Are you familiar with Hyderabadi cuisine? Even if you are not familiar with South Asian food, you must have heard of the sensuousHyderabadi Dum Biryani , (a layered, spicy, rice and meat dish) and probably of the lush Shahi Tukray (fried bread slices, soaked in condensed saffron milk). Knowing just these two dishes paints a pretty clear picture of how rich and royal the cuisine is. But Hyderabadi cuisine is a lot more than just Biryani and Shahi Tukray.
The Nawabs of Hyderabad
Also known as Deccani cuisine, it is the princely legacy of the Nizams of Hyderabad State, known for their refined taste and their patronage of art and culture. They combined the influences from Mughal, Turkish, and Arabic cultures with native Telugu and Marathwada style cooking to create dishes unmatchable in flavour, aroma and variety. The prominent flavours are of coconut, tamarind, peanuts and sesame seeds with generous use of chillies (dried whole, ground and fresh). Although it’s considered a cuisine heavy on rice, wheat and meat dishes but actually many Vegetarian Dishes are prepared with equal reverence and love. Mirchi ka Salan is one of them.
Mirchi ka Salan
Just thinking about this unique and exotic curry makes me salivate big time! The main ingredient of Hyderabadi Mirchi ka Salan and the star of the show are long, juicy and sensational green chilli peppers.This very delicious side dish is one of the most popular of vegetarian Hyderabadi dishes on restaurant menus. Fried green chillies in a tangy, creamy and nutty sauce give an instant flavour boost to any simple meal and make a festive meal more royal.
The Intricate Method
I have always been fond of this Hyderabadi Hyderabadi delicacy a lot but the way it was prepared in my family was so ceremonious and most recipes that I found required changing pans and divided the procedure in such complicated steps that it put me off trying it out for a long time. I think the traditional belief that there is no short cut to good cooking diverts many busy home makers to ordering food at take aways or eating out if their family feels like eating something special. With no disrespect intended to the royal chefs of Hyderabad, and without any compromise on taste, I ventured to try it my easier way.
My Shortcut Version
Well, you know me! I have no patience for doing extra dishes if I can avoid and I want my food cooked quickly and still be tasty. So I have once again converted the recipe to one pan with easy steps to follow. Now I can cook Hyderabadi Mirchi ka Salan often and satisfy my craving for the rich and delicious hot curry in minutes.
1/4 kg long green chilli peppers
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 inch piece ginger
3 tablespoons tamarind paste
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut, dried or fresh
2 tablespoons peanuts or poppy seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (zeera)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (dhania)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds ( rai)
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (klonji)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (Methi daana)
1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
Salt to taste
This Is a What You Do:
Heat a deep frying pan on medium low heat. Add dried coconut, peanuts, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds and red chilli flakes. Toast all these dry spices for a minute or till aromatic. Don’t let them burn. Remove from pan and set aside.
In the same pan heat oil, add sliced onion and fry till golden brown. Remove from heat. Scoop the fried onion out of oil.
Add fried onions, garlic, ginger, tamarind and all the toasted spices to the blender. Add a little water ( 1/4 cup) to make a smooth paste.
Slit the green chilli peppers lengthwise in a way that they stay joined at the top. Remove seeds and fibre inside if you want to reduce the heat.
Fry the green chilli peppers in the remaining oil in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and cover the pan to avoid oil splatters all over your stove. Fry till just tender but still retain their colour.
Remove the chillies from oil. Add the masala paste and cook for 7-8 minutes or till the masala separates from oil. Add water to get the required consistency of the curry. Add fried chilli peppers and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Serve hot as a side with Qabooli Biryani or any vegetarian or non vegetarian dish.