Friday, November 02, 2007

Mirchi ka Salan

Ever since I wrapped up the Indian Vegetables series, I have been slacking off as far as trying new Indian vegetable recipes is concerned. This is such a pity, because one lifetime is already too short to learn all the recipes out there, and I really should not be wasting time! This week, I tried an iconic dish from the city of Hyderabad in India. Mirchi ka salan consists of bell pepper strips cooked in a tangy sesame seed sauce.

The recipe comes from a "new" cookbook I have acquired: Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India. I say "new" because although new to me, this book was first published in 1985 and is currently out of print! I read about this book on Anita's blog and knew right away that I wanted to read it and cook from it. Having no luck finding a copy in the local library, I used a gift card given by my darling friend Sujayita (yes, I am so spoiled!) and found a copy online. The recipe calls for green peppers (bell peppers/ capsicums). I used a mixture of green peppers and red peppers for this dish and was very pleased with the sweet and delicately smoky flavor contributed by the red peppers. It also made the dish quite colorful and festive. Of course, one could use any peppers that are available. Don't skip the lemon juice; from what I can tell, it really pulls the flavors of this dish together.

Mirchi ka Salan

(Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India, makes about 4 servings)
3 medium-large green peppers
2 medium-large red peppers
1/2 C sesame seeds
1 t desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
2 T oil (I use peanut oil)
1/2 t nigella seeds/ kalonji
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 green chillies, chopped fine
1/2 t red chilli powder (or to taste)
salt to taste
1/2 lemon, freshly juiced
1. Grind the sesame seeds and desiccated coconut into a fine powder in a spice grinder.
2. Cut the peppers into thick slices.
3. Heat 1 T oil in a heavy pan. Fry the pepper strips on medium-high heat until charred at the edges and slightly wilted. Remove them and set them aside.
4. Heat 1 T oil in the same pan. Temper it with nigella seeds, mustard seeds and cumin.
5. Saute the onion and chillies until the onions are transluscent (but not browned).
6. Add the salt, red chilli powder and sesame-coconut powder and saute for a few minutes.
7. Add a cup of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, simmer for a couple of minutes more, then turn off the heat.
8. Stir in the lemon juice before serving.

This is a delicious way to eat those nutritious peppers! The sesame seed paste gives a very pleasantly bitter, rich, grown-up flavor to the vegetables; very enjoyable. For a well-known classic, this dish came together in minutes. I would love to experiment with this recipe- using other vegetables to make some non-classic variations. I imagine some fleshy (for lack of a more appetizing word!) veggies like ridge gourds and zucchini would be delicious in this sauce. Other chillies like poblano peppers would also work beautifully, I think.

I wanted to make some piping hot parathas to go with the vegetable dish. Putting together a use-it-or-lose-it bunch of wilting scallions (also called green onions and spring onions) from the refrigerator and this recipe for Chinese scallion hot cakes, I improvised a scallion paratha. I made some regular roti dough and minced the green and white parts of the scallion. Then, using Gattina's beautiful pictorial instructions, I made the scallion parathas: roll out the dough into a medium circle, sprinkle with scallions, roll into a tube, coil the tube up, flatten and roll again. It helps a great deal if the scallions are very finely minced. Once griddle-baked, these parathas were flaky and delicious, a nice change from the usual plain paratha that I make.

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My October article for the Daily Tiffin: Gifts from the Heart. Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Oh goody - another wonderful meal to try! I still have yet to try making naan, but that may have to wait until I try this paratha :) I remember trying (and loving) a scallion pancake on a long-ago visit to San Francisco...

  2. Oh yum, Nupur! Mirchi ka salan looks really beautiful with the two colored peppers. I haven't tried this (so lazy about grinding seeds - what a lame excuse) but that book is a beauty. That was the first Indian cookbook I owned, and I have read it over and over -- I never tire of the lovely photos and little anecdotes and history lessons interspersed. I'm glad you found a copy :)

    Parathas look delicious too!

  3. I came here with great expectations, and of course, was not disappointed! I LOVE Madhur Jaffrey's books, their chatty tone and interesting tidbits of information. Both recipes look great, will certainly try them soon. Thanks!

  4. I tried a similar version od Mirchi ka salan too (JFI- Mirchi!!)
    Madhur Jaffrey's version is slightly dis=ferent, or maybe the other versions I have seen are different! The`ones I came across spoke of using regular Mirchi... HOT stuff eh? and inthe spice mix, an addition of clove and cinnamon.. Hotter and hotter!!!
    Have tried that version and it is awesome too!!
    The parathas look yum!!

  5. Recipe looks an absolute must-try! But you know I've only had this with normal chillies- the longer ones. Do you know which one is authentic?

  6. I know you are going to love that cookbook - it is full of everyday-kind of preparations from all over India; everything I try from it becomes a family favourite!

    That salan looks so good! And those paranthas could perk any meal up! I make those when I make labdhare aloo from the same book!

  7. Ok, you totally got my attention with this - Mirchi ka Salan is one of my all time favorite dishes! And I'm always looking for variations/improvements - am definitely going to try this one!

    Yay Nupur :)

  8. No peanut but kalonji, that's really unusual. I've known this salan to be a mix of poppy seed, dry coconut, peanut, tamarind and sesame seed.

  9. Nupur,
    mouth watering I love mirchi ka salan.

  10. Nupur love the combination, i have tried mirchi ka salan with bananna pepppers tastes great.

  11. I have seen that book in the local library. I love peppers in everything. Nice recipe and nice pairing with the parathas.Have a great weekend too!

  12. Cathy, I love scallion pancakes in Chinese dim sum places too!! This tastes quite different, with the whole wheat dough...but is tasty in its own way :)

    Linda, really? Your first Indian cookbook! It really is a gem, with the photos and travel that you mention. I am glad I found a copy before they all vanished.

    Kamini, Yes, she is definitely one of my favorite cookbook authors! And her recipes always seem to work for me.

    Manasi, see, the regular mirchi version would be considered quite inedible in my home. Neither V nor I like mouth-searing heat. I want to eat this dish as a vegetable, and not taste it like it is a pickle :) I just checked out your version and it looks delicious! I am going to try it your way next time for sure :)

    Shvetha, I am quite sure that the version with the normal chillies is the authentic one. Problem is, not all people can stomach those levels of heat :) This version from MJ is good for wimps like me and V ;)
    An alternative would be to use a mixture of normal chillies and bell peppers.

    Anita, thanks so much for introducing me to this book! I do love it already, and will be trying those ladbhare aloo soon. And the qabooli. and...

    KayKat, this version may not be very authentic (just to warn you) but calls for easily available ingredients and does taste delicious (although...what do I know about Hyderabadi food?) :D
    Yay for KAY(kat) :)

    Sra, the author does say that there are hundreds of recipes for this dish, but proceeds to write this simple version. Next time I will certainly make it with peanut and tamarind, and perhaps keep the kalonji :)

    Sreelu, I love it too! Can't believe it too me so long to try this delicious dish.

    Madhu, banana peppers...that would be another version that goes on my to-try list!!

    Swapna, the book is worth checking out! I love peppers in everything too :)

  13. I found this wonderful book at a yard sale, and I feel so lucky to have it. This recipe is one I haven't yet tried, so I will try your adaptation of it first.

  14. Nupur, I saw the book in my local Borders or maybe the library, well anyway the colorful recipe looks gorgeous and those parathas too yum, after the frost we had last week bittergourd and eggplants are almost gone but remember my Green Diamond from the trash the Bell Pepper is doing just fine so I might make this soon.

  15. I have read about "Mirch Ka Salan" in so many blogs. This receipe is so tempting as I have never cooked predominantly with sesame seeds. Got to try it this week.

  16. Being a Hyderabadi, I just loved the rich Mirchi Ka Salan Nupur...:D will check out for the cookbook too.. hopefully will find one copy..:D

  17. That's one really HOT dish, Nupur :). Love the mirchi ka salan. i think the use of til must have given such a yummy flavor to this whole dish, na. Save the left overs for me :-D (as if there will be any) he he. And i love scallion paranthas too, they just rock with these kind of sabzis! hunger pangs, dear-ab kya karun :-D.

  18. How are the other recipes in this book Nupur? I am planning on buying one Madhur Jaffrey's book. Want to start small. World Vegetarian is kinda vast. What would you recommend?

  19. Looks yumm Nupur! The parathas look really delicious too! I use whole anaheim or serano jalepenos for mirchi ka salan and they taste pretty good. Should try the variety of bell peppers next time.

  20. I love you and your blog Nupur, but that is not Hyderabadi mirchi ka salan :(
    It is a thick gravy made with sesame, cumin, coconut and peanut...and the chiles used are left whole.
    Madhur Jaffrey's version is totally wrong..I'm sure the salan must have tasted great but it's not authentic.
    P.S: I hope I'm not offending you...

  21. Hey Nupur, nice recipe. I tried this yesterday with one minor change and it was yummy. Most other recipes I saw online, had peanuts, so I added those to the sesame/coconut. I also saw that most recipes have a gravy but yours was a great 'sukhi sabji'. I added potatoes since I didn't have enough peppers. The lemon adds to the taste for sure. Next time I make it, I might forego the frying of the peppers since the combined oil from the pepper, coconut, and sesame seeds makes it a little too oily for my taste. But overall, great recipe!

  22. Yum parathas. Could you please link to Gattina's instructions


  23. Lydia, now that was a lucky find!! I think you might find more authentic versions of this dish elsewhere, but we enjoyed it very much!

    Indo, the green diamond sounds delicious! You and your green fingers...sheer inspiration!

    Redchillies, sesame seeds are an awesome ingredient...totally worth a try as a main ingredient in a dish!

    Siri, if you are a Hyderabadi, then you know much more about this salan and hardly need a recipe! But the book is awesome for many tasty dishes from all over India :)

    Musical, hunger pangs...I know the feeling when you are gazing at the screen and the tummy growls :D hazards of blog-watching ;)

    Suganya, I would still recommend world veg if you have to choose just one of the two, because this book has lots of meat and seafood dishes (not much use to vegetarians), and focuses on travel and culture as much as food.

    Latha, I'm going to try those chillies next time! Sounds delicious!

    Nabeela, since I don't know anything about Hyderabad, I am sure you will excuse my lapse :)

    Sumedha, thanks so much for your feedback! Your version sounds delicious! I think the authentic version uses tamarind instead of lemon. You know, the original recipe called for 1/2 cup oil!!

    Dee, the link is already there. Click on "Chinese scallion hot cakes".

  24. PS: i just realized that you can use the same recipe and make 'wangyachi bhaaji' in the same way... Some what similar to the marathi bharli wangi recipe. (or at least one version of it)

  25. Accidentally stumbled into your site, glad I did. I love the MKS with Banana peppers (like Madhu noted) and also with Jalapenos (most seeds cored out to take the spice out)...


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