‘Karam ka Sag’, called ‘Hak’ in Kashmir, is a daily must in the diet of almost all Kashmiris. It is eaten with Plain Cooked Rice, throughout the year, as a green leafy vegetable, and is a great source of Vitamins and Minerals in their diet. ‘Hak’ and ‘Bata’ (Plain Cooked Rice), is what every Kashmiri asks for, in his prayers. It is said, that ‘Hak’ is a ‘Divine Leaf’, and a blessed food article granted to the ‘Rishi Kashyap’, and his progeny, and is called ‘Shakh-ambari’. Even in Feasts, ‘Hak’ is always served. Whole leaves are boiled in water, with a little Mustard oil, whole Red Kashmiri Chilies, and Salt, and then Condimented with a little ‘Vari Masala’. Whole mature Red Chilies are dried in sun in autumn, when these are available, and then stocked by every house in Kashmir for the year’s consumption. Cooked ‘Hak’ is a delicious Vegetable Preparation, enjoyed by poor and affluent alike.
1. ‘Hak’ – 1 kg
2. Mustard Oil – 1/2 cup
3. Asafoetida – a pinch
4. Cloves – 4 nos
5. Whole Kashmiri Red Chilies, or Green Chilies 4 nos
6. Salt about – 1 tsp
7. ‘Vari Masala’ – 20 gm
Sort out good ‘Hak’ leaves, nipping off insect eaten, stained and withered portions of leaves. Rinse leaves thoroughly in water.
Method of Cooking
- ‘Hak’ is generally cooked by Kashmiris in an earthenware cooking vessel (K- ‘Leij’). A steel or tinned copper or brass ‘Patila’, will also do. Heat the Oil in the vessel till its foam disappears. Add Cloves and the pinch of Asafoetida. Stir with a ladle, and add immediately 2 cups of water, and then the Salt and the whole Red or Green Chilies, after slitting open every Chili and discarding the seeds and stems. If whole Dried or Green Chilies are not available, a teaspoon or half of Red Chili Powder may be added instead. When the water and Spices etc., boil, add the ‘Hak’ leaves, and turn with the ladle till these become limp, and get immersed in the gravy. Cook for half an hour, and when leaves become tender, add the ‘Vari Masala’ after crushing it and serve, preferably hot. To save time nowadays, the leaves are pressure cooked.
- ‘Hak’, cooked by the above method is called ‘Chhata Hak’. No frying in oil is done. Dressed Knol Khols along with leaves, Cabbage leaves, Turnips, Spinach and many other Vegetables are also prepared in this manner.
- ‘Hak’ is also cooked as above, after boiling in plain water first. It is then called ‘Siva Hak’. If after boiling, and straining the water, it is pounded, and then cooked as above, it is, in that case, called ‘Daga Hak’.
- ‘Hak’ leaves, dried in shade, are cooked during winter, when fresh ‘Hak’ is not available at many places. Dried leaves are reconstituted by boiling before cooking. Nowadays fresh ‘Hak’ is available almost throughout the year.
In late autumn, after repeated picking of ‘Hak’ leaves during previous 6 or 7 months, the denuded stalks of the plants stop providing leaves during cold and snowy months of winter. In the following early spring, a crop of fresh tender leaves, sprout on the stalks. These small leaves are called ‘Kanul’ in Kashmiri, and are usually cooked with Meat or ‘Panir’, and form much cherished Dishes.