I was watching an episode of - The Best Thing I Ever Ate on the food network. I liked it when Ted Allen, an Emmy winning food writer, host and reviewer, mentioned Mirchi Ka Saalan as his favourite dish under Spicy category. And that reminded of this long pending draft and I sat down to finish the post. This is among several pending/scheduled posts for the blog. :).
Etymology and more...
As the name suggests, Mirchi Ka Saalan - translates to Chillies in a spicy gravy. This dish is truly an ode to the Chilli/pepper because, most recipes only use chillies as a spice and a flavouring agent. This dish has chillies as the main ingredient. Every authentic Hyderabadi restaurant serves Biryani with a bowl of Mirchi ka Saalan and Spiced raitha. Yummm!
Most Hyderabadi dishes are a nice blend of two very unique and wonderful cuisines - The Nawabi food/recipes adapted to the Andhra (local) ingredients. For example, among few other spices, addition of tamarind pulp, peanuts/groundnuts and red chillies to a typical nawabi masala gravy is the southern touch I am talking about. This blended cuisine is also called - Dakkani or Deccani khana.(derived from - Deccan plateau). Although Deccan plateau spans across south central India, Deccan food is more of a Hyderabadi/Nawabi speciality. (May be because Hyderabad was the capital city of the Hyderabad Sultanate and Qutub Shahi Dynasty)
Deccani food includes subtle variations from vidarbha and north eastern Karnatka (Bidar and Berar). Whatever the name, Hyderabadi food is simply wonderful. Also check out my adaption of locally available vegetables into Bagaara Baingan's gravy - Bagaara Celery and Pumpkin (mathan)
There could be small variations to this dish made in different kitchens. We generally use mirchi (the ones used for bhajji - Banana peppers) for this recipe. I used Serrano peppers. Any variety of Green chilli/pepper which could hold up in a gravy works well in this recipe. Types of chillies/peppers which could work for this recipe- Sweet Bell peppers (Capsicum), Poblano peppers. My version of the Mirchi Ka Saalan requires very less oil, preferably olive oil.
You need: Serves 4
Banana pepper or Serrano peppers - 9-10
Spices for the gravy
Coriander seeds - 2-3 tsps
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Coconut - 4 tbsp (dry or fresh) (grated)
Tamarind (pulp or paste) - 2 tbsp
Ginger - 1 " piece
Garlic- 2 or 3 cloves
Red chillies - 2
Sesame seeds (til or ellu) - 1 tsp (optional)
Groundnuts (roasted) - 4 tbsp or a count of 15 - 20
Curry leaves - 6 -8
Poppy seeds (Khus Khus) - 2 tsp
Onion (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Salt to taste
turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
oil - 1 tsp
Cilantro /coriander leaves for garnish
- Slit open the chillies/peppers and scoop out the seeds and soak them in salted water (helps in reducing heat)
- Soak Poppy seeds in just enough water and leave it for a while
- Dry Roast coconut for half a minute or so and take care not to turn it brown. Transfer it to a plate and let it cool.
- In the same Pan/kadai roast corainder seeds, cumin, split chickpeas / chana dal, red chillies and onion
- Roast sesame seeds separately (they splatter so keep the flame low)
- Fine grind the sesame seeds and then add the rest of the roasted spices, ginger, garlic, coconut, curry leaves, tamarind pulp and prepare a smooth paste.
- Grind the soaked poppy seeds (separately) into a smooth paste (poppy seeds tend to remain coarse if ground along with other spices)
- Drain the chillies (from the salted water) and use clean kitchen towel to pat them dry
- Pour 1 tsp oil in a kadai/wok/pan and saute chillies
Add salt, turmeric powder and hing(asafoetida) and cook until the chillies look done and masala looses raw smell
Garnish with cilantro/corainder leaves and serve with Biryani /flavoured rice or simple steamed rice
- Did you know that chilli/peppers used as flavouring agents and a spice, are basically classified as berries
- A simple ground rule to choosing chillies, the smaller the chilli, the hotter it is!
- Here is a brief guide to choosing your chilli based on the intensity of heat: HERE - chillipeppermadness.
- (Chillies is the spice and not the Chilli recipe famous in the Americas.)