Mirchi Ka Salan – A Hyderabadi Favourite

People tend to grossly under estimate the city of Hyderabad when it comes to food. Maybe it’s not really people and it’s just me. I knew this city has it’s rich royal history but only after numerous visits did I realise the nobility extends towards their food as well. Hyderabad or the city of pearls is a food lovers paradise. I’ve discovered sweets, biryanis , dosas and a host of dishes that are exciting and worth experimenting with. I notice that a lot of traditional recipes ask for a host of ingredients, you need a good amount of patience and they don’t cook in 15 minutes. On a recent trip to the city, I had the most wonderful experience with Chef Kapil Dubey and his fantastic team at the Sheraton Hyderabad as they showed me how to cook a traditional biryani, salad and haleem. We spent hours toiling away in the kitchen but it was an excellent session and one I will cherish because its only when you’re cooking do chefs give you their tips and tricks.  From the three recipes I learnt I picked the easiest and relatively quickest one to try first.

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Mirchi ka Salan is my father’s favourite dish and not only did the recipe turn out well, I’ve made this multiple times and he’s loved every bit of it. Mind you it takes time and is a bit heavy to digest but worth the effort. Salan is typically a gravy that is served with the biryani as a sort of accompaniment. I’m told earlier the salans made were far richer but today many restaurants dilute it and thin it out so they can serve more and now people are used to thin gravies. Typically made with big fat chilies, sometimes you can stuff the chilies with the salan paste and fry them as well but I stuck to the gravy format. Hope you enjoy this one 🙂

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Ingredients –

  • 100 grams peanuts
  • 50 grams sesame seeds
  • 50 grams desiccated coconut ( grated coconut )
  • 1.5 to 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 onion sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 5 to 6 green chillies (less hot or a mix) Usually they use Bhavnagiri chillies
  • ½ tsp mustard
  • ½ tsp cumin/ jeera
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1.5 to 2 cups water (adjust as needed)
  • salt as needed
  • small lemon sized tamarind ball
  • ⅛ to ¼ tsp turmeric (adjust)
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • red chili powder as needed
  • a handful of chopped coriander leaves

Method –

Dry roast peanuts until golden, sesame seeds and coconut one after the other until they begin to smell good. Cool them. Blend all this together so that it makes a thick slightly coarse paste. This is the main paste and the ratio will always be 2:1:1 where the peanuts are more in quantity.

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In a pan or kadai heat the oil and add the cummin and mustard. Once they begin to sizzle and onions and curry leaves with a pinch of salt and saute until golden.

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Add ginger garlic paste until the raw smell disappears. Add the garam masala and turmeric as well.

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Heat oil in the same pan fry chilies for 2 to 3 minutes. It is best to slit the chillies so the cook faster.

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Add the paste to this onion and spice mixture and mix it all well.  Add a little water if it is too thick. It will take ages to cook approx 30 mins but keep adding water when you see it drying out. Stir and make a thin gravy. Break up any lumps in the gravy.

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Add the chilli powder and tamarind juice stir and simmer.

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Add the fried chilies if you haven’t already ( you could add them as is without frying as well )  and simmer on a low heat until they wilt. The gravy needs to be stirred occasionally and will keep thickening, if you like a thinner consistency add more water. The trick to know when the entire thing is cooked is when the oil separates from the coconut and peanuts and you start to see a thin layer forming on top. This dish takes time to cook and you will need to be patient.

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After about 45 – 60 mins of cooking and checking if the gravy needs more water to thin it out and you see the oil separating you know its ready and serve hot with rice or biryani or if you’re like us eat it plain with thick rotis. Enjoy!

Disclaimer : A huge thank you to the Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel and their chefs for teaching me and most importantly sharing their enthusiasm for food. It’s infectious !