Malabar Spinach Stir Fry (Vali Upakari)

Malabar Spinach Stir Fry (Vali Upakari)

Need a healthy but delicious, simple & easy dish to make for dinner? Then try this Konkani style basella stir fry. 
Serve it as a side dish for dinner, have it with steaming hot congee or drink it up as a soup! It's super nutritious too. 

Ever since we were kids we've heard we need to eat lots of leafy greens cuz that they're sooo good for us. And my favourite leafy green that I can eat lots are basella. Highly nutritious, extremely rich in antioxidants, especially when it's fresh, steamed, or quickly boiled. It is a rich source of vitamin A, iron, calcium and is packed with so many many more nutrients that I don't want to bore you with.

Basella are also known as Malabar spinach in India and called 'vali' in Konkani. We prepare a lot of basella dishes, our beautiful Konkani cuisine has it in delicious forms so that we include them in our diet. Some of them are:

Malabar Spinach Masala (Vali Sukke)

Malabar Spinach Coconut Curry (Vali Randayi)

Malabar Spinach Tambli (Vali Tambali/Thambali) 

Malabar Spinach In Coconut Chutney (Vali Sasam)

Malabar Spinach In Spicy, Tangy Coconut Chutney And Curds Gravy (Vali Mosuru Bajji)

Super quick, delicious vali mosru bajji

We also make spicy fritters (called ambado in Konkani) as starters/side and spicy dosas as side (sanna polo in Konkani) for lunch, dinner using basella.

We prepare a simple stir fry called as vali upakari in Konkani. And it is served as a side dish for lunch, dinner in Konkani households.

This simple stir fry is flavourful, delicious and super easy to make. Flavourful garlic seasoning and fresh grated coconut adds so much taste and flavour to this stir fry. While you season this stir fry with garlic, the lovely smell fills your house and your neighbourhood with it's aroma. It's so heaveeeenlyyyy.

You have to try this healthy, simple stir fry which you can also eat as a soup (by adding a little more water while cooking it. Read more at the bottom of the recipe). Here goes the recipe:


  • 1 big bunch of Malabar spinach leaves and tender stems. 
  • 7-8 garlic cloves
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1/2 cup of grated coconut (optional)

Serves: 2-3

Prep Time: 25-30 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Method of preparation:

1. Remove Malabar spinach leaves off their stem, wash them well and finely chop them.

 2. Wash well tender Malabar spinach stems if you want to use in the stir fry. I use only the tender most stems that we can bite through & swallow. They taste amazing.

Me & my hubby do not enjoy eating mature stems from our upakari. Use them too if you like eating them. 

Chop stems into pieces of 2-3 inches length or finely along with the leaves.

3. Peel garlic cloves and smash them a little so that they give out their flavour. (You can leave them unpeeled too.)

4. Heat oil in a pressure cooker, add in the smashed garlic and saute them until they start to brown. Then add in dried red chilles broken into pieces and fry them for few seconds.

5. Once garlic are almost golden brown and red chillies are fried well, add in chopped spinach, salt, grated coconut,1/4 cup of water and mix well.

If you're using stems, then make sure they are added to the pressure cooker first before the leaves to ensure proper cooking. Mature stems will need more water to cook. If you're using a lot of spinach stems then add about 1/2-3/4 cup of water.

Remember leaves give out lots of water on cooking so add water carefully if you need a dry upakari/stir fry in the end. 

While adding salt remember leaves reduce in volume by 4 times on cooking so add salt accordingly.

6. Pressure cook them for just one whistle. (Cooking in a vessel will take a little more time.)

7. When the pressure of the cooker is released, mix all the ingredients well, check and adjust salt.

8. If you like a dry stir fry, then boil off any excess water remaining after cooking. (Personally I don't approve of this step as excess cooking will remove all nutrients from the leaves.)

9. Serve hot as a side dish for lunch/dinner.

My twist to the good old dry stir fry (vali upakari): To drink it as a soup which we love at home!

I add in an extra cup of water to the stir fry/upakari while cooking the spinach. That way I have a very flavourful broth with spinach in it in the end. I serve it in a bowl as a soup before dinner and we love drinking, eating it!  

Find more Konkani cuisine side dishes here

Tags: Malabar spinach, vali, upakari, stir fry, side dish, lunch, dinner, healthy, Konkani recipe, Konkani dish, Konkani cuisine, Udupi cuisine, Mangalore food, Konkani food, basella