Basale gassi- Malabar spinach curry from coastal Karnataka

spinach curry
Living along the coastal Karnataka for all their childhood, my husband and his siblings have fond memories of the Udupi -Mangalore region. This is what prompted this special recipe for this month on Shhhh cooking challenge. Many of the recipes from this cuisine that I cook are learnt from my friends and mother in law. Here is one more.

Manipal days

My postgraduation studies were in a place called Manipal, Karnataka. We stayed in a pretty old time hostel and there was a canteen which pretty much taught me I better learn to eat whats up for grabs. The pathetic picky eater in me took a fancy to a few stuff on the menu. On the list was a curry made with greens and the other their Sunday pulao. With no clue when my favourites are on the menu and no knowledge of the Kannada language other than “gorilla,” it was difficult to ask the canteen people about it.
The curry which I was looking forward to was one which was so similar to something my mom makes and that was the whole prompt to eat it. Following our graduation and moving back home and for many years following that I tried my hands on getting this particular curry fix.
After a long while with decent Kannada, when we went back to Udupi, with my kids. At that time. I managed to figure out the name for this curry. It feels wonderful when you manage to get something as simple as this recipe after many years of search, doesn’t it?

Back to the present

 The avid Indian blogger Vidhya from Masalachilli is my partner for this session on the Shhh cooking Challange. I nearly drove her over the wall with a request to let me know the ingredients as I had to do my long ordeal trip to the Indian store. Instantly, she chose tamarind and coriander seeds. My mind buzzing with ideas from Bisibelebath to Udupi huli. Finally, it settled on Basale gassi when I spotted these fresh Malabar spinach leaves at the Asian greengrocer.

Malabar spinach

Basalle alba or malabar spinach is a vine which grows commonly among the Asian and african continent. This semi succulent green comes in two colouurs the purple stem and the green stem. Slightly mucilaginous the leaves and tender stem is used in curries, soups or stir-fries. This vine spinach/ Ceylon spinach is highly recommended for the non-starchy polysaccharide, the mucilage. This is used as a calming agent to the stomach and helps in better bowel movements. It has high amounts of Vit A and recommendable amounts of folate. This is also recommended on a daily consumption for better management of osteoporosis and iron deficiency anaemia.

The recipe described below, with Malabar spinach, is submitted to Shh Cooking Challange for this month on the Karnataka Series.


The Shh cooking challage is initiated by a group of food bloggers who work on a couple of ingredients chosen by their partner, to bring forth beautiful timetested recipes. Currently, based on a regional theme from India, these bloggers look forward to showcasing the beauty of each cuisine. I am so fortunate to be a part of this group. 
Also from this series are a few highlights
spinach curry

Basale gassi

Malabar spinach curry from coastal Karnataka
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Dish, sidedish, Traditional
Cuisine diabetic friendly, gluten free, Indian, Karnataka, Vegan, Vegetarian, Winter
Servings 4
Calories 113 kcal


The greens

  • 2 bunch malabar spinach vine spinach, ceylon spinach

for the masala paste

  • 5-7 dry red chillies use bydigai for a beautiful red colour
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tamarind lime sized ball, soaked in water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cup Water use as required

for tempring

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 5-6 curry leaves


  • Wash, pat dry and separate the leaves of the Malabar spinach heads.
  • Cute the shoots into 1 inch long pieces and the leaves into thin strips. Set aside
  • Soak the tamarind in 1 cup of warm water and extract the paste by crushing and squeezing the pulp. Strain the juice and set aside
  • Into a spice blender, add the coconut, the chillies, the coriander, cucmin, curryleaves, salt, turmeric, and the tamarind extract. blend to a smooth paste with half a cup of water. Once blended adjust to a pourble consistency with water and set aside.
    masala paste
  • Into a wok add the coconut oil followed by the mustard seeds. When the seeds crackle add the curry leaves and the red chillies. Let them roast for a minute.
    spinach gravy
  • Now add the chopped shoots and leaves of the spinach.
  • Saute for a couple of minutes till they wilt.
  • Now add the prepared masala blend and mix well.
  • Cover the wok with a lid and let this mixture simmer for 5. Check if water is needed. If so add a little at a time and mix well.
  • Check the seasoning and let it cook till the shoots are cooked through.
  • The curry is now ready to serve with a hot scoop of rice.


The use of water in this recipe varies depending on the coconut and the water content of the spinach itself. So use as per need.


Serving: 150gCalories: 113kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 3gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 315mgPotassium: 249mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Sujata Shukla
5 years ago

Tasty looking curry! I love the way you have brought in different flavours of coconut and tamarind, chilli and coriander and cumin with the fresh tasting basale leaves, all topped off with the coconut oil. Must try!

Mayuri Patel
5 years ago

An interesting recipe Seema, I remember when I was living in Nairobi, my grandfather would grow Malabar spinach, not that I knew back then what it was called. Mums would add it to dry lentil sabji. My hubby too goes all nostalgic about Manipal, Udipi and Mangalore as he studied there. He can’t stop talking about the food they have as the college canteen food was horrible.

5 years ago

This looks so tasty and healthy . I bet it would be very flavorful, with the use of coconut, tamarind and chilli. All I need is just some phulkas.

The Girl Next Door
5 years ago

Malabar Spinach is one green that isn’t used much in our kitchen. Looking at this dish of yours, I think I should get around to using it asap! Great share! 🙂

Anu Kollon
5 years ago

Such a healthy dish it is. Would love to try it when I find these in market.

5 years ago

We make something similar in Andhra but the flavour profile is different. I will make this soon, especially for a friend from Mangalore who keeps requesting this dish.

5 years ago

Very healthy n flavour full looks too yummy😋.. Will try dis for sure

priya satheesh
5 years ago

Healthy and flavourful curry to serve with rice.

Vidya Narayan
5 years ago

This looks amazing and glad that run to the grocery store made you dish up something that brought back so many memories too. Love such healthy meals and they certainly go well with a bowl of steamed rice and papad.

Priya Suresh
5 years ago

Basale gassi looks a prefect dish to have with some steaming rice and papads.. This curry sounds extremely delicious and healthy to feed anyone easily.

5 years ago

What a great curry! Shows volumes of the history of Karnataka cuisine!So delicious!

5 years ago

This gassi looks so simple but am sure it tastes awesome. A comfort food like our kootu. Lovely share

5 years ago

Our family loves basale. rich in iron and tasty too. Your recipe looks tasty.

5 years ago

Basale soppu is so ‘kannada’ in its origin. we make a simialr curry, pakoras and even add it with other greens to make sambhar.. this would go so well with rice n ghee… yu,,,,

5 years ago

This is looking so healthy seema .
Must try this flavorful dish when I’ll buy the malabar spinach next time surely !!!

5 years ago

I need to try this spinach, never used it. Looks like a soul food to me.

Poonam Bachhav
5 years ago

This spinach curry sounds so comforting and delicious Seema ! Thanks for this healthy share.

Maitreyi K R
Maitreyi K R
4 years ago

I tried the recipe and it turned out delicious. I had it with ragi mudde (steamed balls of ragi powder). Finger licking good. I love basale soppu ever since I discovered it. I always made it the Bengali way. It is called pui shaak. But with this recipe, I am converted to the Mangalorean recipe.

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