Have you ever wondered what housewives eat for lunch? Do we prepare the glamorous meals for one depicted in kinfolk magazines and eat with jazzy music in the background whilst flipping through an indie magazine? Ha…! The truth is, many of us eat simply. That includes leftovers, cereal, biscuits, bread, instant noodles or eating out. Sometimes, when the time and mood permits, we might cook. Or maybe the reality is that your fridge is stuffed with fresh foods and if you don’t cook, they will just go to rot. (points at myself).
I have 2 packets of red amaranth leaves sitting in my fridge since forever and decided to cook a pack for lunch today using mum’s recipe. A little backstory here. In the past, I have often seen these green and red leafy vegetables in the nearby supermarket. Suspicious, I never even sniffed at them or gave them a chance.
It was only when mum came to Mumbai to visit did she tell me what this mysterious vegetable is. She tore a leaf (yes, mums and aunties have the authority to destroy fresh produce at the supermarket), sniffed and declared “huay cai!!” Which means 苋菜 in Chinese and red spinach or red amaranth in English. It’s supposed to have all kinds of crazy health benefits such as helping with digestion, improving eyesight and preventing the premature graying of hair! But I was overjoyed not because of the touted health benefits, but that I have another stable source of leafy vegetables in India that I’m familiar and can cook with.
I find the red amaranth in India a bit too earthy tasting for stir-fries. But when you boil them in a soup, they lose some of that earthiness and the sweetness of the vegetables stands out a lot more. Which is what I did for lunch today. This makes for a very low-calorie and light lunch. If you need a heartier lunch, feel free to throw in a handful of quick cooking oats or slices of chicken breasts for some protein.
This is my recreation of mum’s Red Spinach Soup.
Prep 10 mins
Cook 20 mins
(a) 1 tbsp peanut oil
(b) 1/4 cup of ikan bilis, rinsed briefly and pat dry with kitchen towels
(c) 4 fat garlic cloves, roughly minced
(d) 1 small onion, halved and sliced thinly
(e) 2 cups water
(f) 120g red spinach leaves & stems (for the tougher stems, you will need to break up the steams and peel off the membrane)
(g) Scant 1/4 tsp salt
(h) Few dashes of ground white pepper
- Heat (a) in a small pot over high heat.
- When oil is hot, add (b), (c) and (d) to the pot and fry until ingredients are browned and fragrant.
- Add a bit of water to the pot to deglaze any brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Add remaining (e) into the pot. Bring to boil, cover pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add (f), bring to boil and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add (g) and (h), mix well and slurp up.