Red Hot Fiery Beauties (Chillies in India)

Chili peppers are eaten by a quarter of the earth’s population every day, in countries all over the globe.

Early reports from conquerors cited a large presence of chillies in Aztec and Mayan traditions, used not only to flavour food but also to fumigate houses and to help cure illness.

They are perennial shrubs belonging to the Capsicum family and were completely unknown to most of the world until Christopher Columbus made his way to the New World in 1492. Columbus was seeking a new trade route to Asia, looking for black peppercorns. The peppercorns were known as “black gold” because of their value as a commodity, often used to pay rent or salaries. Until well after the Middle Ages, almost all of the world’s pepper travelled from the Malabar Coast, in India. From there it was traded via the Levant and the merchants of Venice to the rest of Europe — that is until the Ottoman empire cut off the trade route in the mid-1400s.

Columbus was the first step in the spread of the chilli, but despite the fact that he brought the aji chillies back to Spain, it was the Portuguese and their broad trade routes that can be credited with the rapid adoption of chilli peppers elsewhere in the world.

In 1510, Goa fell to the Portuguese under the leadership of Afonzo de Albuquerque. Located in the spice-rich Malabar Coast, the strategic city established increased Portuguese control over the spice trade. Per Andrews, a Portuguese official in India from 1500-1516 reported that the new spice of chilli peppers was welcomed by Indian cooks who, accustomed to pungent black pepper and biting ginger, already produced spicy foods. This powerful red plant would do quite well in India.

Another route of trade started at Diu, which juts out of the west coast of India. Diu fell after the Sultan of Gujarat formed an unhappy and ultimately unsuccessful defensive alliance with the Portuguese in the 16th century. The city’s location made it an important port on the trade routes of the Arabian sea. In the case of our chillies, they went from Diu and Surat on the Gulf of Cambay, inland toward the Ganges, up the Brahmaputra River, and across the Himalayas to Sichuan.

Most of the green chillies that are cultivated in India belong to the Capsicum annuum species. This includes non-spicy varieties such as bell peppers as well as hotter varieties.

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 throughout 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.

The heat of a chilli 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).

Chilies contain health benefiting an alkaloid compound, capsaicin, which gives them strong spicy, pungent character. Early laboratory studies on experimental mammals suggest that capsaicin has anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, analgesic and anti-diabetic properties. It also found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in obese.
They are also good in other antioxidants such as vitamin-A, and flavonoids like ß-carotene, α -carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin. These antioxidant substances in capsicum help protect the body from injurious effects of free radicals generated during stress, diseases conditions.

Types of Chillies found in India are:

North India:

1. Kashmiri –  Chilli - 1

Grown in temperate regions such as Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and also in sub-tropical regions of North India during winter season. This chilli is known more for its colour than its spice, this chilli is ground into a powder and used not only in Kashmiri dishes but in many dishes across the country and the world to add a beautiful red colour to the dish as well as enhance the dish’s taste. Harvesting season – November to February. Capsaicine – 0.325%

kashmiri-chilli

Kashmiri Chilli

West India:

2. Mathania – Chilli - 2

Mathania is a town in the Jodhpur district of Rajasthan, India. The chillies grown here ave a powerful aroma and flavour but go easy on the heat. Mathania chilly is said to be on the verge of extinction as not many takers for it. It is used in rajasthani dishes like Lal Maas (Red Meat).

Mathania Chilli

Mathania Chilli

3. Longi Chilli – Chilli - 3

Mostly found in the Bikaner. Longi Mirch is the most sharp chilly in India. Its powder is used in the manufacturing of Bikaneri Bhujia & other Namkeen items.

Longi Chilli

Longi Chilli

4. Jwala Chilli – Chilli - 4

Grown in Kheda, Mehsana & in South Gujarat. This chilli is highly pungent, light red in colour, short and the seeds are compact. Pods long and slender (10-12 cm). Harvesting season-September to December. Capsaicine-0.4%

Jwala Chilli

Jwala Chilli

5. Bhavnagari – Chilli - 1

Bhavnagari long chilli plants produce good yields of 13cm (5in) long by 2cm (¾in) wide hot peppers. Used in green form to make stuffed chilli dishes.

bhavnagri

Bhavnagari Chilli

6. Boriya Mirch – Chilli - 4

Its unique look might make it resemble a Habanero chilli or even a cherry tomato, but according to reports, it gets its name from the word ‘berry’ (or ‘ber’ in Hindi) as it looks like one. It is extremely spicy and is often used in tadkas to give a variety of preparations a rich flavour.

Boriya Mirchi

Boriya Chilli

7. Reshampatti – Chilli - 2

They are mild and are wonderful for stuffing for achaar (pickle). Mostly grown in the west of India.

Reshampatti

Reshampatti Chilli

8. Sankeshwari – Chilli - 2

The Sankeshwari mirchi is used most commonly to make chilli powder. Sankeshwar being close to Kolhapur (Maharashtra), 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.

Sankeshwari Mirchi

Sankeshwari Chilli

9. Sangli Sannam – Chilli - 3

Grown in Kolhapur District of Maharashtra. Light red in colour and hot. Harvesting season – September to November. Capsaicin – 0.215%

10. Titimiti – Chilli - 2

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 a 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.

Titimiti

Titimiti Chilli

11. Aldona – Chilli - 2

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.

Aldona Double

Aldona Chilli

12. Tarvati – Chilli - 3

A slim long chilli of about three inches in length it is also used in local dishes very often. It is also called Portuguese chilli.

Tarvati

Tarvati Chilli

East India:

13. Dhani (Birds Eye Chili) – Chilli - 4

Its the dried form of birds eye chilli. It’s really spicy and hot and pungent. It is used not only in cooking but also used in chutneys and pickles. Grown in Mizoram & some areas of Manipur. Harvesting season – October to December. Capsaicine – 0.589%

Dhani

Dhani Chilli

14. Naga Bhut Jolokia – Chilli - 5

These chillies are also known as ghost pepper, ghost chilli. It is one of the world’s hottest chilli pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The Ghost chilli is rated at more than 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs). A study showed that Bhut jolokia peppers grown in Tezpur (Assam) are more than twice as hot as those grown in Gwalior’s more arid climate.

Naga Bhut Jolokia

Bhut Jolokia Chilli

South India:

15. Guntur – Chilli - 4

It widely grows in Guntur, Warangal, and Khammam districts of Andhra Pradesh. The skin of chilli is thick, red and hot. It accounts for roughly 30% of India’s chilli exports. It has its peak harvesting season from December to May. Other Guntur Chilis are Sannam, Teja, Phatki, Indo-5, Ankur, Roshni, Bedki and Madhubala. Capsaicine-0.226%

guntur-red-chilli

Guntur Chilli

16. Warangal Chappatta (Tomato Chilli) – Chilli - 2

Is peculiar to the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh. They are short and deep red in colour and are slightly less pungent and milder in flavour. Harvesting season – December to March. Capsaicin – 0.17%

Warangal Chappatta (Tomato Chilli)

Warangal Chappatta Chilli

17. Tadappally/ Tadepalli Chillies – Chilli - 2

Grown in Tadappally in Andhra Pradesh. Red in colour, less pungent, thick skin. Harvest Season – January to April. Capsaicin – 0.11%

TADAPPALLY (BIG & LONG)

Tadappally Chilli

18. Hindpur – Chilli - 3

Grown in Hindpur in Andhra Pradesh. Red in colour, hot and highly pungent.
Harvesting season – December to March. Capsaicin – 0.24%

HINDPUR Chilli

Hindupur Chilli

19. Madras Pari – Chilli - 3

Grown in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh. Pure red in colour and hot. Harvesting season – March to May. Capsaicin – 0.206%

MADRAS PARI

Madras Pari Chilli

20. Gundu Molzuka or Ramnad Mundu – Chilli - 2

Grown in Ramnad District of Tamil Nadu. Mundu, on the other hand, comes with a yellowish-scarlet red colour and is fairly hot and pungent with a medium heat. These are fairly spherical and are also known as gundu molzuka or ramnad mundu. Yellowish red and hot. Harvesting season – March to May. Capsaicin – 0.166%

Gundu Molzuka or Ramnad Mundu

Gundu Molzuka or Ramnad Mundu Chiili

21. Salem Gundu – Chilli - 1

It’s the most popular chilli used in Tamil Nadu and its medium hot. Gundu in Tamil means fat. It’s a small round fat chilli with lots of seeds in it. Its widely used in making chutney and sambar and for tempering / tadka purposes.

Salem Gundu

Salem Gundu Chilli

22. Kanthari White – Chilli - 3

They are ivory white in colour and mildly spicy, small in size and flat-bodied. Kanthari chillies are a unique variety of Bird’s Eye Chilli. These are often soaked in yoghurt and salt, and then sun-dried and used as a condiment. Grown in Kerala & some parts of Tamil Nadu. Capsaicine – 0.504%

Kanthari Chilli

Kanthari Chilli

23. Sattur – Chilli - 2Grown in Dindigul, Sattur, Rajapalayam, Sankarankoil & Theni in Tamil Nadu. Red in colour, pungent with thick skin. Harvesting season – September to March. Capsaicin – 0.24%

SATTUR

Sattur Chilli

24. Scotch Bonnet – Chilli - 4

Introduced from Jamaica. Cultivation in India is on the initial stage. Studies show that it comes up well in the hill regions of Kerala & Karnataka. Chilli is short round & yellowish in colour with the terminal end sucked inside. Capsaicin – 0.878%

Scotch Bonnet

Scotch Bonnet Chilli

25. Bedgi or Byadagi (Kaddi) – Chilli - 1

Byadagi Chillies come from the Haveri district in Karnataka. The chilli is long and wrinkled and deeply red. Its not very hot but imparts a dark colour and aroma. The dried chilli is deep red in colour with a mild pungency but aromatic flavour. Harvesting season – January to May. Capsaicine – Negligible. It is about 30,000 SHU.

byadgi-chilli

Bedgi or Byadagi Chilli

26. Pandi Mirchi – Chilli - 2

The Pandi Chilli is a medium-spicy chilli that grows across Southern India. Pandi is small with a shiny skin and pale red. It’s spicier than other red chillies but lacks colour. It is usually used in South Indian dishes like curries, subzis, podis and other such dishes as well.

Pandi Mirchi

Pandi Chilli

Central India:

27. Bhiwapur – Chilli - 3

Bhiwapur is a town and a tehsil in Umred subdivision of Nagpur district. The skin of Bhiwapuri Chilli has shelf-life of a one-and-a-half year to two years. Being pungent in nature, less amount of powder of Bhiwapuri Chilli is used in edible items compared to other varieties. The length is approximately 1.5 inch. The red colour is darker than other chilli varieties like Guntur Chilli. The powder of Bhiwapuri Chilli gives red colour to food items without any side effects like acidity. The chilli has its own geographical identification (GI) certificate.

Bhiwapuri Mirchi

Bhiwapur Chilli

28. Nalchetti – Chilli - 3

Grown in Nagpur District of Maharashtra. Red in colour and extremely pungent
Harvesting season- January to March.

NALCHETTI

Nalchetti Chilli

29. Ellachipur Sannam – Chilli - 3

Grown in Amaravati District of Maharashtra. Reddish in colour and very hot. Harvesting season-September to December. Capsaicine-0.2%

ellachipur-sanman

Ellachipur Sannam Chilli

30. Madhya Pradesh Sannam – Chilli - 3

It is hot and pungent. Red in colour. Grown in Indore, Malkapur Chikli and Elachpur areas of Madhya Pradesh. Harvesting season – January to March.

Madhya-Pradesh-Sannam

Madhya Pradesh Sannam Chilli

 

For a non-native plant of India, there is enough variety that is currently found in India. I tried to find as many varieties I could but there could be more chillies in India that this list. Let me know in comments for any additions.

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Lost in Translation

As a chef one the resources I widely use is Internet and more specifically the Google search for finding out information about food and recipes. I love the fact that google search gives me more information than I can possibly read and hence have to apply the cognitive brain to filter out unwanted information and take only what is needed.

A word of caution though for people using google for finding recipes; many of those recipes on internet are nor authentic or either correct, so use discretion to select the recipes.

Also, once the recipe is available and I feel it is what I need to make, then at times, I need to translate the recipe into Hindi. I use the Google Translation services for a quick word to word translation. While this service is very nice though it has never failed me to provide my daily dose of laughter and here is why;

IMG_5423

 

When I search for meaning of Hot Dog bread (the long bread used in making Hot Dog Sandwich), Google translates the literal meaning of the words.

 

 

 

IMG_5425

 

 

And then I search for Buck Wheat (kind of grain) and I again get literal translation of the word.

 

 

 

IMG_5419

 

And, the commonly used Heavy Cream (reduced milk) is literally Heavy according to translation service of Google.

 

 

 

While one can get a good laugh by searching for more words on translation service, I know what the ingredients in English look like and I also know Hindi as a language and hence I am aware that the translation is wrong.

Below are some more examples of what I found out.

But, I am also concerned as a chef as most of the Internet recipes are in English so a non English speaking person will use the translation services and will keep wondering about what ingredient to use in the recipe if such weird translations keep coming up. So, the complexity increases if one has to search recipes on Internet and then translate them too into local languages.

 

No debate on colour, black is the best.

The reports of an ever growing cosmetics market for skin whitening creams in India are abundant but this post is not about the cosmetics as I am a foodie and I will talk about food only. So you must be wondering how is the debate of colour applicable to food ?

Without any suspense, let me tell you that I am talking about the colour of rice today, yes you read it right, rice comes in various colours.

The common colours of rice are White and Brown but there is Red and Black.

rice_kernel- Healthy-Living.orgThe structure of rice grain shows some important parts like the Hull, Bran, Rice Germ and White Rice.

So firstly the key difference in a brown and white rice is that brown rice has only hull removed while white rice has the hull, bran and rice germ removed. The bran is brown in colour hence the brown colour of brown rice. Bran provides additional fiber when consuming brown rice while while same is absent in white rice.

The red or black colour of rice is due to presence of anthocyanin, a very powerful antioxidant, that gives the dark colour to the rice grain. Anthocyanin is also responsible for the dark red or purple coloured fruits and vegetables like dark purple eggplant, cranberries, blueberries etc.

White Rice:

White rice -alibaba.com Image Source: alibaba.com

The rice obtained after milling to remove hull, bran and rice germ and polished to give bright white and shiny appearance is white rice. Due to this white rice has higher storage life and less spoilage.

The milling and polishing processes both remove nutrients. A diet of unenriched white rice could cause neurological disease beriberi, due to a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1).

Brown Rice:

brown-rice-butterbeliever.com Image Source: butterbeliever.com

With just the hull removed, you get brown rice.  The rice is nutty flavor, and is chewier and more nutritious than white rice. Brown rice is good source of magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, and manganese, and is high in fiber.

Red Rice:

red-rice-wisegeek.comImage Source: wisegeek.com

The red rice has its colour due to presence of anthocyanin and it is eaten unhulled or partially hulled. It is has a red husk and nutty in flavour.

The anthocyanin is believed to have properties that can reduce inflammation and help in weight management. The manganese present in red rice helps in strengthening metabolism, while magnesium helps in migraine, lowers blood pressure as well as risks of heart attacks. Selenium present in red rice protects the body against infections.

Black Rice:

blackrice-amritawholesale.comImage Source: amritawholesale.com

Black rice or purple rice is more famous as ‘Forbidden Rice’ as it was only served to the royals in China and forbidden for the masses.

Black rice has a very high amount of flavanoid phytonutrients, a high source of fiber, substantial mineral content including iron and copper, and even a good source of plant based protein. The hull of the grain has one of the highest levels of anthocyanin antioxidants of any food. Its low sugar and glycemic content makes it an extremely desirable dietary option for heart patients, diabetics as well as for those with high blood pressure.

A quick comparison for every 100 gms serving of rice:

Polished White rice – contains 6.8 protein, 1.2 iron, 0.6 fiber.
Brown rice – 7.9 protein, 2.2 iron, and 2.8 fiber.
Red rice – 7.0 protein, 5.5 iron, and 2.0 fiber.
Black rice – 8.5 protein, 3.5 iron, 4.9 fiber, and the highest amount of anthocyanin (antioxidants) compared to other rice varieties.

So for a healthy diet, the best option is get the darkest colour of rice. Black is the Best !!

Rice cooking methods by removing starch:

For White Rice (1 cup):
  1. Wash rice thoroughly under tap water by gently rubbing the grains in between your fingers. This will remove the dirt as well as some of the starch. Repeat this process till water runs clear or if doing it in a pot then atleast change water 3 times.
  2. Soak the rice in 1.5 cups of water for 10 minutes.
  3. In a deep pan boil 3 cups of water and add 1/2 tsp of salt.
  4. Strain the rice and add to boiling water. Cook rice on a medium flame for about 5 -6 minutes.
  5. Once the rice starts to boil, a foamy and thick creamy liquid will start to float on top.
  6. Remove and discard this starchy foam with a laddle. Repeat this process for a couple of times until the starchy content will start to fade away.
  7. Allow the rice to cook until the water is reduced in quantity and rice grains start to float on top.
  8. Spoon out some rice and check the grain. The grain of rice should feel soft and tender.
  9. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully sieve it through a strainer.
  10. Run under cold water. All the starchy and cloudy liquid will wash away from the boiled rice. Wash for a minute and very gently run your fingers through the rice to wash away any remaining starch without crushing the grains.
  11. Let the water drain and then spread the rice on a plate and let it dry.
  12. Before serving, you can reheat rice in a microwave or steam the rice.
  13. To steam rice, add rice back to pan it was cooked, add 1/4 cup water, cover the pan and heat on low flame for 3-4 minutes. Do not stir the rice.
  14. Remove the pan from heat and let it sit undisturbed for 5-6 minutes.
  15. Before serving, fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot.
For Brown Rice (1 cup):
  1. Wash rice thoroughly under tap water by gently rubbing the grains in between your fingers. This will remove the dirt as well as some of the starch. Repeat this process till water runs clear or if doing it in a pot then atleast change water 3 times.
  2. Soak the rice in 1.5 cups of water for 30 minutes.
  3. In a deep pan boil 4 cups of water and add 1/2 tsp of salt.
  4. Strain the rice and add to boiling water. Cook rice on a medium flame for about 2 -3 minutes.
  5. Reduce the flame to low and let the rice cook.
  6. A foamy and thick creamy liquid will start to float on top.
  7. Remove and discard this starchy foam with a laddle. Repeat this process for a couple of times until the starchy content will start to fade away.
  8. Allow the rice to cook until the water is reduced in quantity and rice grains start to float on top.
  9. Spoon out some rice and check the grain. The grain of rice should feel soft and tender.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully sieve it through a strainer.
  11. Run under cold water. All the starchy and cloudy liquid will wash away from the boiled rice. Wash for a minute and very gently run your fingers through the rice to wash away any remaining starch without crushing the grains.
  12. Let the water drain and then spread the rice on a plate and let it dry.
  13. Before serving, you can reheat rice in a microwave or steam the rice.
  14. To steam rice, add rice back to pan it was cooked, add 1/4 cup water, cover the pan and heat on low flame for 3-4 minutes. Do not stir the rice.
  15. Remove the pan from heat and let it sit undisturbed for 5-6 minutes.
  16. Before serving, fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot.

Chef Inspirations

100ftJourneyIt’s been a while that I have been waiting to write my first blog and was thinking of the topic to put up as my first blog. After watching the movie “The Hundred Foot Journey”, I felt as if I found my topic. Being a chef in making, I couldn’t ask for a better movie to present my views about the movie to be my first blog.

This not a review of the movie, but my views and my learning from the movie. The main protagonist in the movie is Hassan and he develops this taste for flavor of foods from his childhood. The early influences in this life being his mother, who is one excellent cook inspite of not being formally trained. The twist of fate takes the family into France and the home of best-known French cuisine. The twist is when Hassan’s father decides to open up an Indian restaurant right in front of a Michelin Star French restaurant. The ensuing culinary fight between both restaurants takes some ugly turns and become a racial fight. The owner of the Michelin star restaurant Madame Mallory decides to take first step to patch up. Hassan is injured in a accident and both his hands get burnt so he asks Madame Mallory to cook a omelet with his recipe and she just loves the omelet enough to hire him in his restaurant. Hassan works his Indian touch on the French cuisine and earns another Michelin star for the restaurant. This lets him step into the bigger world of wonderful innovative cuisines. Hassan is excited living his dream but soon feels the loss of inner satisfaction and lost in the world of made up praises and glory. Finally he returns back to his roots and follows his heart to make it big with his flock.

“For me too, life is where heart is and the best in a man is seen when he follows his heart.”