Guide to the 5 most popular chili peppers used in Indian cuisine
Chef Vikas Milhoutra, Executive Chef of Taj Dubai, introduces us to the most popular types of chili peppers in Indian cuisine
1. Dried Kashmiri pepper
This pepper is not too spicy, and has a unique character because it gives a lot of red to the curry. Kashmiri Mutton rogan josh uses them soaked in water and crushed like a paste in stone. Kashmiri pepper gives spice and color to a dish.
This chili resembles bhut jholakia, which was long considered the hottest pepper on the planet, and is a distant cousin of it. Native to northeastern India, you can find different versions in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur. On the Scoville scale, bhut jholakia has a score over 1 million. To take a step back, there’s the Savina pepper from Mexico, and the bhut jholakia is twice as spicy as that. Compared to Tabasco with red pepper, it is 200 times spicier. Because the temperature is very low in hilly mountainous areas, they traditionally only used chili peppers for their spices as they did not have access to ground spices like chili powder, cinnamon, and cloves. While now with the ease of transport this has changed, traditionally they have only relied on these peppers to increase or decrease the level of spice.
3. Guntur pepper
This variety of dark red chili comes from Andhra Pradesh (which is why the dishes there are fiery) and are very spicy chili peppers. They are available as dried chili peppers everywhere, but they grow as fresh chili peppers, similar to Kashmiri red chili, but with more spiciness and potency. A teaspoon of Kashmiri pepper powder is equivalent to less than half of a Guntur pepper.
A special pickle is often made with Guntur chili, where only the top end is taken from these dried chillies and filled with pickled spices, and left to cook slowly in glass jars under sunlight, in 3-4 weeks, this absorbs the taste of the pickles into the chili itself.
4. Jwala green pepper
This versatile chili can be eaten raw or used in cooking and is a powerful source of spice. It brings freshness and flavor to dishes, and is a very popular addition to Indian dishes. They are also used for quenching (the process of heating spices in hot oil or ghee).
5. Red Jwala pepper
This is mainly used as a powder in Indian cooking, and is actually an aged green chili that has dried out and lost its water content. They offer a different flavor to green peppers, but about the same intensity of heat.