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 haaq 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 haaq 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 haaq . 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 haaq 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 haaq (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, haaq 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 haaq 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.