few more veggies in it like Pumpkins and eggplants a must ... and White raddish or Sweet potato and Jhinge (dont know whats it called in english) ... the method however is the same like u mentioned just with a few more veggies

  32. Thanks for the recipe Sandeepa! Have tried similar dish with rainbow chards, potatoes and eggplants along with shrimps over dried red chillies and jeera phoron. Family loves it! Can't wait to try your version with poi greens :)


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