Many Indian recipes use chiles whether green or red, fresh or dried. In my opinion, one cannot have Indian food without chiles of some sort.
Which chiles should I buy?
I will let you in on a secret. There is confusion as to which variety of chiles is actually used in authentic Indian cooking. Over time the chiles in India developed local names that do not correspond with the scientific community’s naming scheme. If you ask someone, the most common answer will be the small thin ones.
I buy my chiles at the local Indian grocery because they are always available and fresh as well as half the price. They are very thin and about 2 inches long. In a pinch I will substitute Thai chiles or Serrano chiles from my local store for the authentic Indian ones. The flavor of jalapenos is different than the Serranos or Indian variety that I don’t use them in my Indian cooking.
How to store chiles
I have learned that some people freeze their Indian chiles so they have them on hand when needed. This is a great idea since I was making Lemon Pickle yesterday and had to run to my local Indian grocery to buy 30 cents of chiles. I know it was not a wise investment of time or gas to make the trip but my pickle turned out to be delicious and worth the effort.
Why are chiles used in Indian cooking?
The Portuguese brought chiles, including the famous piri piri chiles, with them when the conquered Goa back in the 1500s. At that time, Goa’s perfect climate enabled many spices to grow abundantly, which interested the Portuguese traders. They selected many spices to take back to Europe and other parts of the world in exchange for silver and other goods. Chiles grew well in India. They were cultivated in many states across the country and now make India one of the largest chile producing countries in the world. Many varieties are now grown in India each with their own uses and recipes. Piri piri chiles (or bird’s eye chiles) are featured in my Goan recipe for Piri Piri Chicken Curry.
Chilies are an important ingredient in healthy Indian cooking as they are high in important vitamins, mineral and fiber as well as being full of flavor. They also contain capsaicin (the substance that makes some chiles hot), which is used to relieve pain and inflammation.
Add a few chiles to your cooking! They are good for you. If you don’t like the heat, it can easily be reduced.
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