Mirchi Ka Salan Recipe
I just learned how to make a variant of mirchi ka salan by Sheerin Auntie, who came to visit us during winter break week. This version is made with only white sesame seeds and originated from the region of Lucknow (Lakhnau) where Abbi, my husband Lulu's late grandfather was born. The previous version was taught by Baji (Lulu's late grandmother); they lived in Hyderabad where mirchi ka salan is made with peanut, fresh coconut and sesame.
The sesame seed variant is quite a bit milder. The sesame seeds are blended into a thick paste (tahini), then added to cumin-flavored oil (baghar). Whole chile peppers are cooked in the sesame mixture until softened. A drizzle of lemon juice finishes the dish. It's as simple as that. Prior to cooking the mirchi ("chiles" in Urdu), I had to be brave and estimate the level of spiciness of the peppers. If the heat is too fiery, you could cut a longitudinal slit and remove the seeds and more of the sesame sauce will enter in the cavity of the chiles for a milder taste.
Yields: 6 servings2 pounds Anaheim chiles, whole
4 cloves garlic
3/4 cup white sesame seeds, raw
3 tablespoons water, as needed
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, slightly toasted
1/3 teaspoon mustard seeds
6 fresh curry leaves, cut in thirds
½ teaspoon salt
Making sesame paste:
Grind the sesame seeds in a blender (I add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water for a smoother flow). The sesame seeds should turn into a thick paste (similar to tahini).
Making til ("sesame" in Urdu) sauce:
Crush and mince the garlic cloves.
Prepare the baghar. In a deep saucepan, heat the canola oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds. The cumin seeds will start popping and turn lightly brown in the hot oil. Add the garlic and curry leaves. Pause for about 1 minute (the flavor of the garlic will infuse in the oil), then filter the hot oil and spices in a a fine-mesh strainer. Remove and discards any solids (spices and leaves).
Return the infused oil in the deep saucepan. Add the whole chile peppers with the sesame paste. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 2-3 minutes until the chiles are softened (they cook very fast). Do not over-cook otherwise the chiles might fall apart. Check the seasoning. Add salt.
Squeeze out the juice of 4 lemons into the mirchi ka salan to finish. Cover and let sit until you're ready to serve.
Serve warm with roti (Indian flat bread).
The quantity of green chiles varies with the level of heat. Make sure to test the spiciness of the chiles by biting a piece prior to cooking. I used Anaheim peppers which are mildly hot; you can decide on the level of spiciness by using hotter peppers such as Serrano peppers. If you're really masochistic, habanero or scotch bonnets would work as well. On the other hand, if you're like me and can't handle spicy food, you could use green bell peppers or eggplant ("baingan" in Urdu) instead.
I always try to add as little water as possible when blending the sesame seeds. The water will splatter in every direction when in contact with the hot oil. To avoid splattering in the pan, cover with a splattering screen or a lid.
Baghar is a very common step in many Indian dishes.
You can find all the ingredients listed above in most Indian stores.
Published By: on February 26, 2011.