Kacha Kela Sak

October 18, 2007 at 10:06 PM (bananas and plantains, Gujerati, India, various greens, vegetables/ fruits)

Back in the early 90’s, I came across this Gujju recipe* from Yamuna Devi’s Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. (I don’t actually own this book, instead I have the “best of” abridged version that was published a few years later, but that big, out-of-print classic is still on my want list). I recall that I didn’t have any besan the first time I made this, so I used corn-meal as a substitute as the recipe suggested (it was still very good!), but if you have access to besan, do use it as the aroma of it roasting is pure heaven. Actually, this dish is pure heaven: greens and plantain (cooking banana) are steamed separately first, then combined with a lightly-sweetened, besan-infused masala to form a dry dish which is topped with roasted almonds and served with lime wedges to squeeze over at will. Using utensils for this dish is out of the question; only by eating out of hand is true justice served!


Kacha Kela Sak

(Unripe plantain vegetable dish)

2 lbs. fresh or frozen greens (the original recipe asks that one of these pounds be spinach, but truly any green of choice or mix of greens can be used successfully)

1 large unripe or semi-ripe plantain (2 firm, green bananas would probably work as well)

5 T ghee or oil (I was able to reduce this to about 3 T)

3 T besan

1 t black mustard seeds, coarsely-crushed

1 t cumin seeds, coarsely-crushed

1 t salt

1 t gur, jaggery

1/2 t turmeric

1/4 t (or more to taste) ground red chiles

3 T almonds, toasted and slivered or sliced

1 lime cut into wedges

1)Steam the greens just until tender- about 10-15 minutes; remove and allow to cool, then place in a piece of cloth (I used cheesecloth) and wring out as much liquid as you can. Save this liquid (it is rich in vitamins) to use as stock for another dish; chop the greens finely.

2)Peel the plantain, then shred coarsely or chop into 1/4″ dice. Steam these as well until soft- about 10 minutes.

3)Heat the oil in a kerai or wok over medium-low heat; add the besan, mustard-seeds and cumin; stir and fry until the mixture turns a few shades darker and is very fragrant.

4)Add the plantain and fry 2 more minutes.

5)Add the salt, sugar, turmeric and chiles; stir once, raise heat a bit and add the greens. Stir gently until fully heated.

6)Remove from heat and place the mixture into katoris or onto a serving platter. Sprinkle over this the almonds, and serve with lime-wedges on the side for each diner to sour as they please.

*Thanks for being my dictionary Mispa!




  1. Manisha said,

    Hel, this does sound like heaven!

    I need to go the Korean store to get some plantains soon. Never heard of this combo before though. 2lbs is about 2 bunches, right? We love greens of all kinds as well as roasted besan in shaak, so this will be quite popular!

    And God / evolution / whateveryour belief made hands before man made forks. So yes, hands!

    Oh yeah…but truly this dish doesn’t work well with utensils. It’s much easier to roll little bits in stray lime juice by hand.

    2 lbs, 2 bunches…works fine. A heap either way that looks like a lot, but cooks down to smallness. Like saag. Don’t they sell plantains in the regular grocery-stores there? Though I will agree that the produce is beautiful (and often a bit cheaper) in the “Asian” shops. Where else am I gonna keep my supply of kai lan coming?

  2. Anita said,

    Marathi and Gujerati vegetarian cuisine uses besan abundantly…and they figured out so many ways to incorporate it into everyday food – not just plain old chana dal! This is similar to the Marathi peeth-perun bhaajis where besan is sprinkled over as the veggies cook. The use of ghee to roast besan first must make it really fragrant…ummm…

    And Hel, you needed help with meanings or spellings? She’s the right one for the job, that’s for sure. She can be a good Thesaurus too, BTW.

    She’s hired! Yes, I noticed that use of besan that seems peculiar to these two cuisines- one of the ways I recognize a dish from these states. Ghee? Should I have used ghee? Me? Ghee? I’m out actually- used the last in a barfi during my birthday week… 😦 Peanut oil. It was still fragrant and good though!

  3. musy said,

    Cool shaak, Pel! i am already addicted to spinach-plantain combo, this is an even more delicious , what with all the roasted almonds and besan!! You are absolutely right about the heavenly aroma of roasting besan (and sooji) 😀

    Hey, and it was my diary’s b’day: kitchen’s b’day is in March, be there to wish me with a nice foccacia, OK 😉 but good wishes are always welcome 😀

    Sorry to have gotten your name wrong, Helicano 🙂

    Hehehehehe…..Hel, call me anything! Your diary? Not your Kitchen? Well….happy birthday to that then…..a focaccia in March? Elaichi’s b-day is in March too! Well….I’ll think about it…the Kasmiri police are after me as it is for mole poblano you know! 😉

    I do recall your spinach-plantain post….didn’t intend to compete BTW….but this is too good not to share with nice people. 😉 I’ll try yours if you try mine?! Deal?

  4. bee said,

    pel, why is everyone calling you ‘hel’?

    I plead the 5th!

  5. Manisha said,

    Bee, don’t you read the most popular blog ever? Tch!

    She must! She’s here….hehehehehe

    What’s that? Who? Indian Food Knocks?

  6. Anita said,

    Good luck with foccacia, Musy! I am still waiting for Mole Poblano that I won here, fair and square!

    LOL!!!! Honestly though, I have it slated for the next chicken dish, and I swear I have not prepared any chicken since that quiz! Patience, patience! 🙂

  7. Eskay said,

    am really new to this world of food blogging and came across the link to your recipe of the thai green curry paste from ‘dalitoy’.
    awesome shaak! unique but i bet a great combo of ingredients!

    It is, it is! As a rule, I only post things that I find remarkable…and this dish is brilliant.

  8. Kaykat said,

    Wow! I’ve never heard of this combination of spinach and plantains – though I love both independently. I can’t wait to try this out 🙂

    Let me know how it turns out!

  9. musy said,


    i bet you meant “collaborate” and not “compete” :-D. was just ecstatic that i made something which actually is real traditional combo, without even knowing it! Thats something to feel good about, na :).

    Oh and we even share kitchen b’days-makes it easy for you to dish out some b’day food 🙂

    and why the delay in posting reply to my comment, you were baking some foccacia, eh?
    🙂 🙂 🙂 😀

    Saved the best for last of course! 😉 Focaccia? Who’s that? Has your name been changed too?!!! Alrighty, I’ll call you Focaccia if you insist… 😀

    So, you thought you invented (you ARE often inventing dishes aren’t you???) a new dish, and it turns out that somewhere in the past someone had the same idea- (same spicing too?)… past life perhaps? Sometimes I become quite attracted to a new recipe, and then when I taste it, it seems quite familiar…had that very thing happen a few months back, but the senile, old brain-cells here can’t recall what it was!! Or can I? Hmmmmm….what was it? Ah…yes…the Konkani dish…it’s like chana gashi, but not….has coriander seeds and arbi leaves instead of methi. I took photos I recall, but didn’t post it. Very bad boy. I should post it shouldn’t I?

  10. Anita said,

    The ingredients lists ‘ghee’ so…it wasn’t the after effects of Margaritas…of course besan is heavenly when roasted in ghee! Besan ladoos, remember? 😀

    Yeah, yeah, we know how you have turned a vegetarian…it’s Navratra…but tomorrow is Dusshera (Vijay Dashmi) and we can go back to our carnivorous selves. Not that the Bengalies suffer from any such guilt – and Kashmiries are right behind, or used to be…now we are fasting along with the rest of North India – what will become of us – losing our culture everyday!

    Oh, no…it’s just running in haak-streams all over the world instead! 😉 And you’re right…I’m vegetarian most of the time; I figure it saves some lives at least, and beans are better for the environment, not to mention a more-economical use of land for protein, and my wallet. But some chicken would be nice…I was thinking of tamales too, it’s been awhile… and then I was thinking of how besan might work instead of masa harina. Corn meal is so totally different in taste and texture- it really won’t do!

    Besan ladoos [tries to find his belt] Yes, I do sort of recall those…. I wonder if we could simplify-complicate this dish by making spinach-besan ladoos which would then be dipped into a plantain-puree. Sound good you think? Hello? Are you there? Oh, she’s back at the bar fetching another margarita…[waits, smiles, looks at the hors d’oeuevres. Notices a lonely ladoo. Takes a sip of his martini. Looks again at the ladoo.]

  11. Anita said,

    Don’t be shy…go on…

    And, better believe that I have had besan-spinach barfi! Ladoos in another shape?

  12. musy said,

    Yes yes, palak laddoos and bathua laddoos, and they are good!!

    Oh, and no reason not to post that new recipe. But the idea that made me try palak-plantain was the logic that we make aloo-palak, and plantains can replace aloo, Asha guessed that right 😀 Never had that combo before, but i am buying some plantains to try this version posted by you. This one has very different spices, and am sure will taste yummy! Oh and i recall that Richa had once posted Kela methi nu shaak :).

    Me, inventing dishes , he he- throw in stuff from the fridge together and call it invention if you will 😀

  13. Cynthia said,

    Any dish made with green plantains I love.

    Sounds like we have a fan here! 🙂

  14. Zlamushka said,

    Wow, no fancy food masks today ? 😉

    Masks everyday are no fun…

  15. outofthegarden said,

    Hi Pel,

    Please go check my blog for the meme post. I am really anxious to hear your reply! 😉

    BTW out here in MA, plantain and cooking banana are two different animals. Don’t know if that’s the Latin American influence around here, or what. This dish looks yum 🙂


    Hmmm…thanks for the info! I’ll have to find out about this, as there is a fairly-large Latin influx with grocers to boot here as well. So far I have only tasted our usual sweet bananas, red bananas, little itty bitty bananas and plantains ripe and green. I’ll check out your post.

  16. neroli said,

    There’s lovely ruby chard in the market now that would be wonderful for this.
    Dark greens and besan make me very happy!
    If I had all the time and/or money in the world, I would begin one of many second careers as a perfumer.
    Some of the scents I would make?
    The smell of basmati rice cooking on a charcoal fire, with a top note of geranium…or besan toasting in a cast iron pan, with notes of black cardamom and rose.
    (my mother always let me put a little vanilla behind my ears)

    “A little vanilla behind the ears…” hmmm…I think I could use that! 🙂 Dark greens and besan is soooo addictive; I pity the pallid Umrikan who has never tasted such perfection! 😀 Your two scent-combos are intriguing…reminds me of the method J-P Gaultier used to design his two (?) fragrances… me, I would like fallen leaves and crab-apples decaying on moist earth…and freshly-laid asphalt with a touch of Zippo lighter fluid… 😉

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