Jan 10, 2016

Ingredients: Kashmiri Mirch

From the westernmost Himalayan vale of Kashmir comes the brilliant red chili essential to many a Subcontinental savory dish, Kashmiri mirch:


Here you can see the dried red peppers known as Kashmiri mirch in large sacks being sold in Kashmir.
The salesman looks a lot like my brother in law, complete with cigarette in one hand and cell phone in the other. The baskets in the lower left hand corner contain a variety of Kashmiri shallots that are commonly dried for use called praan. Looks like my brother in law's clone is selling garlic and possibly some pants too.


This Kashmiri beauty is spreading the brilliant red peppers out to dry in the unused parking lot of a derelict sports stadium in Srinagar. As you can tell by the poplar trees on the left which have lost most of their leaves, this drying process takes place during the early autumn season. 

ingredient kashmiri mirch indian chili red spice

By now you're probably wondering what is so unique about this chili pepper? Well, in a nutshell it's milder in heat than cayenne but richer in flavor than paprika. Kashmiri mirch is not only flavorsome, but is what imparts the vibrant red color desired in tandoori dishes, curries, and some savory chutneys. The mild, almost Mediterranean climate of Kashmir's valleys give these peppers their unique flavor.
ingredient kashmiri mirch indian chili red spice

The Mughals spent their summers in Kashmir's famed lakeside gardens of Shalimar and Nishat bringing their rich and royal cuisine with them. Portuguese traders introduced chili peppers to the Subcontinent in 1498. Chili peppers became quite popular across Asia even supplanting the use of the native black pepper. The Mughals loved hot and spicy dishes flavored with the exotic crimson chilis from the New World. Much of Kashmir's cuisine is directly from the Mughal court and therefore is quite different from most of the regional cuisines of India.


What to look for when buying Kashmiri mirch:
There are several good Indian brands of Kashmiri mirch. "Kanwal" is the best, as it's actually made in Kashmir, but you probably won't find that in western countries easily. The Delhi based brands "MDH", "Everest", and "Catch" are also excellent quality and are readily found in most Indian markets in western countries. Do not confuse Kashmiri Mirch with what is called Deggi mirch, it looks similar but is a different type of chilis that's more like cayenne powder.

ingredient kashmiri mirch indian chili red spice
Helpful hints:
If you can't find Kashmiri mirch or don't have any on hand a good substitute is a blend of half paprika and half cayenne powder.

Kashmiri mirch burns easily and when scorched it has an unpleasant bitter flavor. That is why Kashmiri mirch is usually mixed with yogurt or water before adding to a dish, or added towards the end of cooking a dish to prevent burning.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tip. I wasn't aware it burnt so easily, simply thought it was milder in taste compared to the degi mirch. I just bought a pack for the first time and today I see a post on kashmiri mirch. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Zainab,
      Kashmiri mirch is milder in heat than Deggi mirch, but it has a richer flavor & color.
      I've never burnt Kashmiri mirch but I have found that people who are new to cooking Desi dishes often make the mistake of tossing it into hot oil & frying it for too long - ending up with a 'scorched' flavor to their dish.
      Cumin burns faster than a lot of other spices too.
      Once you get that 'scorched' flavor in a dish there's not really anything you can do to correct it.

      Delete
  2. I'll keep my eye out for this. We have several good markets and they all seem to carry different things (one place has fresh curry leaves, the other has mutton pickle, etc.). Someone will likely have Kashmiri mirch (or know where to get it). I run through large quantities of paprika in my cooking, so having something that combines a bit of heat with the flavour would be welcome. Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Goody,
      I can't even get fresh curry leaves here in Nepal! Dried curry leaves are horrid.
      Kashmiri mirch is such a staple in Indian & Pakistani dishes I'm sure you'll be able to find it easily in the US.

      Delete
  3. I'll keep an eye out for it - if nowhere else has it, Mac will (or will get it). I've only really tried different chillies for Mexican cooking, never for Asian.

    ReplyDelete

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