Mirchi Ka Salan is a creamy and flavorful chili pepper curry that is a perfect accompaniment for our famous biryani recipes. This rich and tangy vegan curry will work wonders with other dishes too.
Hyderabadi Mirchi Ka Salan
True, to its culinary fame, Hyderabad has an endless list of amazing recipes.
Now we turn to mirchi ka salan, a popular curry of chili peppers cooked in a creamy base made with roasted sesame, dried coconut, peanuts, spices and other aromatic ingredients. Mirchi means ‘chili peppers’ and salan refers to the ‘gravy or sauce’.
Chili peppers, Onions, Ginger, Garlic, Sesame Seeds, Peanuts, White Poppy Seeds, Dried Coconut, Tamarind, Spices, Curry Leaves, Oil
What Kind of Chili Peppers Should I Use?
Traditionally long green chilies were used. Here in the USA, I like using hot banana peppers. If you like it milder, then use the mild banana peppers. But if you prefer it hot, you can try Anaheim peppers but remove the seeds to lower the pungency slightly. Other peppers you can use are — shishito, pepperoncini, cubanelles.
What Spices Do I Need?
For this recipe, choose whole spices — coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds. Roast all of these and grind them into a powder. You will also need chili powder and ground turmeric.
Can I use Tamarind Paste?
In this recipe, I use dried tamarind that can be soaked in water to extract the pulp. If you don’t have access to that, then you may use tamarind paste.
Since the tamarind paste products may differ in sourness, I would start with a tablespoon and increase gradually as per taste. The sour taste evolves as you cook, so let it simmer a few minutes and taste before adding more. You will need to add a little bit of sugar to balance the intense sour taste.
How to Dry Curry Leaves Perfectly?
It is a dilemma to get fresh curry leaves in several places in the USA. Most often, people buy it on weekend trips to the nearest town with an Indian store. But not to worry, I have a great trick to dry the curry leaves in bulk for later use.
Just rinse the curry leaves and spin them in a salad spinner. Then spread them on a paper towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds until they dry up, but are still green, and the surface remains slightly fresh. The surface will eventually dry up.
You may have to adjust the amount of time in microwave based on the power of your appliance. And be sure not to exceed the time or they will dry up too much and turn brown.
Curry leaves that are dried using the above method result in leaves that are still green and very flavorful.
Step By Step Overview
**Full recipe at the end of post.
- Soak dry tamarind in warm water and extract the pulp, which will be added to the curry later on. Or use tamarind paste.
Spice and Nut Mixture
- Dry roast spices, seeds and nuts until they darken a bit and turn aromatic.
- Cool and grind them into a powder.
- Heat oil and sauté onion until soft and light brown. Let cool and process into a paste.
- Sauté chili peppers until light golden in some spots and set aside.
- Sauté cumin seeds and curry leaves in oil.
- Add ginger, garlic, onion paste, chili powder, turmeric, some salt, brown sugar and cook few minutes. Stir in seed-nut powder.
- Next, add tamarind juices and water, adjust consistency and cook few minutes. Add salt to taste.
- Slide chili peppers into the sauce and let it simmer until they are soft, gravy is thick and some oil trickles to the surface.
- Choose chili peppers that are not too hot.
- If you don’t have white poppy seeds, increase the sesame seeds.
- You can substitute lemon juice for tamarind. It will still taste good, but not exactly authentic. Some people also use yogurt instead of tamarind.
- The sourness from tamarind evolves as it is cooked, so be careful not to add too much. Try to increase it gradually after tasting the cooked sauce.
- The nuts and seeds make the sauce thicker as they cook. Add water to adjust the consistency as needed.
What to Serve With It?
You can make the spice mix and the nut-seed mixture ahead of time. Those can also be made in bulk and stored. The nut and seed mix should be refrigerated or frozen for the long term.
This chili pepper curry keeps well for quiet sometime. It can be refrigerated for 4 to 5 days or frozen for two months.
This is a rich and creamy gravy that uses plant fat sources such as sesame seeds, poppy seeds, peanuts and dried coconut, most of which are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats.
However, this curry is usually cooked with more oil to result in a creamy sauce with a thin layer of oil on top. You can scoop out the oil, after using it as a vehicle for cooking the sauce, as per your preference to lighten it up. It will still taste amazing, guaranteed!
The spices, ginger, garlic, tamarind, chili peppers, onions, etc., used in the recipe are all nourishing ingredients. This curry is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, egg free, soy free, dairy free and grain free.
More Indian Recipes
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Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant Dip)
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Preheat oven to 400˚F. Prick the eggplants with a fork in couple spots and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the skin turns darker and shrinks. Check foot notes for grilling, broiling or stove top options.
- The eggplants should be cooked through completely in the center. To check, press the back of a fork on the eggplant. It should compress easily all the way into the center without any resistance.
- Cut through the eggplant skin and scoop out the soft cooked flesh and mash it with a fork and set aside.
- Chop the tomatoes into small pieces, discarding some seeds if you wish. See note below for peeled and deseeded tomatoes.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan at medium setting. Add the chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne or chili powder, ⅓ teaspoon salt and cook until tomatoes are softened, stirring in between, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the mashed eggplants and cilantro. Continue to cook over low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, mashing it if needed, into a thick but slightly textured dip like consistency.
- Stir in lemon juice and salt. Adjust as per taste, let it cool and transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate it overnight before serving.
- Take the zaalouk from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving and let it come to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Garnish with cilantro and red pepper flakes if you prefer.
- Chunky Zaalouk: To make a chunkier but less traditional zaalouk, insert garlic cloves into eggplant and roast it in the oven at 400˚F, along with the tomatoes. Chop the eggplants and tomatoes. Add the spices, herbs, half the olive oil, salt and mash it up to desired consistency. Drizzle olive oil and serve.
- Cooking Eggplants:
- Grill: Roast eggplants on charcoal or gas grill for 20 to 30 minutes, turning them slowly in between, until skin turns darker and shrinks.
- Broil: Cut eggplants lengthwise into halves and place the cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Place on the second rack and broil until skin turns darker and shrinks, about 20 minutes.
- Stovetop: Peel the eggplants completely, only some stripes or leave the skin on if you don’t mind it. Cut the eggplants into small pieces. Steam on high heat until soft or cook in a pan with some water until soft and mushy.
- Easy Zaalouk: Combine all ingredients with ⅓ cup of water and cook it over stove top until softened. Mash it up well and drizzle olive oil.
- Peeled and deseeded tomatoes: If you prefer, you can blanch the tomatoes. Cut a small cross on the surface of tomatoes and dump them in hot boiling water. After a minute, pick out the tomatoes and peel the skin, cut them into halves and deseed. Chop them into small pieces.
- Use more tomatoes if you want the dip to be saucy. You may even try using a little bit of tomato paste to give it thickness.
- Leftovers: Can be refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. You can freeze zaalouk for couple months. Thaw and reheat. Adjust the consistency, evaporating or adding water as needed. Check the seasoning as well.
- Nutrition facts not including any added salt.
- For other variations, tips and serving suggestions, scroll up the page to the blog post.
Mirchi Ka Salan
- 2 ounces dry tamarind see note for substitute
- 1 cup water warm
Nut and Spice Mixture
- ¼ cup peanut oil or any mild tasting oil
- 2 yellow onions large, cut into large pieces
- ¾ lb chili peppers banana or Anaheim, about 6 peppers, see note
- 12 curry leaves
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste
- 2 teaspoons garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1½ cups water
- 2 tablespoons Cilantro chopped
- Soak the dry tamarind in a cup of warm water until very soft, about half hour. Squeeze and mash it to extract the pulp. Then drain it well to get the juices and discard the seeds and residues.
Spice and Nut Mixture
- In the same sauté pan, heat oil at medium setting. Add onions and sauté until soft and light brown. Allow to cool and using a food processor, grind onions into a slightly coarse paste.
- Next, slit the chili peppers on the side (I used hot banana peppers) and add to the pan and sauté on all sides until light golden in some spots. Remove and set aside to cool.
- Heat the remaining oil at medium setting in the same wide sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds. Once the seeds crackle, add the curry leaves and sauté for 2 minutes until they start curling.
- Then add ginger paste, garlic paste, onion paste, chili powder, turmeric, some salt, brown sugar, stir it all and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the seed-nut powder.
- Add tamarind juices, use additional water and adjust to a thin smoothie-like consistency and let it cook for 5 minutes. Adjust salt as per taste.
- Slide the sautéed chili peppers into the gravy, cover with a lid and let it simmer at low medium heat, for 10 to 15 minutes, until sauce becomes thick and some of the oil trickles to the surface.
- The curry should have a thick and creamy consistency. Add water only as needed. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if you prefer.
- Turn off the heat and serve it hot with biryani, rice, naan or parathas.
- Chili Peppers: In the USA, banana peppers or anaheim peppers can work for this recipe. Anaheim peppers are the most pungent, followed by hot banana peppers and then mild banana peppers. Removing seeds also lowers the heat. Other peppers you can use are — shishito, pepperoncini, cubanelles
- Tamarind: If you don’t have dry tamarind, then you may use tamarind paste. I would start with a tablespoon, cook it few minutes, taste and then increase it gradually as per preference. The sour taste evolves as you cook, so let that happen before adding more.
- Chili Powder: I used Kashmiri chili powder as it is mild and also has a bright red color. If you prefer it hot, then use regular chili powder.
- White Poppy Seeds: If you don’t have white poppy seeds, increase the sesame seeds.
- Make Ahead: You can make the spice mix and the nut-seed mixture ahead of time. Those can also be made in bulk and stored. The nut and seed mix should be refrigerated or frozen for the long term.
- Storage: This chili pepper curry keeps well for quiet sometime. If can be refrigerated for 4 to 5 days or frozen for two months.
- Check out the blog post above for drying and storing curry leaves for later use.
- All ingredients are available at Indian grocery stores. Dry products can be bought online as well
- Nutrition facts do not include any added salt, and are adjusted for removing some oil trickled to the surface of cooked curry.