SHADES OF RED: Types of Chilies and their importance in Indian Culinary
A must in every Indian curry, chili is famous for its pungency and is the most common spice cultivated in India. Despite of the consequences, chili is one ingredient the world craves for to kick its taste buds. All Indians must be proud that our country is the only source for hot chilies with wide variants. Extensively used as spice in most curries, they are main ingredient in curry powder and in seasoning.
Inherent part of Indian family meals
The right time for chili saplings to thrive is on monsoon. After few months, they grow to matured chilies and are ready for picking. They’re plucked when green in color and changes to red towards the end of harvest. Later they’re allowed to ripe; sun dried, and are used as seasoning agent for the entire year.
Out of all the states in India, Andhra is the most popular one for red chilies. The pandu mirapakaya nivala pachadi is quite famous in Telugu and tastes as scorching as it looks. This dish is a home-made family delicacy handed down generations. As summer heat subsides, the typical South Indian family will reach across the table for a spoonful of this mouthwatering condiment to go with curd rice/normal rice. A spoon of this to white rice on place gives a marble pattern on white resembling an abstract painting.
Coming to North side of India, there is no dining table without a bunch of chilies and lemon in a katori. Although North Indian foods are fusion of Indian and Persian cuisine by the Mughals, most of them are spicy. Sounds funny? Here is the story. Mughal emperor, Babur, is a true food lover that he tried to establish a royal cuisine by training Indian chefs to prepare Persian dishes with locally available spices and ingredients. However, the climate of India was too different from that of his homeland –Uzbekistan. This was a major problem to the establishment of his royal cuisines as India was much hotter and the food prepared would go bad soon. And the solution to this problem was spicing it up. The science that spices prevent our food from spoilage was applied in India back in the time of Mughals as bacteria and pathogens cannot survive in hot environment. This marks the birth of spicy foods in Northern India. India is a country with hotter climate and has spicy cuisine.
Apart from the taste and its importance in Indian meals, they’re a good source of income to Indian economy. Due to high demand of Indian red chilies, the chilies grown in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are exported to other countries by many companies. According to recent market research, India’s top spice exporting company Eastern Condiments (Eastern curry powders) holds the major share in 36.7 per cent of 37 million tons of world chili production. Eastern chili powder is the best seller in market just because of its quality. They’re manufactured in such a way that, the essence and flavour of red chilies are locked during the processing of chilies. Eastern curry powders have won the Top Most Exporter of Curry Powder by Spices Board of India for 18 years consecutively. Spreading the aroma of spices, Eastern powder products has consistently met international quality standards. Guntur chilies, premium red chilies from Andhra Pradesh are used as a main ingredient in Eastern Sambar powder making their curry powder unique from other masalas available in the market. But wait, these chilies are not only high in pungency; they’re exported to other countries for its great health value. Scroll down to know more exciting stories of Indian red chilies scroll down.
1. Bhoot Jolokia/ Ghost Pepper, Assam
Proclaimed to be the hottest chilli on the planet, Bhoot Jolokia has its origin in Assam. A little amount of formidable hot Jolokia is enough to bring up the heat. If you are a true lover of hot and spicy food, then you must attempt tasting the Bhoot Jolokia at least once in a lifetime. Referred to as ‘Ghost Pepper’, they have a very interesting story behind. As per the locals of Assam, these chilies used to grow in jungles long back. Elephants crossing that part of jungle, where the Bhoot Jolokia was densely packed, would suddenly run scattered as if they have seen a ghost. The intense smell of chillies affected them, leading to those chillies being associated with ghosts and hence the name ‘Ghost Pepper.’ The heat of Bhoot Jolokia will kick in only after 50 seconds resulting watery eyes, hiccups and shortness of breath.
2. Kashmiri Red Chili, Kashmir
Kashmiri Chillies are famous for its rich wine red colour. It gives flavour to curries and is not so spicy. Apart from colour, it has a high content of Vitamin A and C which boost immunity. A staple chilli for Indian cooking, they are loved for red hue and eatable mild heat. The roasted Kashmiri chilli spreads an exotic aroma. They can be used as a colour addictive as well as flavour enhancer. Grown in temperate regions, now they are not exclusive to Kashmir, are also grown in Himalayas and Telangana. With a lovely fruity undertone, Kashmiri chilli is the most exported chilli from India.
3. Guntur Red Chili, Andhra Pradesh
Guntur Chilli is hot to handle with high pungency. Famed for its colour and flavour, they originate from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Rich in capsaicin, Guntur chillies are dark red in colour. Guntur Chillies are exported to all over the world due to its health value. It can help boost energy production and increase antioxidant defense. Almost every popular dish in Andhra Cuisine contains a hand full of Guntur Chillies making it hard to resist tasting.
4. Byadagi Chilli, Karnataka
Very dark red in colour, Byadagi Chilli is a famous chilli from Karnataka. Widely used in South Indian Cuisine, they give deep red colour with mild spice. The extractable red pigment from the Byadagi Chilli, oleoresin is used in making cosmetic products like nail polish and lipstick. They are used an important ingredient in many spicy food preparation. Depending on the size, shape and seeds, Byadagi Chilli comes in two different types: Dabbi and Kabbi.
5. Birds eye Chilli, North East
Bird’s eye chilli is one among the 10 hottest chilli peppers in the world. Very small in size, they make you extremely alert. They have a key role in nutrition and health as well. Bird’s eye chilli helps in reducing cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar level. The ripened chillies appears to look like the eye of a bird and hence the name Bird’s eye chilli. They are 20 times hotter than Jalapeno chillies.
Adding a spoon of red chilli powder can do magic on your dishes. If you’re a real spice lover, do try all the varieties of Indian chilies and share your feedback.