All About Green Chillies

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Packing a Punch

Green Chilli is one of the vibrant spices that can single handedly change the taste profile of a dish from drab to fab.

If you are looking to add a zing into any dish, there is no better spice than green chilli. They are the heart and soul of any quintessential Indian meal and a small sliver can add depth of flavour and intensity to even the simplest of recipes. Adding it in the right proportion is all that you need to do to arouse the delectable aroma of a recipe and completely transform your dish. It also happens to be one of the major ingredients that are readily available all through the year.

Stuffed Chilli Gujrati style with chilli pickle and chilli chutney - Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore
Stuffed Chilli Gujrati style with chilli pickle and chilli chutney – Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore

Balancing Act

The secret is to ‘use them as you need them’. Chopping the chillies tends to give your dish a higher pungency level whereas slitting it tends to reduce the pungency of a dish. “In gravies, we puree the green chillies, even taking the seeds out sometimes to use them as a garnish against a contrasting background. To be honest, even thinking about cooking an Indian meal without adding a dash of green chillies to it would be termed as pure sacrilege. At The Leela Mumbai, we often use chopped green chillies while cooking as compared to the sliced or grounded form; but we always ensure that we add few green chillies to the dish to bring out that delicate balance of flavours. You will also find acclaimed chefs making good use of this humble ingredient in its grounded form to enhance the taste and aroma of the recipe,” says Chef Surender Mohan, Executive Chef, The Leela Mumbai. Good thing about the green chilli is that it is mostly used raw and can be eaten directly or added to the food in paste, chopped or sliced form; most of the Indian curries are garnished with sliced chilies. “In my opinion green chili taste even better when roasted dry, that gives nice flavor to it and makes it easy to peel of the skin. Chillies are known for their heat, which is caused by capsaicin, a potent chemical. The amount of capsaicin in a chilli determines its fieriness. Generally, the smaller the chilli, the hotter it is. Smaller chilies have a larger amount of seeds and vein than larger chillies as up to 80% of the capsaicin in a chilli is contained in its vein and seeds. You can always choose the type of chilli as per your choice and the level of spice required, removing seeds out of chilli also helps to cut down fieriness,” says Vineet Manocha, Head Chef, Lite Bite Foods.

Pic: Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences
Pic: Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences

Doing it Right

Green chillies vary from region to region. To pick the right one for the right dish and to gauge its hotness level before adding it to a dish according to an individual’s palate is an extremely tricky process. Green chillies can also cause your hands and parts of the body to burn when you are working with them. So it is best to make sure you wear gloves when you work with them and wash your hands thoroughly after you use them. Chef Manish Uniyal, Head Chef, Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore avers, “I use green chillies not just to bring in the heat to my food but also for its peppery note. The best way to do so is to by removing all the seeds, veins and pith after splitting it lengthwise and soaking it in milk. Infusing split chillies in neutral oil’s and specialty vinegar’s is another way of using them.” For the recipes which use a lot of chillies, acid from citrus fruits can counterbalance the spiciness. Dairy products like cream, milk is good to tone down the spice factor in a recipe. Coconut milk, though technically not dairy, can lend a great creaminess and cooling effect to your curries. Neelabh Sahay, Executive Chef, Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences says, “you can add some green chilli slits at the end of cooking which will impart a freshness and a bit of a pungent aroma to the dish. When using very hot chilli, you will need to turn up the volume on the salt and sour flavours too for a rounded and well-balanced taste.”

Choices and More

There are numerous varieties of green chillies that are available in the markets from the light green ones which are less spicy to the dark green ones which possess a high level of hotness. Green chillies are grown in large variety of cultivars all across the world, from Korean Shishitos to Spanish Padron they have found a firm place in numerous culinary traditions. Needless to say, India is one of the top producers of green chillies in the world and prides itself with exotic named varieties like Jwala, Agni Rekha and Ojaswi. “Consuming extremely hot chilly can not only burn the mouth from inside but can also cause acidity as well as heartburn. Ensuring that you wash your hands after touching chilly food items or plain chilies is a must. After you have handled chilies, do not touch your nose, eyes or mouth,” adds Sahay. As surprising as it may sound, green chillies are known to improve the immune system. They are also considered to be extremely good for your eyes due to their high Vitamin A content. Used right chillies can certainly impart a flavour like no other so chill with the chilli!

Achari Mirchi
Achari Mirchi Pic: Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences

Mirchi ka Achar – courtesy Neelabh Sahay, Executive Chef, Novotel Kolkata Hotel and Residences

Ingredients

  • 250 gms fresh long Green Chillies
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp of Kasundi
  • 250 ml mustard oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 Tsp Panch Phoron

For the Panch Phoron

  • 2 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)
  • 7-8 black pepper corn

Method

  • Wash fresh green chilies properly, wipe them with a clean dry cloth, and remove the stalks of chilies.
  • Roast the whole “masala” and grind it to a coarse texture.
  • Mix Salt, Lemon Juice, Vinegar, Kasundi turmeric and the ground spice mix with the green chili.
  • Pour the marinated chili in to a clean air tight tempered glass jar or ceramic martaban and keep it for a day.
  • The next day heat mustard oil in a pan and add the panch phoron.
  • When the panch phoron starts crackling pour the hot oil in the Chili Jar.
  • Keep the jar under the sunlight for 2-3 days and it is then ready to eat.

This story first appeared in Spice Route’s Jan-19 issue here:

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