Lilly likes it hot
In a recent tweet, the YouTube sensation compared her spicy Indian takeout meal to a McSpicy paneer burger, making desi twitterati go wild. Four home chefs share regional fare that is the real riot-hot deal
A fortnight ago, YouTuber Lilly Singh took to Twitter to share her experience of eating an Indian takeout meal. As she lamented about her lips feeling like lava and compared the meal's spice level to McSpicy Paneer, just 10,000 times hotter, desi twitterati went on a hilarious rant. "McSpicy ain't even that spicy girl!" was one such reply. For a nation that prides itself on its spicy cuisines across regions, we invited four home chefs to share about riotous fare from India's four corners.
NORTH: Rista, Kashmir
Rista is part of the elaborate Kashmiri Wazwan meal. With tender meatballs in an angry red curry, it uses the mountain garlic and onion. The key ingredients that give it the colour, home chef Jasleen Marwah adds, are the dried maval flowers or red cockscomb flowers that are soaked in water and then added to the gravy. "Also, Kashmiri red chilli powder, high on colour and less on spice, balances the flavours. Anise and ginger powder, and other whole spices substitute the use of the regular tomato-ginger-garlic base and ensure clean flavours." Beating meat to the finest mince with a mallet is an important step too, she adds. The meatballs and gravy, though cooked separately, are served together.
Chettinad chicken kozhi masala
SOUTH: Chettinad chicken, Tamil Nadu
Michigan-based home chef, Mullai Madavad, adds how Chettinad cuisine reflects the traditions of the Chettiar community. "The community doesn't use any pre-made spice mixes. All their spices are locally sourced, roasted and ground on the traditional stone grinder into powders or pastes for cooking. Known for a complexity of flavours, they use whole red chillies, star anise, fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, peppercorn, cumin seeds and fenugreek. The unique ingredients include dried flower pods and kalpasi [black stone flower]. When this spice mix is then added to the base of your gravy, the meat is added and slow-cooked," she shares.
Naga pork with bamboo shoots
EAST: Pork and bamboo shoots, Nagaland
Lilia Jimomi, a music teacher and home chef, shares her take on the fiery dish where smoked pork is cooked by the fireplace. The most important ingredient is the king chilli. Also known as bhut jolokia or ghost pepper, it is one of the world's spiciest chillies. "We use locally sourced herbs and spices like Szechuan peppercorn to whip the recipe. The balance of flavours comes from fresh, dried and fermented bamboo shoots. The dish has to be cooked such that no ingredient overpowers the flavour of the smoked meat. Naga pork goes best with the famous dish of our Sumi tribe, akhuni or axone [fermented soya bean]. The two served together are a must-try in any Naga home," adds Jimomi.
WEST: Saoji chicken curry, Maharashtra
Chef Sumitra Chowdhury who runs Su's kitchen shares with us the treasure and pride of Nagpur, the Saoji chicken curry. The dish made its inroads thanks to the Halba Koshti tribe of Madhya Pradesh. "Weavers by profession, they arrived in Vidarbha and Nagpur to work at the Empress Mills, established by Jamshedji Tata. They introduced the fiery hot and spicy Saoji cuisine. The unique spice blend coupled with the slow cooking style and use of linseed oil adds to the flavour. The spices and recipes are often a closely guarded secret within families. In the 1970s the first Saoji joint was opened in Nagpur. Today, several restaurants offer Saoji cuisine on their menus but these are milder versions," shares Chowdhury. The cuisine may not suit everyone's palate, she warns, suggesting that the next time you devour a Saoji meal, keep a glass of buttermilk close by, to douse the fiery aftermath.
Naga pork with bamboo shoots
Yield: 5, Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 40 minutes, Total time: 1 hour
500 gm pork
Bamboo shoots: 1 cup
Ginger: 2 inch
Garlic: 3 to 4 cloves
Chilli powder: 2 tbsp
Red chillies: 8 to 10 nos
King chilli: 1 or more
Salt (to taste)
Ginger leaves: 4 to 5 nos
Szechuan peppercorn: 1 tbsp
1. Cut the pork into medium-sized pieces. Soak the red chilli in hot water for a few minutes. Grind ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle and slice the bamboo shoots into thin slices.
2. In a pot, sauté the pork with salt for a few minutes. Stir occasionally until salt is absorbed and the meat turns brown.
3. Add ginger-garlic paste. Cook for a minute before adding other ingredients.
4. Mash the soaked chilli and add it to the pork. Add two tablespoons of chilli powder, one cup of water, tomato, bamboo shoot and king chilli, depending upon your preferred spice level.
5. Slow-cook with lid on. Stir occasionally until the meat is tender. Once the pork is cooked, increase the flame and cook till it is dry. You can adjust the consistency of the gravy as required.
6. Crush ginger leaves to garnish the pork or add grounded Szechuan peppercorn and tuck in.
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