Chef Vikas Milhoutra, Executive Chef at Taj Dubai, gives us the lowdown on the most popular types of chillies in Indian cuisine
1. Dried Kashmiri chilli
This chilli is not too spicy, and has a unique character as it gives a lot of redness to curry. The Kashmiri Mutton rogan josh uses these soaked in water and ground as a paste in stone. The Kashmiri chilli offers spice and colour to a dish.
2. Naga chilli
This chilli resembles the bhut jholakia, whichfor a very long time was considered the spiciest chilli on Earth, and is a distant cousin of it. Native to north east India, you find different versions of it in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. On the Scoville scale, the bhut jholakia has a score of over 1 million. To give perspective, there’s the Savina chilli from Mexico, and the bhut jholakia is twice as spicy as that. When compared to red pepper Tabasco, it’s 200 times as spicy. Because the temperature is very low in hilly mountainous regions, traditionally they only used chillies for their spices as they don’t have access to ground spices like chilli powder, cinnamon and cloves. While now with the ease of transportation this has changed, traditionally they relied on only these peppers to increase or decrease the spice level.
3. Guntur chilli
This variety of dark red chilli comes from Andhra Pradesh (which is why dishes from there are fiery), and are very spicy chillies. They are available as dried chillies everywhere but they grow as fresh chillies, similar to the Kashmiri red chilli, but with more pungency and potency. A tsp of Kashmiri chilli powder equals less than half of a Guntur chilli.
A special pickle is often made with the Guntur chilli, where only the top end is taken of these dried chillies and filled up with pickled spices, and when allowed to slow cook in glass jars under sunlight, in 3 to 4 weeks this soaks the taste of the pickles into the chilli itself.
4. Green Jwala chilli
This versatile chilli can be eaten raw or can be used in cooking, and is a potent source of spice. It offers freshness and flavour to dishes, and is a very popular addition to Indian dishes. They are also used for tempering (the process of heating spices in hot oil or ghee).
5. Red Jwala chilli
This is mostly used in powder form in Indian cooking, and is actually aged green chilli that has dried up and lost its water content. They offer a different flavour to green chillies, but pretty much the same intensity of heat.