I had never tasted this leafy green in my life. Years ago I had watched in a TV show how a kashmiri woman was cooking haak with mustard oil and dry broken red chillies. My hunt for this leafy green was on since then. I am a sucker for any kind of greens and love to try whatever looks promising. Everything green is always promising !!!
I found haak on the streets of Leh being sold with other crisp fresh vegetables , many ladakhi women bring their produce to the main market streets and sit patiently to sell them by evening.
The right side lower corner of the picture shows haak . It traveled well wrapped in a brown bag and then I kept it in the fridge for another 3 days before cooking it and to my surprise it was still fresh. The topmost picture shows how fresh it was after 4 days of buying it :)
I used the stems too in a soup as I did not want to waste even a bit of this precious green vegetable. That soup was a delight but no picture was clicked as I was too sleepy after coming back....cooking the quick soup for lunch was enough work already :)
The leaves of haak are just torn in bite sized pieces to cook , that is the way I saw in the TV show mentioned. How foodies remember such things :)
To proceed ... heat 2 tbsp mustard oil and throw in 6 cloves and a generous pinch of asafoetida . Follow with dry broken red chillies and wait till the chillies and cloves are fried. Dunk all the broken haak (i used about 400 gm) in to the pan , add salt to taste and cook covered , stirring occasionally. The stir fry is cooked when the leaves are completely wilted and soft . As mentioned , haak leaves do not get mushy like spinach , so they have a little bite but taste really good with chapatis or rice.
The second version is cooked with brinjals . I had heard about a haak-wagun and a few searches on the internet revealed it is just another variation of the simpler clove spiked stir fry. To make a haak-wagun fry the brinjal pieces first with a little salt and keep aside. Use the same oil to proceed like the above simple stir fry , adding the cloves , asafoetida and red chillies one after the other and then the broken haak leaves. Stir fry till wilted and then add the fried brinjal pieces . Cook together for a few minutes covered and serve hot with chapatis or rice as a side dish.
The use of cloves is optional as some people make it without cloves too and that would make a great sir fry too. Any green leafy vegetable cooked in this simple manner will be great actually. I don't know about greens haters but if you are like me , a green bowl of stir fry make a great meal anytime.
Collard greens make a good substitute of haak leaves, had read somewhere earlier ... After cooking it I feel a mix of mature spinach leaves and a few outer leaves of cabbage can be good too.