Minari A.K.A Simrayo A.K.A. Watercress

For a moment, let’s talk about and fan about how amazing the 2021 movie that won the golden globe later that year; Minari. This moving immigrant drama about a Korean family that travels to Arkansas from San Francisco was a sight to sore eyes. Not only was the movie released at a great time of sorrow from the pandemic and acted as a momentary relief to its audience, but it was also different in many ways. There sure must be great reason apart from the outstanding acting of the actors and actresses that had the movie receive a Golden globe. For me us it was the flipside outlook of an American immigrants story. This story was anything but racially charged like most in it contemporary.

There is great family drama portraying very patiently, the subtle nuances of a Korean Family living with their minds in two boats of the modern American and the Traditional Korean sails. Where their journey as progressive Americans brings in all the hope of the movie, it was their identity as Korean traditional family that was keeping up with America that brought in the Humor and emotional swings. The father of the family star boarded the flag of hope for the family’s survival in America whereas the mother was portrayed typically in the mind of a mother, always worrying, always careful, always protective, repulsive to risk taking and ever so emotional (are not all our mothers this way?).

Commendable work in the movie

Youn Yuh-Jung

A Commendable and deserving-of-ovation acting is done by Youn Yuh-Jung, the grandmother in the movie. Not only was her acting on point, the way she carried and did justice to her character down to every second of the movie was something that talks of experience and mastery in the field. But what we are truly here to talk about is the name of the movie, “minari”.

Minari, in the movie

to the left of the grandmother is the minari that she brought from Korea that is wildly growing next to the spring of water.

water logged areas are best to grow minari or Simrayo

For those of us who do not know the movie or have not seen it, the grandmother who comes from Korea to take care of her daughter’s family, brings along a bunch of fresh minari (a vegetable) to grow in America with her. The vegetable not only symbolizes the theme humility during the entire course of the movie, it is the very ray of hope that seems to shine the brightest at a moment in the movie when every ray of hope seemed to be fading from the lives of the family.

Minari as we know it

So what exactly is the minari? In Nepali we know it as “Simrayo”, “thopy yie” in Nagaland, “chhunali” in Meghalaya, “ganga mula” in Assam and so on; Minari is a vegetable that is known to grow in some of the most swampy water logged areas. In English it is known as the Water cress.

watercress plantation

Simrayo or minari is a vegetable that is native to South East Asia as well as some parts of Europe. The very meaning of the name in Korean translates to mi as in Water and nari as in vegetable. Minari grows wildly and lushly in small or large areas with a constant source of water or flowing water.

Characteristic features

Now, the vegetable has a very pungent flavor as well as aroma but most of all it is packed with essential nutrients. It tastes peppery, minty, spicy as well as very very subtly bitter. The vegetable’s flavors are almost addictive to those who love eating their greens. It can be best paired with any vegetable and sometimes is also consumed raw as salads, but correct me if I’m wrong,. Fresh simrayo added to meats is the best way to enhance flavors in the meat while consuming essential greens.

watercress salad

watercress soup

In most parts of the North East of India, the vegetable is used to make stews, vegetables, meat curries, green curries, salads, chutneys, achaars etc. it is best used to make a hearty and flavorful fish curry.

Minari used as medicine

In younger times, when I caught a crippling cold, had fever or was ill and weak due to ailments, I remember my grandmother used to head to the jungles during the afternoon, donning a gumboot so leeches would not stick to her feet and when we’d ask her where she was headed to, she’d say, “ the child got sick, I’m going to go look for some simrayo in the forest. When I bring it back make a simarayo soup for her at night”. And then she’d leave for the forest with a plastic bag in her hand that she’d keep the collected minari in. since I was young and had not yet quite acquired the taste of the vegetable, I’d absolutely despise having to drink the soup that’d make me feel so much better the next morning.

Now that I have grown up, now that I understand the value of the medicinal plant that could not be found in the cities and now that I absolutely am addicted to the new and fresh flavor of the simrayo, I just can’t get enough of it. We wait all winters and summers for the monsoons to arrive so that we can have as much minari as we’d like to have every day and boost our immunity with consuming it.

There are many health benefits that comes out of consuming Simrayo, here are a few:

  1. Dietary nitrates in the vegetable aids the maintenance of blood vessels:

Watercress or Simrayo is known to contain a lot of dietary nitrates that reduces stiffness and thickness of blood vessels and also reduces inflammation majorly.

The dietary nitrates are also known to reduce blood pressure by increasing the level of nitric oxide in your blood.

  1. It helps lower cholesterol levels:

In a study conducted on rats, it was observed after treating rats with watercress extracts for 15 days that the cholesterol levels in the rats decreased significantly by 34% and decreased the bad LDL cholesterol by 53%.

  1. Treasure-trove of minerals especially the rare Vitamin K

Watercress is known as a very nutrient dense food. It is packed with an important and a rarely found Vitamin K which is a fat soluble vitamin that is needed to clot blood as well as to maintain healthy bones.

 A single 34 grams helping of watercress contains:

  • Calories: 4
  • Carbs: 0.4 grams
  • Protein: 0.8 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0.2 grams
  • Vitamin A: 22% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin C: 24% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 106% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 4% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 4% of the RDI
  1. Full of antioxidants:

Watercress is a super food that has high contents of anti-oxidants such as the lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene that not only help maintain a healthy heart and normal blood pressure, but also helps improve the health of the cells and protects them from external factors that may cause harm.

All in all Minari is an amazing super vegetable that is not only super tasty and aromatic, but is also known to do lots of good to your body. It was only after I watched the movie Minari that I realized what the Koreans call Minari is actually the “Simrayo” that we have all been consuming since ages. A perfect way to celebrate this vegetable is to cook minari for dinner and enjoy it with sticky rice as you watch the movie Minari on the TV. Next time you visit the North East of India during the monsoons, make sure you try this amazing vegetable to know the taste of goodness.

NE Origins

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