Mirchi Ka Salan

March 22, 2007 at 3:46 PM (Andhra Pradesh, chiles and other capsicums, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, Hyderabad, India, vegetables/ fruits)


When I was in my sophomore year of college, the University opened a summer credit trip-course to India at a very reasonable price to its students. It was $1,100 for a one-week stay in Hyderabad, and this included airfare, a room at a villa, and all meals. I spoke to my parents immediately that night- they thought the experience would be very good- and I signed my name on the list the next day. A good friend of mine, who was a senior at the time, also decided to go. We were both very very excited at the upcoming summer adventure together.

After the deadline for registration had passed, the organizers found that they had far more people interested than they had anticipated, so they sent a letter to all of us explaining this dilemna, and that they had decided to start their new acceptance list with seniors, then juniors, etc. I was placed on the waiting list, lest anyone cancel.

I was never contacted. So, my friend went alone. I was very very disappointed, but still I wished her a wonderful time. And she did have a wonderful time. They toured the city and saw many examples of fine historical architecture, learned a few things about it’s mostly Muslim denizens, and did some shopping!

Upon her return, she presented me with three gifts, which I was not expecting at all: a framed lustrous metallic print of Krishna, a sari, and a tiny cookbook called Mirch Masala- One hundred Indian Recipes.

I have never made anything from this book. Isn’t that strange? My other Indian cookbooks are looking a bit bedraggled from frequent use; this one looks just as it was the day I received it. I hadn’t even thought about it for many years until tonight, after I had made the dish I am about to show you! I am looking at the cover right now, and the price tag says “20.00 Rs Orient Longman”. The introduction is fascinating, as it tells of a woman named Surayya Tyabji, who was a grandchild of a certain Lady Amena Hyderi, a “hostess of the old regime”. Surayya was a great collector of recipes from all over India, and this “distillation” to 100 recipes was her first and only cookbook.

I shall keep this book close at hand from now on!

A few weeks ago I spotted a post for mirchi ka salan on another blog. I had intended to go back and retrieve the recipe, but I could not remember where I had seen it, nor the accurate title. After some futile searching through my links, I gave up, and typed into the search engine the parts of the title I could remember. I copied down 8 different recipes, and chose this one from Daawat.com to try first. The reason? It had more ingredients than the others!

Well, let me tell you… unless you know this already… most of the work of this dish is in the preparation. Of course it would have been easier if I hadn’t just run out of garam masala, which in itself would have been easy enough to remedy had not my little coffee grinder that I use for mass spice-grinding recently died; I had no other option but to use the mortar-and-pestle, which I usually use for smaller quantities, such as that which would go into a single dish. I had run out of garlic, but I had ginger. I went shopping to fetch this and the peanuts. I returned and continued prepping. It was then that I discovered that my ginger was…er…let’s say unusable…

An hour or so later, and everything was in order as you can see. Or was it?


I re-read the recipe a few times and it suddenly struck me as very odd that the peanut-sesame seed/coconut mixture was not roasted in any way. I tasted the smooth-as-possible-for-my-resources paste. Predictably quite raw-tasting. I then made a mad dash to my study to read over the other 7 recipes. The nuts and seeds are most definitely to be roasted…Oh dear! Well………..okay. That leaves me with two options: the first you can guess on your own. I opted for the second. It was worth a try…..nothing to lose at this point. I knew that if I constantly stirred this mess and added a bit of oil, eventually the water I had added during the grinding would evaporate, the oils would begin to be released and the roasting would commence and hopefully I could maintain control over a roasting paste….

45 minutes, my hands aching, and two pans later I had a golden-brown and fragrant, fine grain-like mixture. I dumped this into a bowl, wiped my wok clean(yeah, I know I need a kerai). Then I took a coffee and smoke break.

You don’t need to do this, as you are going to be wise and do your roasting before your grinding.

The only addition I have made to this recipe was the hing. Other recipes for this dish require it and I am quite taken with  the spice.  Oh….and by the way, apparantly Mirch masala contains an excellent recipe for this dish as well. It’s a small, small world…

Mirchi Ka Salan

Ghee, oil, or a mixture of both

2 t black mustard seeds/sarson

1 T kalonji

1 t fenugreek seeds/methi

A judicious pinch of asafoetida/hing

1 to 1 1/2 lbs green, thick-walled chiles, such as jalapenos, sliced diagonally into 2 or 3 sections, stems intact

2 stalks of curry leaves/kari patta

2 heaping T of ginger-garlic paste/lehsun-adrak

1 t red chiles, ground

1 1/2 t ground turmeric/haldi

2 T ground coriander seed/dhania

2 T ground cumin seeds/zheera

2 t garam masala

1 1/2 C sesame/til seeds, dry roasted

1 C ground-nuts/peanuts, roasted in a little oil

2 C grated fresh coconut, lightly roasted

3-4 C water


tamarind/imli paste

1 C chopped coriander/cilantro leaves/dhania patta

0)Make a smooth paste of the roasted sesame seeds, peanuts, and coconut. Set aside, and have all ingredients prepared and at the ready.

1)Heat ghee/oil in a wok/kerai over a low heat and fry mustard seeds, kalonji, and fenugreek seeds until the fenugreek turns a shade darker(be wary of the popping mustard seeds). Add asafoetida and fry for a few seconds.

2)Add the sliced green chiles and curry leaves, turn up the heat a bit, and fry for a few minutes, turning constantly, until the chiles are well-saturated with the oil. Add more oil if needed.

3)Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for 2 minutes more, turning constantly, until the raw smell disappears from the paste.

4)Add the ground chiles, turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin, and garam masala and fry for a minute or two more, until deliciously fragrant, again turning constantly.

5)Add the sesame seed/peanut/coconut paste and turn to combine these well with the chiles and spices.

6)Add the water and salt to taste and bring to a gentle boil. Stir frequently to avoid sticking and cook until the chiles are just tender.

7)Add tamarind paste to taste and balance the subtle sweetness of the sauce. Cook for 5 minutes more, adding a little water if needed, but aim for a thick, but still mobile gravy.

8)Check salt level, and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.


Notes and afterthoughts: This is a very rich, luxurious, and sensual dish. I have read that this is a variation of the classic Hyderabadi dish, baghara baigan, but I have suspicions that it has taken a life and standing of its own, despite its conception as a spin-off. The occasional bites containing the fenugreek seeds add a surprise of bitterness to a delicately sweet-sour sauce. Obviously, it is hot as well, but not unpleasantly so, and would be a treasured recipe for any chile aficionado… This could also be made using sweet green bell peppers/capsicums for a mild version of this classic dish. This is most often served as an accompaniment to Hyderabadi biryanis, but is also delicious with plain rice or roti, and I suggest serving it with an array of lighter dishes to offset its richness. Your guests will find delight in every mouthful!



  1. Manisha said,

    Oh I feel your disappointment at not being contacted! You can go now, you know! And, i am sure there will be at least one person in each city to show you around. Definitely in Delhi!

    Treasure your Mirch Masala. Some of the best recipes come from books that are out of print or not available today. I looked up Mirch Masala and it’s not available on Amazon, but is available from Orient Longman, the publishers. Apparently it was first published in 1975! It only costs Rs. 75 now. Which I find amazing.

    You know I’ve only ever just looked at and drooled over mirchi ka salan but have never made it! I have another salan bookmarked and that is Nabeela’s tamatar ka salan. Need to make both these!

    Sorry this was posted late; it ended up in the spam pile from the hyperlinks I guess. Thanks for the link; I will book-mark it to try!

    • Madhu said,

      Iam new to this blogging and it sounds like so much fun reading all these comments. I would like to ask if i can join ur blog. keep making it fun.

      • elaichietcetera said,

        You are more than welcome to join in the conversations. Things are a bit slow right now, but they’ll pick up again!

  2. shilpa said,

    Another master piece from you :). I am sad to know you missed the chance to go to India. But you should go sometime. The main expenses will be the airfare. Nothing else is very expensive.

    Mirchi ka salan is one of my to-be-posted recipe for a long time now. Somehow kept on postponing it. You have inspired me to try it again :). You pick up the longest recipes? thats very strange :D.

    I liked the second picture very much. Looks like a classic Indian kitchen with those set of utensils.

    I do plan on going in a few years. I think at this age now I will enjoy it more than I would have when I was younger- so it’s a good thing! And in the time that has passed, my passion has grown stronger, as well as some knowledge of the different cities and states.

    You must try this dish Shilpa; it would be difficult to make this in a low-fat way, but if made a day or two in advance, and also served with several other dishes- some with raw fruits or vegetables and no oil, this would not be a big problem!

    Yes…I like challenging recipes once in a while….I remember the first recipe my sister and I made up together: Take an apple, cut in two pieces and take out the core. Top each half with whipped cream, sprinkle with sliced almonds. “Apple Supreme” we called it… 🙂

    I’m glad you liked the picture….I love stainless steel!

  3. Manisha said,

    😦 Looks like WordPress ate up my comment. Sigh!

    Like Shilpa says, you should go. You will find a friend in every city, I am sure. And the travelogue lady might show you around Delhi!

    Mirchi ka salan is very drool-worthy. I have never made it. I just look and drool. Nabeela has a tamatar ka salan, which I have bookmarked but not yet made. It looks delicious, too!

    Your Mirch Masala book sounds like a treasure. Amazon says it’s unavailable. So it may be out of print and/or only available from the publishers. Apparently it costs Rs. 75 now. That’s very cheap! Less than $2. You must tell me what you think of it. And I will try and get myself a copy if you think it’s worth the effort to get hold of it.

    Hoping WordPress does not choke on this comment!

    Manisha…I’m so torn between visiting the north or the south first, centering on Delhi or Hyderabad. I’d like to just get a cheap room and wander the streets somewhere. I’d really like a decent mango.

    The mirchi ka salan is really delicious…I heartily recommend it! Could you send me the link for the tomato recipe?
    the copy of Mirch Masala that I have was published in 1990 by Disha Books, a Division of Orient Longman, registered office: 3-6-272 Himayatnagar, Hyderabad 500 029, published by Orient Longman Ltd., Kamani Marg, Ballard Estate, Mumbai 400 038…hope that helps?

  4. Anita said,

    I’ve come across this recipe in Madhur Jaffery’s Taste of India as well…

    “Then I took a coffee and smoke break. You don’t need to do this, as you are going to be wise…”
    You bet. We’re not going to need to do this because we are wise and don’t smoke in the first place! 🙂 But coffee, or kappi, now that is a worth the break.

    So you too start the cooking process without reading a recipe through…! That’s how I ended up with 8 doz cookies last time!

    Madhur Jaffrey? One of my own personal goddesses, has a recipe for this? I did not know that… I don’t own that one yet 😦 some fan I am right? Ah…but it leaves things yet to be discovered!

    Although I attempt to be a connoisseur of fine coffees of various origin, my favorite being Yemen Matari(mocha), Ethiopian Limu, and Sanka instant 🙂 ; my preferred method being espresso sweetened moderately and mingled with 1% milk, I do make kappi masala now and then; it pairs well with a fine kretek. I recommend it! 😀 But yeah, ma! I know I should quit… 😀

    Well….no I actually tend to read recipes through beforehand, to see what I have and don’t have…this particular one failed to mention the roasting at all….so, there are unitiated people finding it on the web out there, making it with disastrous results! But for me, all was well (more than well) in the end. I have a fine dish to sneak katoris of now and then, and you have lots and lots of cookies…. you can freeze them you know…

  5. bee said,

    you’ve been cooking a lot, pel. try the same spices with corn – cobs cut into pieces. corn ka salan is great.

    Bee- that does indeed sound great! My mother swoons every year during corn season, so I’ll make a note of that and surprise her with it at a dinner. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Anita said,

    Dilli! Dilli first! Hyderabad later! Start with the ‘dil’ (heart, in case you strangely don’t know Hindi) – what if I get you a room free?? You can’t beat that price! I’ll have to sell Dilli some more…watch out for more…

    1% milk is non-milk. Better to drink black. Half-n-half, that your country has, now that is the stuff to add to strong tea or coffee – just a couple of teaspoons.

    I did freeze half and baked later. They re all gone – ‘Science Paper’ tomorrow – it’s over! We survived! Thrived, more like it 🙂 !

    FREE ROOM?!!! Do I have witnesses here?

    Oh…half-and-half/light cream is nice once in a while…..but I’m working on de-ladoo-ing my figure you know….. so, 1% is fine for daily use. However, for yoghurt-making and sweets I use whole milk…. do I get princess points for that? 🙂

    I hope he does well Anita! Have I heard things correctly, in that grades are published in the papers?

  7. bee said,

    get a gas mask if you go to dilli. nasty place. i recommend bombay. 😀

    I actually have a friend from Mumbai who was trying to talk me into visiting last year- I saw a program on TV once where they showed the tiffin-valas on their daily routes. Fascinating!

  8. Manisha said,

    Spam pile. yeah. I know. Same story everywhere…:(

    Oh…it lost nothing in the translation… 🙂

  9. Anita said,

    FYI, Delhi is amongst India’s cleanest cities!! You’re so living in 1990! You’ll do very well as long as you stay away from Coke and Pepsi!! (Everyone knows about the ‘pesticide’ scandal, right?)

    Hot and humid. Nasty place – Bombay – or Mumbai. Whatever. Cheap accommodation? In your dreams. 🙂

    And, Manisha must show-off that she can hyper-link when I cannot! 🙂 Ended up in the spam pile ha ha!

    (Looks like all of us work from home 🙂 …! Or is it blog from work?)

    I personally drink my own sodas when I get the urge… 🙂
    All you do is highlight the word you wish to make into a link …. then press the link button, a small dialogue box opens up and you paste the url in there….if I can do it, I’m sure you can! You’re a do-it-yourself-er!

  10. Trupti said,

    Too bad you didn’t get to go, you should really get there sometime, may I recommend the state of Gujarat??
    I shouldn’t even talk though, I haven’t back to India in the last 17 years….. 🙂

    Mirchi Ka Salan looks great…would love to sop it up with some Tandoori rotis…what bread did you serve it with?

    Gujerat is a fascinating state too, it has some things in common with my state here… is that your native state?

    What bread? [looks half-ashamed] …. parathas. I know I should have just made brown rice…. but still…a little luxury now and then isn’t a bad thing is it? 😀 Anita, don’t say anything…:-)

  11. Manisha said,

    Eh? Delhi? India’s cleanest city…who would know? We aren’t there, are we? Anyway, according to my niece and nephew, their tour guide told them about Delhi Shitty when he was showing them around Jaipur Shitty. Not making this up. Cross my heart, swear to eat McD’s for the rest of my life.

    Bombay is happening. And yes, true Bombayites call it Bombay. It’s a truly happening place viz theater, movies, dance, all that cultural stuff. Also tell me where in Delhi Shitty you will be able to take strolls by the sea, eating garma garam bhutta, or chana jor garam, or genuine bhel and genuine pani-puri? None of that pale gol gappa stuff.

    Anita is complaining that she can’t hyperlink in the comments, Pel. Someone was supposed to send her instructions in an email.

    Now what does Gujarat have in common with Wisconsin? With Colorado, I can tell you! Bank is said bay-nk in both CO and GJ. 😀

    Tch…Manisha! Be nice now…..I admit I fought back a grin for that one 😀 but, either the poor man heard the word wrong or he had a speech impediment…English can be tricky, and I bet I’ll sound like a moron trying to pronounce words in Hindi or Urdu or any of the other multitude…. I’ve been practicing though…I listen really really closely when I eat out at the Indian restaurant(the waiters are all from Goa, serving Punjabi food…go figure!). I’m really good with the “r’s”!!! When I cook food and I get asked, “what is that?”, I rattle it off in Hindi….to dumb-founded looks of course…
    About Bombay/Mumbai: my friend Rakesh said the same thing….said the street chaats are fantastic and lots to do and see. I’ll admit Bollywood central would be interesting…
    Let’s see if I can do a hyperlink here.…yep! Poor Anita…:-(
    Well……Gujerat and Wisconsin both have a fairly high industrial zone concentration….the shitty- I mean city- I live in is truly built around the factories…as is Milwaukee, and a lot of the other cities near the “big pond”. Madison isn’t of course….

  12. Anita said,

    No, not in the post. I can do that! Pel!!
    Hyperlink in the ‘comments’ we leave.
    (I should just see the html code for links inthe rich format, and cut and paste!! I think it will work – what else can it be – but I want TLO to feel important! – she’s getting a little nasty now 🙂 )

    Chat in Bombay!! Methinks you are in that Thalia mood again!

    On English, it took a Canadian to finally (after speaking s-l-o-w-l-y watch-my-lips deal) make me hear the difference between ‘V’ and ‘W’ – they are really hard for Indians! But my friends discouraged me from speaking correctly – they said it was not fun if I spoke like them. Fun, at my expense. But, no, they (most of you Umreekies) were really sweet people. No malice.

    Oh!!! I see now…. wow, yeah you’d have to type the code, or paste it in…..I’ll make a note of that….that Manisha! Just imagine all those strings of code she has memorized! Where’s my ex when I need him… 🙂
    Seriously, I’ve had many nice chats with my friend Rakesh in M…Bombay…but now he lives in the U.K. so I have to chat with him there… 😀

    You speak Umreekan real good Anita… especially “mashed potatoes” 🙂
    Oh that “W” sound is just an “oo” sound, like in gulab…just a little more closed….the word “word” could almost be written “uerd”………”V” sound is the exact same as an “F” as in falooda or saunf, except you engage the vocal cords along with the “f” sound and pull back the lower jaw just a mm to cut the higher frequencies…..that’s the only difference.
    I figure if another human can produce a particular sound, so can I with a little practice. I think what is most difficult to master is the melody of a given language. I have learned some Thai from friends; I can say “good day to you”, “good night to you”, “thank you” and list off several dishes and cooking ingredients. 🙂 (Did you know that the word for “night” is the same in both Hindi and Thai?)

  13. Anita said,

    Can we also go to the next post?? This is my fifth comment here – what willpeople say?

    No, grades are not published in the papers. Thereis no need for that kinda public humiliation! 🙂 Besides millions of students sit for the Exam all over the country. The schools display them on their notice boards – Roll nos and marks, not names. But before that, these days, students can access them on the Net!

    So you de-laddo by a couple of teaspoons of 1% milk in the coffee, and then katories of dahi made with whole milk. And naturally, you use ghee in all them sweets. Yeah, that’ll work. And as will making mirchi ka salan [getting back to the topic!]

    Oh shush now…LOL!! I’ve only had one katori of mirchi ka salan today….and FYI, I give away most of my sweets, except last Diwali when I discovered besan ladus- but I was burning it off cleaning up the house and going through things to cleanse away the negative energy! Plus…(!) I went shopping for new clothes and took a bath- that counts as exercise, doesn’t it? And….the only other thing I ate today was three of the special Kashmiri Mutschis on buns……and an orange…….plus a few pieces of pizza[looks ashamed] Well…..[does his best Scarlett O’Hara] tomorrow IS another day…. 🙂

    I believe years ago, when Delhi was less populous(pre-Independence), they used to publish the grades in the papers…..I dare you to ask somebody! 😀

  14. bee said,

    forgot to warn you, pel, in dilli shitty, whether you’re a guy or a girl, guys with chameli ka tel (stinky oil) in their hair will pinch your bottom on the street, or in public transport.

    in bombay, they are too busy to do that.

    I’m intrigued! Are any of them handsome? 😀

  15. bee said,

    when enveloped in a cloud of pepper spray, they are.

    I don’t know why….but I have a strong feeling that you know how to keep men in line! 😉

  16. Laila Tyabji said,

    Surayya Tyabji, the author of MIRCH MASALA is my mother, and it was lovely to hear of people still buying and using her cook book . The new edition (and it IS amazingly cheap at 75 Rupees!) has a very charming and anecdotal introduction written by the writer Laeeq Futehally who was my mother’s cousin and best friend.

    My mother was MY best friend and I was desolated when she died at the comparitively young age of 59. Still miss her 27 years later. She was gentle, talented, warmly caring, and incredibly beautiful – I wish I could be more like her.

    If anyone would like to read more about her – and an Indian life of that period – please email me and I will send you a piece on her life.


    I am very honoured that you visited Laila, and I am so sorry to hear of your great grief. She truly must have been a wonderful lady, and I am glad not only that she was able to publish a book, but that she has such a devoted and loving daughter, dedicated to preserving her memory. I would love to read this biographical piece that you offer, and I hope you don’t mind that I share your email address below for my readers…

    lailaty at vsnl dot com

  17. Manisha said,

    Hi Laila, I would be very interested in knowing more about your mother, her work, her life and the era she lived in. I don’t see an email address to reach you at. Could you write to me : polarmate at gmail dot com – I’d really appreciate it.

    This cookbook is on my list of books to buy on my next visit to India. Thanks and I hope to hear from you!

    It has been exposed…

  18. mhkhcom said,

    hi dear. i’m a iranin boy. can you guid me about this blog? can you speak persian?

    I’m sorry, but I cannot speak Persian, though I have dabbled in the cookery of your land now and then- especially the soups! This blog is organized by main ingredient and by place-origin of each dish. There is also a search bar…If you are looking for a particular recipe, I would reccommend using this. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Mona said,

    Hi, I just had a look at this recipe, its quite different from mine, no onions!! I’ll try this sometime, Thnx for sharing!!

    Yours has onions? Browned I imagine? I love onions… so, I’ll try yours then!

  20. Sandhya said,

    Hi again!

    U can use this gravy as base with amny other vegetables like with tomato, capsicum, boiled egg also, it tastes great, also try adding lightly fried onion grounded into paste for this curry, it tastes like heaven

    • elaichietcetera said,

      You are the second person that suggested fried onions in the gravy- and I can’t help but think of how wonderful that would taste! Ande ka salan? Now that sounds delicious too.

  21. Happy Cook / Finla said,

    Thankyou for the link, i have bookmarked it, and i am sure gonna roast the nuts 🙂

    • Elaichi et Cetera said,

      Ha ha! I forgot about that…. yes, please do! 🙂

  22. samareshbiswal said,

    thanks for posting the recipe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: