Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Indian Masala Dubba 4 - Chili

Red chili or laal mirch is an important spice used to heat up a dish. Not all chilies are equal, some add color, while others are extremely pungent and should be used with caution.


I just love photographing spices. Maybe I am getting obsessed about it. In a good way, well that's what I think …spice boxes scattered all over the kitchen may not be the idea of decor. Talking about decor. I do have 3 jars with star anise, red round chilies and coriander seed on the dinning table, I have got questioning looks from friends. In my defense some of my friends think it's such a cool and creative idea. My blogger friends would think of it as a cool idea, the non-blogger real world friends might find me weird.

A few weeks back I asked my friend about a big black box in her backyard - it had such a
cool surface. She gave me the look and told me it's for organic waste. Since she knows me so well, it was followed by, " you can't have it " "get a life".

The madness does not stop with props, it trickles to a lot of things (let's call it passion, it sounds better)…or should I say that is my obsession : 'light'. Last week, I was in the process of making breakfast, I opened my drawer to get a spatula…and my eyes froze at the gorgeous light inside the drawer. At the speed of light, I emptied the drawer to arrange the spices so I could take a few pictures. A few, led to a few more and a few more….. I saw the poor husband,  standing and looking at the kitchen in shock. What was a perfect normal kitchen a minute or two ago had  transformed itself into a chaotic mess. Well, let us put it this way….we had some cereal for breakfast.

Here is links to my partners in crime



Red chillies has been a part of the culinary world for about five centuries now, they have said to have originated in Mexico. Columbus is credited to have carried the seeds to the western world. It is said that they were used as ornamental plants before they were use to fire up a meal.

Even though technically chili is a vegetable fruit, but for culinary purpose the dried chili is  classified as a spice. Well, you don't believe me??  ask a botanist. It may not be as sweet as a mango or's still a fruit. They are all part of the capsicum family. From bell peppers to bhut jolokia and habinaro they are all part of the same botanical family - capsicum.

Not all chilies are equal and you certainly cannot substitute the same amount of chili one for the other. Certain varieties of chili are rich in their fiery red color but not as pungent as a pale looking red chili.

Some of the common Indian varieties are

Bedgi / Byadagi : dark red, strongly wrinkled skin. It's used in Karnataka, Goa and west coast of India. It does not have much heat but it has a strong rich red color. 

Dhani : these are almost like thai chillies and are moderately hot. Used in far Eastern states - Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland

Ramnad Mundu/ Gundu Molzuka / Round: Are used in the state of Tamil Nadu - especially in chettinad cuisine. They are reddish-oranger round chillies.

Guntur Red: cultivated in the guntur district of Andrha Pradesh. Medium-high heat. 

Reshampatti: A short dark red conical shaped chili. It has intense color and quite flavorful, used a lot on Gujrati and Maharashtran cuisine.  

Kashmiri: slightly longer and known for it's rich color. It is a very mild chili but gives a nice vibrant color to the dish it is used in.

Naga Jolokia: grown in the Northeast of India, is probably one of  the world's hottest chili. I think a fraction of a fraction of a pinch goes a long way.

These are some of the more famous chilies used in India. There are probably more than a thousand variety of chilies around the world.  Habanero, jalapeƱo, cayenne, Serrano, birds eye, and poblano are probably the most common

You can measure the heat or pungent quality of the chili with scoville unit (SHU)

Before you add chili to your curry or dish, make sure you understand that less is more, probably trying a small amount and testing the dish before you add more might be a good idea. Chili powder had been used in pickles in India for generations, it is a natural preservative along with salt. 

Some fresh red, green, yellow and orange thai chilies.



You think the habenaro (above) is making a face at me ??


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