Showing posts with label chili. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chili. Show all posts

Dec 14, 2016

Nimbu-Mirchi Totka

If you come to India or Nepal you will see nimbu-mirchi totkas consisting of chilis and limes hanging on a string over doorways everywhere. Nimbu means lime, mirchi means chilis, and a totka is a sort of charm to ward off evils. Displaying the nimbu-mirchi is an ancient Hindu practice that you'll see not only over doorways, but also adorning vehicles and dangling from portraits of beloved ancestors and politicians.

Unknown Bollywood starlet chatting with nimbu-mirchi sellers.
The custom of tying limes and chilis on a thread and hung outside the door or on a vehicle is intended to distract the inauspicious Hindu goddess called Alakshmi or Jayestha. Alakshmi is the older sister of the very auspicious goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Alakshmi is said to bring poverty, strife, mayhem, discord, misfortune, barrenness, strife, jealousy, malice, hardship and ruination where ever she goes. She plants distrust and misunderstanding among family members, friends, and relatives. She is often depicted as a withered hag or a dark skinned woman with pendulous belly and breasts enthroned or astride a donkey and accompanied by crows or an owl. Alakshmi also loves to eat hot, sour, and pungent things. The hope is that the nimbu-mirchi will avert Alakshmi's inauspicious attentions and she'll continue on her devastating way.

Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth with an owl.
Interestingly, you will often the goddess of wealth Lakshmi pictured with an owl. Owls represent arrogance and willful ignorance in Hindu culture. The owl in Lakshmi's beneficent presence represents a warning that wherever she goes so does Alakshmi and her misfortune. The message is to beware of the potential for calamity that may accompany Lakshmi's blessings if both goddesses are not propitiated properly. It's sort of the Hindu version of the Western proverb, "Pride goeth before a fall." Meaning that if you're too boastful and self-important, something bad will inevitably happen.


You can easily make your own nimbu-mirchi totka! All you need is black thread, a needle, seven green chillies and one ripe yellow lime. Take a needle and the thread and tie a thick knot, a black stone, or piece of charcoal at the end. Pierce the threaded needle through the lime first and then through the seven green chillies. Depending on region the chilis and lemon can be strung in different order but there are usually seven chilis and one lemon per nimbu-mirchi wherever you go.


Preferably on a Saturday morning tie your nimbu-mirchi in center of the main door of your house or establishment. Take care that it does not interfere with the opening or closing of the door and movements of people. On vehicles you may attach the nimbu-mirchi to the front bumper, top center of the windshield, or near the wheel well on motorcycles or bicycles. The following Monday morning take the nimbu-mirchi down and throw it away from your house, establishment, or vehicle near to the roadside. Generally in busy marketplace areas the spent nimbu-mirchi is thrown on the road. This is not a good practice as whomever steps upon the discarded nimbu-mirchi imbibes all the bad effects accrued by it during the week. So when you visit crowded marketplaces beware of stepping on a discarded nimbu-mirchi!
Don't step on that!!!
If perchance you do happen to step upon a discarded nimbu-mirchi there is a special procedure to undo any ill effects. First, pick up the nimbu-mirchi with a piece of cloth or handkerchief. Then take it to a place of your choice and burn it while reciting this mantra to the goddess Lakshmi nine times. You must only touch the totka with the cloth and burn the cloth with the totka. Fire is believed to cleanse the negative energies accumulated in the nimbu-mirchi. The mantra is an appeal to the goddess Lakshmi to counter any adverse effects as well.
Should you feel you need a less perishable totka for your inauspicious problems nimbu-mirchis are available in more permanent forms also. The enameled metal nimbu-mirchi pictured above is featured in an online home furnishing company in India. Plastic, resin, and silicone nimbu-mirchis are  also available as key fobs, luggage tags, earrings, and necklaces. As if that weren't enough you can buy smartphone cases, t-shirts, tea sets, and umbrellas emblazoned with nimbu-mirchis too!

Sep 21, 2016

Bisbas Khudra (Yemeni Bell Pepper Chutney)

Bisbas Khudra  Yemeni Bell Pepper Chutney capsicum chili bell pepper cumin yemen easy recipe simple coriander

This zingy hot sauce recipe hails from Yemen. Khudra means green and bisbas means something spicy. Vibrant with the piquant flavors of peppers, cumin, coriander and garlic this chutney-like recipe packs a punch! Whip this delicious vegan dip up in minutes to accompany everything from tandoori to falafels.


A Yemeni friend I've known for years gave me this recipe a while back. Traditionally, it is made with a mortar and pestle but you know Bibi's going to run it through the mixie. I served it on Eid with the mutton and chicken kebabs we made on the barbecue and it was a hit! It works just as well as a vegan chutney with rice, rotis, and dal too. It's a great way to use up all those capsicum (bell peppers) that are in abundance this time of year in every market or garden.

Ingredients:
2 large bell peppers/capsicum, cleaned of seeds and pith and chopped roughly
2 to 3 hot green chilis/hari mirch
2 to 3 cloves of garlic/lahsun
1 to 2 dried red chilis, stems removed (or 1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch or cayenne powder)
1/2 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1 tsp ground coriander/dhania seeds
2 TBS olive oil or oil of choice
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Blend or grind all ingredients to a smooth emulsion in mixie, blender, food processor, or mortar and pestle. Salt to taste and keep in refrigerator in airtight container until ready to serve.

Bisbas Khudra  Yemeni Bell Pepper Chutney capsicum chili bell pepper cumin yemen easy recipe simple coriander


Bisbas Khudra  Yemeni Bell Pepper Chutney capsicum chili bell pepper cumin yemen easy recipe simple coriander

Helpful Hints:
If you find you've made this recipe too hot for your liking just stir in a few tablespoonfuls of yogurt to bring the heat down.

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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