It's Pouring Chillies"
A dear friend, who shall remain unnamed, is a dentist. He is very popular among his patients , who sometimes wait months just so he will take them on. At one time he lived in London where his waiting room was always full and his patients, patient.
Even at that time he made a point of working only 4 days a week. Always hospitable and a real foodie he would invite friends over just to share his food.I still recall him at the beginning of his cooking sessions. Wife and sons and friends would sit around the kitchen drinking wine to watch the the "master' at work.
He began by putting on surgical gloves. Thinking this was an odd way of carrying on his working life home with him, several newbies to the scene watched open mouthed. Half way through the proceedings most people realised the reason for the gloves. He would plunge his hand into a huge pot of red chilli powder and slather fish or chicken with fistfuls of the stuff.
" Can't have my patients gagging on me tomorrow morning", he said.
As everyone knows, the smell of onions, garlic and chillies lingers on , and on..and on
Coming from Andhra Pradesh his cuisine was the hottest I had ever tasted. Even if he had 20 people for lunch there was always enough left over. Tears streaming down their faces, guests would manage to eat just a mouthful and his Scots wife always stuck firmly to her own productions.The only others who joined him in heartfelt delight were people from the same state. Now I know they were hooked on the hot stuff.
Endorphins are released into the body when the brain responds to capsaicin, a chemical contained in the capsicum pod which causes them to be hot. When eaten the chemical which flows throught the veins of the capsicum pod is released into the mouth where nerve endings set off an alarm in the brain. The brain is conned into thinking the body is in distress and pain and immediately opens the sluice gates. The mouth and eyes water, the heartbeat increases, the nose begins to drip and the head perspires.
Most people in the grip of a chili high will express their satisfaction with an 'aaah' or an 'oooh' in a tone which is a cross between wonder and horror. An hour at the gym might give you the same high for a lot more effort.
I think eating chillies is seen to be a manly thing to do.Which is why they have names indicating that guts are required to ingest them. In India lots of hybrids have names like Sizzler, Firecracker,Torpedo, DaggerPod, Cobra etc etc, Perhaps salsa and chilli sauces have the same connotations of machoness ? I mean 'Death Sauce' ?' Radioactive-Atomic' pepper sauce ?
The heat of a chili is measured in Scoville Heat Units or SHU and capsicum ranges from 0 SHU ( Simla Mirch or Bell Peppers) to approximately 1000,000 SHU, the latter from a chilli called the Bhoot Jholakia (ghost chilli) or Raja Jholakia grown in Assam and Nagaland. It must be so hot as to shock the system and turn the eater into a "ghost". Since capsicum comes from the same family as the nightshade, a poisonous plant, I expect some of them are capable of killing.
For some time now I have been tracking the variety of chillies used in different regional cuisines and have identified several of them, just so that I can ask for them by name, to use in different dishes. Used in the right proportions, red chilli can enhance the taste of various ingredients. Too much and you can end up with mouth numbing food which, come to think of it, might be useful when you have a culinary disaster and a bunch of hungry people on hand.
Every state in India has its own special favourite but many chillies have become commonly accepted all over the country and are found in almost every mandi./ market.
The Kashmiri Mirchi is available in most general stores and is widely used for its colour.It is a deep maroon and is not very hot . One can always throw in a few more into a curry without noticeable effect. The sight of red chillies drying in the sun on the rooftops of thatched huts in Kashmir is a common one, and the flame of colour amidst the surrounding beige of the cropped and harvested rice fields is one that stays with me.
Another fairly common variety is the Bedgi of Byadagi chili which comes from the Hubli district in Karnataka. This looks wrinkled and shrivelled up, and had a deep red colour. It is a mild chilli. About 30,000 SHU .I love its smoky flavour which melts into a kind os sweetness when bitten into. Great as a vagar on Toor dal.
In a Goan curry one tends to use 70% bedgi and 30% Titimiti chillies.Titimiti is the Konkani name for these chillies and they are generally only available in Goa.They are a bright orange red , about an 1.5 " in length . They are responsible for the colour and taste of a true Goan prawn curry but are also used for a pork or chicken roast.
Another nice Goan chilli is the black red Aldona mirchi of which there are two varieties , one double the width of the other, which is also used in roasts. Goan cuisine has many different varieties of chillies perhaps because of Portuguese influences.One chilli is actually called Portuguese chilli. The Konkani name is Tarvati.
A slim long chilli of about three inches in length it is also used in local dishes very often.
Maria Lobo ( at Fatima General Stores and Cold Storage , 834 Dastur Meher Road, Camp, Pune) makes a mouthwatering Vindaloo masala for her own use from Aldona, Kashmiri, Bedgi and Titimiti chillies which she brings from Goa. Ground to a powder which she adds to garam masala , ginger and garlic and Goa toddy vinegar, it makes a wonderful base for a pork or chicken curry as well as a Sorpotel. Rechead is basically the same red mirchi masala with the addition of an onion and sugar paste.
In Maharashtra, the Sankeshwari mirchi is used most commonly to make chilli powder, and along with the Bedgi and Kashmiri are about the only dried red chillies to be found in the market here. All of them are fairly mild ( except for the Sankeshwari) , which is a way of telling that Maharashtrian cuisine is not known for its heat levels. Sankeshwar being close to Kolhapur , plus the addition of the lavangi mirchi, is probably a reason why Kolhapuri food was always much much hotter than Pune food! Sankeshwari chilly has a bright orange colour and local people use this powder fairly generously when short of other expensive masalas.
Double Resham Patti
I got hold of some Double Resham Patti chillies recently.They are mild and are wonderful for stuffing for achaar.This is well known in the North and some friends use it in Thai dishes as it approximates Thai chiilies.
Guntur or Andhra Chillies are obviously hot and are grown in Warangal, Khamam and Guntur disricts of Andhra Pradesh. They are popular outside the state in other cuisines as well for their aroma and heat level. And India being the largest exporter of chillies they are obviously popular elsewhere. Here is a hot recipe for Guntur chillies with Mango -
Mango Mirch Masala
- 6 mangoes,Banganpalli or Imam Pasand
- 4 tsps Gur /Jaggery
- 1 tsp salt
Grind the following ingredients:
- 1 tsp rai /mustard seed
- 1/4 tsp haldi / turmeric
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 pepper corn
- 10 Guntur red chillies
- 1/2 onion
- 1/2 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 4 cloves of garlic , mashed in a mortar.
Wash and peel the mangoes.Lightly mash them leaving some flesh on the seeds.
Add the ground paste to the mangoes. Bring to the boil and let the mixture cook on medium heat till the mangoes are well done. About 20 minutes. Remove the seeds from the dish and set aside.. Heat coconut oil and fry the mustard seeds and garlic. As the mustard seeds pop and the garlic become slightly golden, pour over the mango chilli mixture. Serve hot with brown rice.
More about chillies will be posted soon as there are so many more different varieties from this part of the world a nd I can't possibly cover them all here.
Now here's a contest.
Can anyone tell me the name of this midget of a mirchi.
Size of Mystery Mirchi
It is about 1 cm in length and varies in colour from red to ecru when dried.It is used in chewda's and snacks and it is very,very hot.
The winner will receive a bottle of the hottest pickle ever. An Andhra pickle ofcourse.
More hullaballoo in the chilli fields...