Haak Time – It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

If you are surprised at how heavily the dice is loaded towards Southern India on our dining table, then I have also been amazed to meet non-Kashmiri souls that have haak-rus ( haak- broth) flowing through their veins. Some even wrote poetry in the praise of haak! But for them, I would have never thought of writing about this most favourite of our greens – haak. Haak is the Kashmiri equivalent of the term ‘greens’ or the Hindi ‘saag’. So, we have monjji haak (cohlrabi greens), mujj haak (radish greens), vopal haak (dandelion greens), and vast haak. But the greens we love the most, we just call haak.



Sometime in June this year, I was egged on by my friends to post my recipe for haak. That they hadn’t been able to locate this elusive green with their friendly neighbourhood greengrocers had not stopped them. No sir. First there were Bee and Jai trying it with collards, which I did too, the time I lived in the US – an excellent substitute. Then Pel cooked his asparagus-haakesque. And finally Manisha presented her super version with dandelion greens. There was some discussion about spicing…but all very amicable.

It was time for me to wake up and smell the coffee. There actually were people who might enjoy this simplest of dishes, as much as those of us born into Kashmiri homes.

But, it had been past that time of the year…all I could manage at the time was some monjji, a little past its prime but with greens still worthy. And now, my dear friends, it’s that time of the year when vegetable markets in Delhi are at their greenest! There is spinach, mustard, methi (fenugreek greens), bathua, cholai (amaranth), kulfa, and sooa (dill), and, of course, now even haak is available in Delhi! Last week I found even the push-cart fellow carrying haak and I could hardly believe my eyes. He had the early kind – kanyi haak – the tender shoots with just the top 3-5 leaves! This is the type that looks almost exactly like kai lan, which is what you should use if you can lay your hands on some. Try your Asia specialty stores for this Chinese green; in Delhi, it is now available at all outdoor vegetable markets.

Prepared exactly like I prepare monjji haak, it was just what the son and I had been craving a long time. Braised with whole green and dried red chillies, the greens are amazing served with plain steamed rice and lots of yoghurt. Use enough water to braise them lest they dry out. It is alright if you are not able to consume all the water – you can mix it into some dahi and finish it. Or just discard. You can adjust the heat to your liking, squeezing as much or as little of the chilli-juice as you prefer, or discard the chillies entirely.



You may be tempted to chop your greens…but, just like the Chinese, Kashmiris too like to cook these whole. The kanyi haak is trimmed just a little bit, and the bunch of leaves kept together. Check the leaves for pests, trim off stems only if too long, rinse well, and follow the recipe. With hardly a few minutes of preparation, the meal can be ready in under 10 minutes. And that gorgeous green is so inviting, don’t you think?

There are other things that have made their appearance at vegetable vendors…along with haak this week I also bought the season’s first turnips, cabbage, sem-phali, methi, and… the Bhavnagri mirchi! We have already enjoyed the season’s first bharleli mirchi. Try the recipe if you haven’t already – it’s amongst the best this blog has to offer. Pel will surely agree.

I also bought the season’s last bhindi (okra), gavar (cluster beans, for which I now have a stunner recipe), and ghia (bottle gourd). There’s bottle gourd year round but not a patch on the summer ones.

For variations of this versatile recipe use your favourite vegetable when you want to be seduced by the inherent flavours or when you are feeling lazy but would still like a good home-cooked meal. I use spinach leaves when haak is not available. You could try with cabbage – use the outer darker leaves. Here are Bee’s other creative attempts (note how she stays true to the basic concept of using greens from the mustard family) 😀


Published by Anita

A self professed urban ecologist!

30 thoughts on “Haak Time – It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  1. i can never get enough of haak. we have some brussels sprouts leaves left and guess what it’s going into? haak.

    😀 And the link to that version just refuses to work…I must have tried linking a dozen times yesterday…
    Haak is a must-try for those who appreciate the clean natural flavours of vegetables.

  2. The post of the day! Love haak! and i made it with kai-lan as suggested by you, and i have been making it almost every week since then :). You probably will laugh at what i do with the left over water: i either drink it up or cook rice with it, makes the rice taste divine! and the stalks are devoted to either being enjoyed raw as salad, or for baking or making achaar, just like the Punju achaar for the sarson gandhals or stems.

    I am now longing for some methi here, don’t see it in Indian stores anymore! and i don’t think about chaulai and bathua, it makes me want them even more!

    And, my dear Musy, how did I leave you out of this post?! I even had a line all thought out…for you are the true Indian – at home at our tables anywhere…to you!

    You must share the sarson gadhal achar recipe – for the son picks out the ‘nul’ (stems) even of this tender kanyi haak!

  3. Haak is new to me, but after this wonderful post I’ll have to give it a try.

    And then you have to let us know which group you belong to – haak lovers or the other… 😀

  4. Ha! Another haak post! I was hoping you’d share some pics when they came into season though…the leaves are a bit wider than kai lan…ah, someday I’ll get to try them I’m sure, but kai lan is so delicious- my favorite green of all I think- that I’ll survive. I actually have kai lan haak in the fridge right now! So, yes…its a regular dish here thank to you!

    I’m glad to hear you’ve laid hands on fresh, green lablab/val/avrekalu, but I must disagree with that reference you cited. They are quite different from broad beans/fava(the stripe on the seam is quite peculiar to this legume). Shilpa (AR) and I spent some time researching this bean, plus I grew it this year- the purple variety, not the white, so…I have in my posession exactly 1/2 C- a whopping amount eh? 😉 It fruits so much later than other legumes, almost didn’t make it to pods by first frost, but the neighbors were really jealous of the flowers. 🙂 I have a half-written post of these…yeah, yeah..I’ll get to work.

    Thank you, dear friend – have changed the link…but the (Maharashtrian) val I know is a bit bitter…
    The vine is indeed beautiful, especially since you grew the purple ones – but in my dad’s garden it would be so prolific that today very few in my family eat it! From just a couple fo vines we would harvest baskets-full everyday…

  5. Oh and i just wanted to mention that the turnip greens also taste really good when cooked the haak way :).

    Of course, I must try them…they are eaten in Kashmir!

  6. And beet greens- second favorite!

    And the list grows….
    Unfortunately, in Delhi we get beets and turnips shorn of all their leaves – just like we did for kohl rabi a decade ago, till the Kashmiris arrived in Delhi!

  7. And Anita, you can’t discard the haak-broth/water!!! OMG NO!!! I do the same as Muse: drink it or mix it with rice.

    I shouldn’t…but I have like a cup full of salty broth…I should keep it as soup stock!

  8. I think what has us enthralled is the “clean natural flavours of vegetables” as you so rightly said. It’s simple, the green and red chillies and the rest of the spices complement the greens and who could want more? It’s only the uninitiated and those who don’t like to taste their food that can’t appreciate the flavors of this dish.

    Keep the water as soup stock or use it to make succotash. 😉

    Since I didn’t have Kashmiri ver, I didn’t ‘by-heart’ it along with the rest of the ingredients and totally forgot about it. So maybe I could make this with my current loot! Yay!

    No, no, hoard the ver!

    I never use any ver in haak. But, towards the end of the season, when the kohlrabi is past its prime, and tending to taste more oogr – strong smelling – (which TH thinks all these greens are, anyway – his loss), then I use just a pinch, and it totally transports the dish to another level.

    Yes, succotash does sound like a good use – no meddling with the intrinsic flavours!

  9. In Tamilnadu, we prepare mashed greens. Greens cooked and mashed, seasoned minimally. Haak is very similar to that, except mashing part. Whenever I come across haak recipes, the broth is all I drool at. I love to devour it mixing with curd.

    I remember reading about that on Nandita’s…mashed palak.

  10. This is a very, very new prepartion for me, but I absolutely love the way you’ve put it & the dish all ready with the rice & curd looks simply ready to be devoured. I am sure it tastes simply yummm.

    I have to give this one a try.

    Try it, it sure is one healthy way to eat your greens.

  11. Hi Anita,

    Have spent many an hour sipping tea and cooking some of your fab recepies. The haak reminds me of the bong Shaak bhaja (spinach fry with peas/peanuts; at our place we add a clove of garlic too), love that so am going to try haak for lunch today.

    BTW read the article on food blogging in HT & was happy to see you quoted.

    Have a great weekend.

    Thanks, Zinnia, and thanks for reading too!
    Haak is such an easy recipe to cook. And you have got me all curious about the bong shaak bhaja…where is Sandeepa?

  12. I love the greens that you get in winter… will try this 🙂 When are you coming over?

    I haven’t stepped into that “sweet gaon” of yours in the last couple of months!

  13. i still find the “haak thoo” quote from your hubby quite funny. i can’t get my husband to like it either, though he has not named it quite so eloquently. i’m craving greens now! i love haakh and also soutsal!

    That was not my husband, but Deepshikha’s husband calling haak names!
    I love soutsal too – soutsal-vaangun -yum!

  14. Ohhhh, this looks good! So you would say gai lan is a closer match to haak than collards, yes? I live in the US, and so I’m afraid that’s all I’ll be able to find. But we have tons of gai lan here in CXalifornia, and it is one of my favorite vegies.

    I had to laugh at your essays about feeling you had been a Dravidian in another life. I feel the same way, and I am the whitest of white chicks (!). But I so love South Indian food – cook it all the time at home – and find it both exciting and soul-satisfying. I recognized my own feelings in your words. And my crazy love of (obession over) vegetables. Really, I just get nutty about vegies, especially new ones. I hope one day true “haak” makes its way to California so I can try out the authentic thing. In the meantime I work with what’s available. This looks sooooooo good (or did I already say that…)

    Yes, Diane, kai lan/ gai lan is very similar to haak; collard greens are a very good substitute too – more closer to monjji haak in taste. I love my veggies as much as I like meat…but by default, am a vegetarian more often.

    And Southern food is everything to drool over…welcome, my friend from previous lives!

  15. Sometimes plain greens is just what you need to cleanse the system…and what’s this with the stunner gawar recipe? Where is it? I request that you put it up…no, no I demand that you put it up 😉

    How dare I say no?

  16. Hi Anita ,

    I make it with collard greens / kai lan .. it looks like haakh when I manage to get a tender bunch.

    Is there a substitute for soutsal that i can find in the US stores?? Pleaseeeeee let me know.

    Sorry,no substitute for soutsal! 😦 But try cooking broccoli florets using the same recipe – waangan and all- you will be pleasantly surprised! 😉

  17. Hi Anita,

    Firstly tried the Haak ( my combo was spinach & methi & very few cauliflower leaves) cooked in mustard oil & simmered gently over the stove! I loved it but needless to add TH couldn’t stand it. Being a Bong am used to mustard oil but TH being palakkad iyer couldn’t bear the “stench”! But like you mentioned that means I got to eat the whole thing:)

    Secondly love gavaar bhaji, i learnt how to make it from a maharashtrian friend’s mom. The version includes goda masala & jaggery. My MIL makes it with the usual mustard, red chilies & hing combo and puts in little grated coconut towards the end. I love that too!

    I request you for a favour – every time i make rajma, it doesnt quite taste “delicious”, please could you tell me how to make authentic rajma? With all special tips included off course:)

    Thanking you in advance.

    😀 Yes, I take requests! 😆 Have been meaning to blog about my absolutely lip-smackingly simple rajma recipe… and it is the season for a hearty dish of beans and rice.

  18. Dear Anita,

    Wish you & your family a wonderful & joyous Diwali.

    Best regards,

    Thanks for your wishes, Zinnia! I hope you are enjoying the festive season too!

  19. Hi Anita…
    I tried the haak recipe with some greens I find here.. I dont know what they are called in english. but they turned out very tasty!.. thanks.. and I love the soup left behind by the greens…

    I dont know if I can ask.. but I wanted a recipe for cauliflower…. I dont know any decent way to make this veggie edible.. :(..


    I am so happy to find so many people appreciating this humble way to cook greens!
    Yes, a gobhi recipe is on its way – high time!

  20. Hi Anita
    Thank you soo much for the garam masala recipe. And for the upcoming gobhi recipe 🙂

    I cook everyday but only for myself. I know only a handful of indian recipes. Everyday I enter the kitchen I cook the same things over and over again. Your blog is helping me learn so much about Indian cooking. I am grateful to you for sharing your tried and tested recipes with us. And I really appreciate your attitude of trying the recipes until you perfect them.

    Thank you for blogging.

  21. there is nothing like green hakh cooked in mustard oil with couple of green chillies hot rice and curd (zamut duud). It really touches your soul. Simple pure vegetable yet better than best of gourmets.

  22. Hi,
    I have just explore your post on Haak. I love to eat these haaks and often cook. I used to listen about Vast haak, but could not found in Pakistan because this name is not familiar. Kindly mail me some clear pics and botanical name of vast haak, If possible.
    Hafeez Ullah Butt

  23. Anita, your way is my way too 🙂 . I’m based in the US so I get my haak fix using collard greens. What I find, though, is that the addition of cooking soda (I never add more than a pinch) causes some of the tender leaves and stems to disintegrate to a mush…the hardier ones stay intact and come out cooked just the way they should be. This, despite releasing the steam from the cooker immediately after it has come to pressure! I need to find a solution as the mush is eating away into my love of haak.

    Hmm, you’re right, we don’t want green mush. Maybe skip the soda? I don’t use it every time myself. Or, you will just have to separate out the tender leaves and add them later. Adds a step but I would think it is worth it to get haak the way we like it! 🙂

  24. I think haak is collard greens in English.

    That is what wiki says:
    To quote from the article on haak….
    Collard greens (collards) are various loose-leafed cultivars of Brassica oleracea, the species which also contains vegetables including cabbage (Capitata Group) and broccoli (Botrytis Group). Collard greens are part of the Acephala Group of the species, which includes kale and spring greens.

    The plants are grown for their large, dark-colored, edible leaves and as a garden ornamental, mainly in Brazil, Portugal, the southern United States, many parts of Africa, the Balkans, northern Spain and in northern India. They are classified in the same cultivar group as kale and spring greens, to which they are genetically similar. The name “collard” is a corrupted form of the word “colewort” (the wild cabbage plant).

    It is in the Brassica oleracea family which includes wild cabbage, collard greens, kale, spring greens etc.

    I know I would love a dish made of haak as I love it in American southern cooking: it is often cooked with pork in the South.

    Hi, Pamela. I find, in texture and taste, collard greens are more like the greens of kohl rabi. Haak has a more tender, melt-in-the-mouth feel, much like gai lan. But I did substitute with collard greens when I was in the US.

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