The Red Chilli Powder – Lal Mirchi


Update as of 18 December 2009 (and 17 Dec 09)

Given my liking to Indian food, I try, to the extent possible, to sample cuisine from different states and parts of the country. I must admit that I prefer the traditional foods more than the modern day avatar of fusion cuisine. I like the savoury rice crepes stuffed with a yellow potato and onion curry, masala dosai, but don’t particularly favour the crepe stuffed with faux Schezuan vegetables, or even spinach cottage cheese; eeks!! I don’t mind my lentil soup, daal, sweetened with a hint of jaggery, if served in a Gujarati meal, but I love the gingery version that many Western Indians prepare with the split green gram. But one thing that I don’t relish is the red chilli powder or its equally pungent relative, the green chilli. But the red chilli powder is a real scare – because once dunked into the gravy or curry, nothing can get it out; while a green chilli can be picked out or left on the plate. Fortunately, the red colour is a give-away, but if masked with a tomato concasse or puree, it becomes a ticking time-bomb, waiting to blow up once in my mouth. And it has an amazing way of going off – first, it singes my tongue and then sends me into a fit of cough which if left uncontrolled irritates my diaphragm to send me into a series of hiccups. At that moment, all I want is to be left alone to restore balance – and some acidic foods can help – my most preferred is plain curd – the easiest item available on a South Indian dinner table. If that does not work, then the glasses of water drunk without taking in a breath often help. And if that fails too, I must have chewed more than I could bite of the spiciest red chilli; and the only remedy left is to sip water from the opposite side of the glass – it is more like lapping it up than sipping it, but this has been my fool proof solution to those hiccough bouts!

Red Chilli has been the flavour of the week on D Street. The spiciness and heat singed quite a few D Boyz, who either pressed the wrong buttons or scurried around for some remedies to cool themselves off. So if yesterday was spent trying to keep the spice level down with short bouts of cool water drinks or other sootheners, it seemed to have helped them as the SENSEX lost only 18 points to end at 16894. But today was different – it had all the red chilli powder that the chefs could add without converting the dish into a pickle. And the Boyz tried to keep themselves in control all day with sips of water, curd spooned in, but at around 2:45 pm, they could not control it and got into their version of the hiccup bouts. First they lost balance, and thereafter could not regain it till the markets closed. Poor Boyz; what would they have done had the markets opened earlier today – they would need medical attention. They are secretly thanking the Regulators for deferring the time extension decisions to the next year. By then, the Boyz will devise something to help them with their eating! So today, the SENSEX slipped 174 points down to 16719. This was a 1% drop today, and an overall 2.3% drop this week. Perhaps the Santa dressed in Red will bring cheer to the Boyz next week!

Unfortunately for a vegetarian like me, I don’t get cues or clues on the spiciness of the dish that I am about to devour like perhaps someone who is served Laal Maas (red meat – a Rajput mutton curry); or Rogan Josh (the most famous Kashmiri Waazwan cuisine – mutton again). So I will have to stick to gingerly tasting the food before going the whole hog!

Have a nice weekend – Cheers….

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