Monjji Haak…at long last

monjji haak
For all their love for goat meat Kashmiri Pandits love their greens with an almost equal passion. There are many types of greens, wild and cultivated, that find their way to balance the daily meals.

If that be so, you might well wonder how come there has been no Kashmiri greens recipe on this blog yet. The fact is that the most common way with our most popular green, the haak, is also the least spectacular. In a matter of speaking, you may say they are just blanched greens. My non-Kashmiri side of the family didn’t think it was anything to write home about. So I didn’t. And my son and I continued to secretly also relish the fact that there would always be more for us!

Many reasons were given for their dislike – it was oogr (strong tasting) – as are most vegetables of the brassica family; it was too salty (huh?); just too plain…I didn’t insist. It meant I was free to use mustard oil in it 🙂 and there would be more for the two of us. Keep in mind, these were days when it was not commonly available in Delhi, and my Dad’s kitchen garden was the only supply, which we had to occasionally share with visiting relatives with keen eyes.

Then Bee and Jai wrote about it. And I thought – okay, so a flash in the pan (for haak, not Jugalbandi). But it got the subject out of the closet.

Traditionally never part of a feast, it has been elevated to wedding banquet status since the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland. Kohlrabi greens, and haak, are the two greens that the Kashmiris are partial to. I find kai-lan, a Chinese green, to be a very close substitute for haak. I have also prepared collard greens in the same way. They are all cultivars of Brassica oleracea. Pairing haak with nadur (lotus stem) is utter simplicity.

Other greens that are prized and devoured with much relish, besides spinach, are dandelion greens, sotchal (common mallow greens), liss (amaranth), mujj haak (radish greens), vopal haak, and vusta haak. One man’s weed is another man’s green. 😀

I got talking about haak with Manisha and Pel and shared my recipe. Pel tried it first with kai-lan and was very pleased. Then he presented his haakesque asparagus (and laid bare all the secret tricks I have for retaining the colour of my greens) – some sort of a revenge he called it! All this while Manisha had been patiently waiting for me to write about it. Finally, she went ahead and presented her version with dandelion greens. Neither missed the opportunity to goad me on. Frankly, their enthusiasm for this simple recipe has a lot to do with this post.

So here it is, the much loved haak, prepared this time with monjji haak (kohlrabi greens) from my Dad’s over-summered monjji. Haak and kohlrabi are winter vegetables here in Delhi. These and spinach are my son’s favourite greens. When he was little, I would prepare haakesque spinach, and tell him it was haak. Now it his favourite way to eat spinach.

monjji haak
Do not chop the leaves – use them whole. If using kai-lan, use the stems, and separate only a couple of the lower bigger leaves; the tender top leaves should remain bunched, as they would if you were preparing a Chinese version. If using other greens such as collard or kohlrabi, remove any stalks that seem too coarse.

I have adapted my recipe for pressure cooking; you may use the traditional braising technique of a gentle simmer. The trick to retain the bright green of the leaves with the pressure cooking is to release the pressure immediately after turning the heat off. This can be achieved very safely by partially lifting the weight (prop with a wooden spoon), or by standing the pressure cooker briefly under a running tap.

I find the flavour of haak leaves very delicate and do not recommend any spicing other than some hing and the chillies. When using monjji haak from the summering vegetables, I find the flavour much reduced and the cooked-cabbage smell beginning to dominate. This is when I find the addition of a pinch of veri masala (a Kashmiri spice cake) greatly enhances the taste. At a pinch, you may substitute with Kashmiri garam masala. If you have picked your vegetables at their prime, you’ll find there is little they will need in terms of spicing.

monjji haak

Monjji Haak (Kohlrabi greens)

1 ½ lb Kohlrabi greens (or collard greens, or spinach)
1 T (or more) oil, preferably cold-pressed mustard seed oil
a few grains of strong hing, dissolved in a little water (optional)
2 green chillies, broken into two
2 dry red chillies, broken into two
a pinch of soda
½ t Kashmiri veri masala (optional)

Heat oil in a pressure cooker or heavy-bottom pan. Once it starts to smoke add a cup and a half of water and bring to boil. If you are using hing or hing-water, add it to the hot oil before you add the rest of the water.  Add a pinch of soda (it will foam) and then put in the greens. Stir around till they wilt. Add more water if needed – the leaves should stay submerged (you may need more water for pan-cooking). Add salt and the chillies. Close the lid and pressure cook for 5-7 minutes (or simmer till tender: 15-20 minutes). Immediately release the pressure (see note above), add the veri masala, if using, and transfer to a serving dish.

Serve with steamed rice and a bowl of plain yoghurt.

Note: When adding water to the hot oil,  measure out and dump it all in at once.  The high walls of the pressure cooker should catch all the fine spray of oil and water.  If using a shallow vessel, keep a lid handy to quickly cover the pot and reduce clean-up.              

These healthy greens are my entry for HotM4: VegetablesatThe Heart of the Matter, as well as at Joanna’s Food. If you didn’t hear me last when I was propounding on the benefits of mustard oil… it’s all here! Of all oils, mustard oil has the least amount of saturated fats, and the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Did I mention that it lends a most wonderful aftertaste? Good food, delicious food, everyday.

Tags: monjji haak, haak, Kashmiri cuisine, Kashmiri greens, under 30 min!, low fat, vegetables, heart of the matter


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A self professed urban ecologist!

71 thoughts on “Monjji Haak…at long last”

  1. anita, thanks for the detailed instructions. it’s raining radish greens in my garden and i will try it this way.
    what a coincidence, i will be posting a dish for the same event tomorrow, and it’s another kashmiri favourite – lotus root.
    a question. when you say ‘pressure cook for 5-7 minutes, do you mean 5 minutes after putting the lid on, or five minutes after putting the weight on (after i comes to pressure)?

    After the pressure – so that should read better as “cook under pressure for 5-7 min.”

    Do use veri masala or garam masala with the radish greens, and include some chopped radish too.

  2. [executes a quick cartwheel. Ha! It is so easy to do that on the net!] Yay!
    Next on the list is ver masala. You want me to murder it first? Or you will do a post on your own soon? 😆

    You are so fit after that hike, girl! 😆

    Yes, I too want that…am studying (ahem) a few recipes…

  3. So the pieces all fit together now. 🙂 I was not too clear about what Pel meant about goading you on etc but I now get it 🙂 That dish looks simple but extremely flavourable.

    I know…he has a language problem. 😀 (Just kidding, Pel!)

    And this one does not even need any exotic spices, Cynthia.

  4. And I am thoroughly confused. You have had haak with garam masala then?
    Pel, where are ya?!

    Not haak, but monjji haak, yes. Not with garam masala, but with veri masala, yes. 😀

  5. At long last indeed, but “der aayad, darust aayad” 😀 and to think of it, i bought monja y’day! there definitely is some bit of mind reading involved here 😉 and am so glad that i make my haak this authentic way, including “no chopping” except when using collards and chard. the only blasphemy is i slit the chilles a lil’ bit.
    and how i love haak paired with nadur or wangun. recently tried turnip greens the same way with wangun and it was yummy! no malva greens to be found here and rarely i find some radish greens!
    great one, Anita! keep such posts coming 🙂

    Musical, what can I say?! You know even the Kashmiri words!

    I am so happy to see so many of you relishing this simple dish!

  6. Ooh! I grew some Kohl Rabi and froze the greens for rainy day!! This Haak looks fabulous.I will try.Thanks Anita:)

    Thanks, Asha. Tell us when you try.

  7. Yes, i wish to request the Ver recipe as well 🙂 and many many more…..
    btw, the picture looks so tempting! i love that lal mirchi waving to me 🙂

    Musical, request noted.

    The contrast of the red with the green – looks bewitching!

  8. Fab!
    Soonbai, waiting for the veri masala.
    My CSA bag today has a mega bunch of beets. Beet greens haak. That should work too, right?
    Am guessing the bright green colour inspite of pressure cooking is thanks to the soda.

    You make it, then tell me if you think it’s fab! Yup, go right ahead with those beet greens. The soda, and the pressure release…

  9. And with the beets themselves Cooker, check out me me me- elaichi et cetera et cetera! [does a nifty slide on the floor and extends his arms] Here I am!
    Anitalu, you are as bad as your mother: now you tell us about the lotus roots being OK in there? After I polished off my last stash accompanied only by a can-opener and a fork?!
    Still, I’m so glad you posted this! I made up a poem for you and this monumentally momentous occasion:
    Oh my dear haak-
    You I’d never mock!
    For with rice and curds,
    There are no words:
    Just lovely swoops
    As I slowly take scoops,
    And smile in style
    All the while as I pile
    More in my tummy-
    Yum, de-yum, yummy!
    I think I shall call it, Ummm, haak!

    How athletic this haak is making people already!! Very healthy for the heart, I tell you.

    Not just that, it seems to bring out our finer qualities as well!! Look at Pel spewing poetry! To the ummm, humble haak! 😀

    A Kashmiri will put nadru in everything she can – in haak, in monjji, with fish, with shikar (game bird), with potatoes, with spinach, radish,even in daal! But each time, it has to be prepared in a particular way…there’s qquite a few ways to cut this baby!

  10. And Bee…speaking of more double entendres that you are so cleverly sprinkling lately, what was that deal with the cucumber taht you said on my borscht post all about? 😀 hee hee hee

  11. Ooops, Anita, could you fix my dislexic “that”? People will think I’m a bit “off”…

    What did you put in that pink drink?

  12. anita, aren’t you moderating the x-rated stuff here? isn’t think a phamily phorum where small bacchalogs come to learn cooking? that pel and that manisha are a rotten influence.

    Off with their heads…! 😆

  13. But…but…was it us, m’lady, that sprinkled your blog with all these unmentionable but very printable words?
    BTW, it’s not the pink drink. It’s the pink bhaat. He found an excuse to bring that up again.

    Now that you mention it, it was at Bee’s that there was this interesting discussion about Brazil and some related stuff not too long ago! 😉

    Pel does have a thing for bright colours though – pink soup, pink bhaat, pink and peach drinks, green curries, green cookies…whatever will he come up with next?! (and where is he?)

  14. [fades in like a Jinn] At your service Madame! [bows deeply until his whiskers touch the ground] Hmmm…the ants are having a tug-o-war match again…
    Did someone mention Bacchus? I’ll fetch my donkey! [fades out, a minute later returning to the scene riding a sleepy donkey, holding a bunch of dark-purple grapes high in one hand, and a goblet in the other] A toast- to this Phabulous party! [winks, then raises the goblet high and nods to Anita and her guests, then quickly drains it; dark liquid trickles down his chin and onto the donkey’s head. The donkey pays no heed and searches wide-eyed for fresh greens to munch]

    Ah, there he is!

    [I am actually imagining you fade in and out!! Whatever that dark liquid is, it seems to have far reaching consequences…Bacchus is looking good for all the haak.] 😆

  15. Hi Anita
    I discovered your blog recently. Being a kashmiri married to a gujarati, I can relate to a lot of your anecdotes and experiences. They make your recipes all the more delightful to read. I was elated to see monji haakh finally being given the importance it deserves on your blog. My husband though, refuses to have anything to do with it , he finds it “too bland” and calls it ‘haakh thoo’ at times just to annoy me 🙂 I guess it is an acquired taste but once you are hooked, there is no looking back.The ferociousness with which kashmiris swoop on their weekly supply of haakh and nadur at the local sabzi market in delhi is heart warming. 🙂

    A very special welcome to you Deepshikha, my fellow Kashmiri! Join the party!

    We are all loving the haak here! It is true you can meet all the Kashmiris in the vicinity of the sabzi market if you hover near the monjji-nadur vendor!! Give us our daily haak-buth… 😀 I do hope you continue to enjoy your nenya too…Hope to see more of you here.

  16. talking about pel’s colour fetishes, you forgot his orange room. re: brazil, it was an answer to a technical question.

  17. Thanks Anita for the warm welcome. Of course I love my nenya bata. Especially tyoth roganjosh and mutz…mmmm my mouth is already watering:D

  18. Oh! That’s not very worshipful for haak- all the more green gravy goodness for Deepshikha then! I don’t find it bland whatsoever; of course, I do put a few more chiles in than four… Anita’s kinda stingy with ’em, eh?

    That is the absolute minimum – just for aesthetics…there is no upper limit. And I give them a little squeeze so they drip all their red juice over the rice 😉

  19. That’s the spirit! 😉
    Happy summer solstice, by the way; Midsummer’s Day (and eve)are nearly upon us- are there festivals in Delhi to mark the sun’s zenith?

    😀 And a happy summer solstice to you too. Are you planning any festive activities or is it going to be the usual dark pink juice 😉 , Bacchus trotting by your side, and you apparating here and there?

  20. Oh, I’m sure one of the local taverns is having a “cookout”(grilled things- that counts as a ceremonial fire, right?)…I’ll see what I can fetch and imbibe; I just returned from strawberry-picking- took a few pics to share witchyas!
    North of here is Door County (playground of the wealthy from Chicago), it has a high Scandinavian populace and therefore, Midsummer’s Eve/ Day festivals: bonfires, fish-boils, merry-making and such…

    Absolutely – a fire with people gathered around can only be called ceremonial . Well, you have a great time but do at lest tell us about the spells and potions, and all the other magical stuff. 😉

  21. hey pel, I agree that comment is not too worshipful for the haak but it was just in jest. However, to make up, I promise to eat as much haakh as I can in the coming days 🙂

  22. The potions were great, and, well…potent. The magical stuff that soon ensued is obscenely secret. Sunday night was spent sorting strawberries that we snatched on Saturday. 😀

    I’m interested in the potions and the strawberries… only.

  23. Deepshikha- I feel so bad for your self-sentencing; I will bear part of the guilty burden and have some myself! 😉

    Me too!! Me too!

  24. This looks lovely – I’ve never met a green I don’t like, and can’t wait to make this. Seems super-easy. Here in San Francisco we have many Asian greens, but not sure about haak – maybe it goes by another name. I have never even tried to eat kohlrabi greens, but am filing that one away for future testing. Today I went to the farmer’s market and bought “slippery vegetable” greens (malabar spinach), gongura, gai-lan, and amaranth. As you can tell, I too love my greens!
    I just love your blog. It’s a treat for the eyes and so well written. I am looking forward to following your food explorations.

    Hi Diane – welcome to AMTP! Kohlrabi greens are very good prepared like this. Try using Chinese kai lan instead of haak – very close.

    Looking forward to seeing you here again.

  25. Hey Anita,
    Amazing stuff dear.God bless and keep rocking and blogging.
    The very picture of haakh has sent me into jitters in office. Hahahah Tyath aayam vaarya 😉
    being in bangalore it is so hard. We dont get haakh here…Sochal te ne…be chas kyaathaan green sochal hind pyaeth banavaan 😉
    I dont know if at all i will be able to concentrate on work now…Haakh will keep on lingering in my mind now..I have extended the haakh combination to “Batte, Haakh, Roganjosh, te tamatar nadur”…Moody aaz…hehehe
    Take care

    Hi, Vishakha – a very warm welcome to you too!

    There was a time (before the ’90s) when we didn’t get any of the Kashmiri greens here in Delhi, and monjji was sold sans the greens ❗ – it was expected that any relative visiting us would carry haak and nadur from Srinagar! But now that Kashmiris have moved out, our greens are traveling with us! Maybe there aren’t so many Kashmiris in Bangalore yet.

    You could always try growing your own! You have a yard? Haak is easy to grow in pots too, as is sotchal. My Dad did that on his terrace when they were living in a flat briefly. And in Bangalore’s weather I would think you could have it year round!

    It is amazing how just looking at a simple dish like haak can make us drool! The sabzi vendor can always tell a Kashmiri from the way our eyes glaze over at the sight of fresh monjji, and he will, automatically, inform that he also has haak, and sotchal! Who else looks dreamy-eyed at kohlrabi?! 😀

    Let me warn you that I am gonna post on ver (the rice dish) sometime soon – don’t read from work!

  26. Yup… i have got some seeds from jammu thru someone.. So i guess i will soon have some haakh and sochal to relish …:) 🙂 yummyyy
    Hahahaha ispe yaad also we get monjiye without haakh. They give haakh to Cows.Me von sabzi waalyis ki me che garyi Gaav. 😀 and next day he gave me a bohri full of haaakh ..hehehehehe
    And that day me and my husband(the 2 cows) had some moniye haakh 😀 😀

    😆 That was really funny, Vishakha! But you gotta do what you gotta do! Hopefully he won’t ask you for milk in return!!

  27. I made this with radish leaves mujj haak, right? When I took the first bite, I didn’t like it. But the more I ate the more I liked it and I finished it off in one sitting. Not bad, eh?

    Not bad? Excellent, Gini, excellent, is what I say!

    South Indian food is so much easier to like, no love 😉 (than mujj haak)! You’ll like haak – with kai lan or collard greens – much more

  28. i live in sweden, (and sometimes in russia) and have no idea where to get the wonderful ingredients you are talking about but it is such a joy to just read and be overwhelmed with your love for food 🙂 i do hope that it rubs off on me

    sorry if it’s off topic

    Hey Katja, welcome to the party!

    You must love food surely, maybe not the cooking, amybe? Visit again and do read the comments too (it’ll rub off all right!) – there will be suggestions for substitutions, and you’ll be sure to find something that is familiar…I see some similarities in Russian and Kashmiri cuisine (I really do!)…we use the samovar for tea for one, and the breads! A lot of these ingredients are now readily available in most stores…check the spice isles.

    You may have noticed, we don’t stay on topic here for very long anyway! 😉

  29. everytime i make haak, i’m going to record it here. this is the fourth time. so far, we’ve made it with radish greens, collards, swiss chard and brussel sprout greens. i know this recipe by-heart now. i have a bottle of mustard oil devoted only to haak.

    😀 You can try with cabbage leaves too! Even spinach. Doesn’t mustard oil add the perfect note to the clear taste of the greens.

    Still, I can hardly believe (what with the family ‘story’) I have found so many of you fall in love with this simple dish!

  30. Did you test her? She says she knows it by-heart. Off with her head if she makes even one mistake! I lost mine a few months and several hundred comments ago!

    No point in making chutney or keema you can’t eat! 😆

  31. Great ! I think I am going to love your site, especially that haak recipe ! Having grown up in the Alps, in Chamonix, and being fond of using wild plants, I would strongly recommend the alternative of “chenopodium bonus-henricus”. Also known as “Good King Henry”, or “poor-man’s asparagus”, “Lincolnshire Spinach”, it is a species of goosefoot. Growing around 15OO meters high, often near pastoral huts, it is a variety of wild spinach, very delicate of taste.

    Welcome to the Party!
    Can you believe I have grown that in my kitchen garden and cooked with it! It is called pahari palak (mountain spinach) in the Uttaranchal Himalayas. In that region they also cook a wild species of tender fern fronds – do you have those too?

  32. So how do you add a whole cup and half water without spraying your kitchen with oil? Maybe add that it would be a good idea to be prepared with a lid? I wasn’t thinking today, see, so… yeah. Like that.

    😆 Sorry, pal. Err..I just dump in the water in one swoop and not much spraying beyond within the cooking vessel – it must be a trick I learnt after something similar might have happened! …but covering with a lid should do the trick too! 😆 [I hope looking at the sunset helped…rotfl]

  33. 😡 Sunset was yesterday. Cleanup was today. The darned thing went tschur tchot with no lacy thing as the outcome. Just oil everywhere. Bah.

    The haak was delicious though! 😀

    Oops! [tries very hard to supress giggles that threaten…tschur tschotting! 😆 ]
    I have added a note to the recipe, happy? (I swear I don’t have any splattering – the whole truth, and nothing but the truth). At least the haak was good!

  34. About ferns : use them is reported, when they are still very young sprouts… I never tried personnally – my mother did once but it was rather bitter!

  35. Hi.. How about Haak Meat? I had it once and still relish the taste.
    How about rustling up a recipe for Haak Meat??

    Will need the recipe…My dad does relish haak with rogan josh, but I can’t recall haak cooked with meat…

  36. Great recipe; just came across it whilst searching for recipes to use cauliflower leaves. I have just moved to the Spanish Pyrenees from the UK and have harvested my first cauliflower…. in fact it was more leaves than florets, hence the search! I will certainly give the Haak recipe a go with these. Do you have a recipe for veri masala.

    Oh, as for the young fern fronds, if I am correct you may find that they are from the bracken fern, which I know grows out of control in the UK, but have yet to see any here. I have eaten them in a Korean restaurant in London, where they seemed to only have been steamed and then marinated….delightful!

    Hi Paul!

    I hope you tried your harvest this way. Did you like?
    I am working on the veri masala recipe; check back in a couple of months 😀 .
    I have seen the ferns only in the mountains (in the markets, of course) and hope to try them next time I find myself there again.

  37. Ah, the perfect recipe for One Hot Stove’s Less is More event. I’ve been looking for an authentic haak recipe everywhere since I read about in Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian; your recipe sounds perfect. Thank you!
    p.s. Waiting for you to do a post on veri masala. Until then, I’m going to be sacrilegious and use Kashmiri garam masala. 🙂

  38. This looks just like the haak we had at a kashmiri home in srinagar. i think there was some garlic also.i’ll definitely try this out.

  39. but how do i make veri masala?

    You can skip it if you don’t have. There are many Kashmiris in Pune now – so maybe there is a grocer who stocks it?

  40. This is so similar to the spinach ma would make; red dry chili, mustard oil, and spinach.. slightly soupy. Would love it during winter.

    I use spinach in summers myself since kohl rabi is available only in winter.

  41. Hello Anita,

    Am a Jammuite now working in Kuwait. Miss the Great Haak a lot. We dont getit here. On going through the simple recepie I have one question When does the Hing go in ?? Is it mixed with the water added after oil smokes ?

    Thanks for pointing that out, Anand; have noted it in the recipe.

  42. anita , do you have a recipe for socchal (with vangun preferably). where do i get ? I have tried a korean spinach as a substitute. what can i get in the US ?

    for those serious about kashmiri cooking, check out “DE LEIJ “, a kashmiri cookbook by my grandparents (Kilams) ALL the proceeds of the sale go to charity. i must warn you, its a book for the serious cook, not the occasional dabbler. its an encyclopedia, not a cookbook with beautiful photographs.

    I do make sotchal wangun on occasion but have not posted a recipe here yet.
    I know about the cookbook , seems to be a labour of love, and even tried to order it once but there is no response from the email address provided on the website.

  43. Why does Haakh taste its best only in winter and spring time? Rest of the year it is a challenge to make it sweet and tasty.

    Hi, Jaya. Outside of the hills, the growing season for hakh is winters – that’s when it is at its best. In summer, i only use the haak from my father’s garden where he tends to it very carefully which makes it as delicious and tender as the in-season haak. The monjji starts to lose flavour despite his efforts; we then use them only for haak!

  44. You have an aweosme blog filled with Kashmiri dishes. I am going to follow you to learn more about kashmiri cuisine and the vegetarian side of it. A cuisine unknown to me but on my list to get my hands on :).
    Sonal @simplyvegetarian777

    Welcome to AMTP, Sonal!

  45. This is my most loved recipe in your wonderful blog. After a trip to kashmir about 4 years ago when a wonderful local family shared their home made delicious picnic with us on the banks of the river in pehelgaum. everytime i make this it brings those memories back! Thank u ❤

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