Chili in Bengali & Indian Food: Things to Know

Chili is widely popular as a spicy ingredient. There is a wider variety of Chilies and not all of them are spicy. Kashmiri Chilies are not pungent and used in cooking for their rich red colour.

The spiciness of Chili is determined on Scoville Scale, named after scientist Wilbur Scoville. Many regional cultures throughout the world have adopted Chilies into their cooking for the powerful pungency it adds.

Capsaicin, a compound found in most Chilies, causes the burning sensation after these are consumed. Chilies are not native to India.

It was introduced by the Portuguese when Vasco Da Gama travelled to our country nearly five centuries ago.

Before Indians learned use of Chilies in cooking, Indian cuisines never lacked the spicy punch, thanks to ginger and pepper

It may come as a surprise to many that India is now the largest producer and exporter of Chilies in the world. The country grows Ghost Pepper or Bhoot Jolokia, one of the hottest Chilies around.

Chili in Bengali and Indian food

Use of Chili in Bengali and Indian Cuisines

Chili is a versatile spicy vegetable. It is used in a variety of Indian cuisines, cutting across the regional culinary cultures in the country.

If it comes to spiciness, chilly definitely tops the list of our choice. This vegetable is used to add pungency and flavour as well as make the dish more delicious.

Chilies are used in our everyday cuisines in different ways. Though there are only a handful of Indian cuisines named after Chili, all the dishes made with this spicy vegetable could not have been so tasty and popular without it.

Here is a glimpse of Chilies’ journey from merely an unknown veggie to a must-add flavour in many Indian cuisines.

Eaten Raw

The holy trinity – onion, lemon and Chili – is often used as a fresh accompaniment with many Indian dishes. They add crunchiness, acidity and heat to balance any meal.

The crunchy bite of Chili with each mouthful of roti or rice and side-dishes is heavily enjoyed in many Indian households. “Bhatpate Lanka” is a famous phrase in Bengal. To translate literally, it means Chilies served on a rice platter.

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Chopped Chilies are often used in salads. However, these are never called Chili salads.

Chilies are also used as toppings in many Indian curries that offer subtle sweetness. If you wish, you can enjoy crunchy bites of this spicy veggie.

Breakfasts 

Breads are almost staple foods for breakfasts in many Indian households. Breads are made from a variety of flours including wheat flour, gram, maize, millet etc.

Chilies are added to many Indian flatbreads such as Methi paratha (Paratha with fenugreek flavour), pudla (crepe made from chickpea flour) and Sindhi koki (a kind of roti made with pomegranate seeds and spices).

Chili is one of the ingredients in mixed veg paratha. It is prepared with a medley of vegetables and chopped onion, ginger, garlic and Chilies.

Dhokla is a famous Gujrati dish. It is enjoyed both as a snack and on breakfast. It is served with chutney and toppings of green Chilies for fresh, crunchy spiciness.

Starter

Bongs are known for their weakness for spicy delights. So, it springs no wonder that they use Chilies in vast varieties of their cuisines, from plain sukto to dal, macher jhal to murgir jhol and many more.

Sukto is a famous dish right out of Bongs’ kitchens. It is a comforting starter. Dry red Chilies instead of green Chilies are used for flavour and garnishing in sukto.

Chilies along with paanch foron and/or shorshe sautéed in hot oil add flavour to dal. It is famously called tadka.

Curries 

Chilies along with other spices including ginger and garlic are widely used to make a variety of vegetable and meat curries.

The blend of spices used in the recipes of many famous signature dishes in almost all parts of India are the best kept secrets and passed from one generation to another.

Stuffed Chilies are quite popular among Indians. Vegetables or meat mixed with flavoursome spices are used as stuffing in the long green Chilies (each of them slit on one side).

After they are fried, the outside remains crisp whereas the centre feels soft and nice. It makes a perfect side dish or appetizer.

Snacks

A popular Indian street food is mirchi pakora. Larger and milder Chilies, dipped into a spicy batter of besan (chickpea flour), are deep fried.

This mildly spicy and amazingly delicious snack makes a wonderful accompaniment with a hot cup of masala chai.

Pickles

Indians are famous for a wider variety of pickle preparations, many of which use Chilies in exciting ways. They are mixed with fruits or vegetables, dipped in vinegar or used after fermentation.

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Lankar achar or Chili pickle is an example where mildly spicy Chilies are submerged in spice-mixed oil. It tastes awesome when consumed with steaming rice and dal.

Mango pickle is another popular pickle made with raw mangoes, Chilies and a variety of other spices. Ber pickle is another hot favourite in winter. The sour-sweet-spicy taste is truly awesome whether taken raw or with rice/roti.

Chutneys and Other Relishes

Indians make some delicious relishes including chutneys from fruits, veggies and even meat.

The common thread running through all of them is Chili. Some most popular chutneys are tomato chutneymango chutneyulli pachadi (onion chutney), gongura pachadi (prepared with gongura leaf, Chilies and onion).

Sauces

Chilies are generously used to prepare many hot sauces served with fried items, parathas, eggs and curries.

Some of the popular Indian sauces made with Chilies are green Chili saucered Chili saucebhut jolokia saucetomato sauce etc.

Spicy Powder

Curry powder is a mix of many spices including Chili. It is widely used for seasoning food.

Ice Cream

In the age of the internet, many won’t get surprised at the mention of Chili ice cream.

Green or red Chilies are used in making a variety of ice creams with different flavours such as vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and many more. A different taste, a delicious twist!

What Does Chili Taste Like?

Chili tastes spicy! Chili adds to the taste of any dish. Depending on the varieties, they offer mild to heavy spiciness. Kashmiri red Chilies are loved for their rich colour but they are not hot.

On the other hand, bhoot jolokia is numbingly hot and used in curries and pickles. You must treat them with caution.

What Are the Best Recipes of Chilies?

It is up to one’s personal choice and taste. I love Chilies in pickles, especially the Chili pickle, mango pickle and ber pickle. As I have a strong liking for sour-sweet-spicy combinations, pickles and chutneys are my favourite Chili dishes.

I love Chili in salad and also when it is served with hot parathas. Tarka, which uses red dried Chili, adds an awesome flavour to dal and makes it lip snacking.

As a Bong, I have a fascination for spicy snacks and curries. So, I love to dig into Chili pokora and any Chili-based spicy gravy, whether veg or non-veg.

I have heard a lot about Chili ice cream but am yet to taste it. Hope it will be a burst of flavours on my experienced and finical taste buds

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I love to hear from you about your favourite Chili dishes.

What Goes Well with Chili?

Both rice and Indian flatbreads will do a complete justice to your taste when served with Chili gravies.

Not all Chili recipes are served with staple foods or side dishes.

Are Capsicum and Chilli the Same?

Capsicum and chili are almost the same. These are just different forms of chilies where the smell is almost the same but the spiciness is less for capsicum.

This one is mainly used in Chinese, continental, Thai and other recipes.

How Many Kinds of Chili are There?

There is a wider variety of Chilies and not all of them are spicy. Kashmiri Chilies are not pungent and used in cooking for their rich red colour.

The spiciness of Chili is determined on Scoville Scale, named after scientist Wilbur Scoville. Many regional cultures throughout the world have adopted Chilies into their cooking for the powerful pungency it adds.

It may come as a surprise to many that India is now the largest producer and exporter of Chilies in the world. The country grows Ghost Pepper or Bhoot Jolokia, one of the hottest Chilies around.

Questions & Answers:

Is Chili and Chilli the Same?

The answer is yes as in American English it is Chilli and, in the UK English, it is pronounced as Chilli. But both are the same veggie that we are using.

Why is Chili So Popular?

Chili is popular because it can add taste to anything, makes it a bit spicy and even spiciest. It is simply adding much more enthusiasm in the whole dish.

How Do You Know When Chili is Cooked?

Chilies, after properly done, become tender. They also change their colour. How long Chilies are cooked makes no difference. They are added for flavours.

Which Part of Chilli is Spicy?

It is not the seed but the pith and ribs which are considered as the spiciest part of the chilies. There was a myth that seeds are considered as the spiciest part which is actually not.

What are the Best Chillies for Cooking?

There are various chilies but Jwala Chilli is the staple one which is commonly used in Indian cooking. Though there are other chilies which are used in Mexican and Spanish dishes.

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