Showing posts with label Srinagar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Srinagar. Show all posts

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.

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