Monday, August 13, 2012

Baalaka (Dried, stuffed green chilies) - Preserved Summer flavors

When we moved to the Pacific NW, the most common reaction I heard from everyone (residents and people that had only visited the area for a week or less) was that it would rain 'all the time'. No stranger to different climates having lived in various parts of the country, weather was not a deterrent for me, infact the moderate temperatures were a welcome change from the harsh winters and hot summers we lived in before coming here.

We did move and I just fell in love with the beautiful mountain range, majestically tall ever greens and everything else. For us as a family, it was a much exciting phase as BH stopped travelling  and we would have him home for dinner every evening instead of the after dinner before bedtime calls from hotel rooms. As we settled in, one thing was in the back of my mind pertaining to the weather, from what I had heard from people I assumed there was no expectation of a decent Summer and hence had to give up my Summer activities of making and storing the traditional papads and other goodies :-). But mother nature has been graciously supporting my every project so far and I have no complaints. We have been having really warm weather and bright Sunshine though with some gray skies and cloudy days thrown in between for good measure. I didn't want to extend my good fortune too much this season and started small and glad I did it.

Couple of weeks back, I found some really fresh Thai chilies in my local grocery store and as we were looking up weather for weekend outings I knew it was  going to be rain free for a while atleast. So I brought home a bag of those green chilies and got to make the delicious Balakada Menasinakayi :-), there are 2 versions of this that I am aware of. One in which the green chilies are soaked in salted buttermilk for 3 days to marinate and then spread in the Sun to dry up, the other is where we stuff roasted fenugreek powder and salt into the slit green chilies and let it dry until it is crunchy. I went with the second one because I love the fenugreek flavor in these stuffed, dried chilies and also was not sure if the bright weather will hold up for another week after   I had a chance to marinate them in buttermilk.

In Mysore, I used to go with Anna on his scooter to the vegetable market in December and bring those long winter chilies especially for baalaka. Nammamma would make the fenugreek powder and I would stuff the chilies and help dry it. I don't know when this practice started, nammamma always made this in December when Sun would shine brightly in the mornings even though it was kind of chilly as opposed to the other Happala(Papads) & Sandige(also called vadiyaalu in Telugu these are preserved fryums you will find in Indian households made with different ingredients that can be taken out any time you desire and fried in oil for a yummy, crunchy side for your meal) made typically in Summer.

For those of you familiar with project management when things are estimated at the beginning of work we have two measures - one is effort (actual time without break it would take to complete the work) and second is duration (period it will take based on the availability of resources). Similarly, this process of making the dried, stuffed chilies will take 4 days if you have good temperature and sunshine but the duration might actually extend (as it did in my case) if the heat is not sufficient.

Although BH says we should buy these from the stores instead of making it at home, I know it tastes better this way and he agrees with it. It is just a small way of mine to preserve not only the chilies for the year but also a tradition for as long as I can.   DD loves these fried, stuffed chilies with her mosaranna (yogurt rice).
What do you need to make dried, stuffed chilies?
50 fresh green chilies
1/4 cup methi seeds
1/8 cup salt (adjust to taste based on your salt)
1/2 Tsp amchoor powder (optional)
How do you make dried, stuffed chilies? 
  • Wash and pat dry completely all the chilies.
  • With a sharp knife, make a vertical slit in the chilies from top to bottom taking care not to separate the chili completely.
  • Dry roast fenugreek seeds on medium heat until they are pink and start to pop, let cool and grind to a fine powder. 
  • Mix the salt, fenugreek powder and amchoor powder (if using) homogeneously. 
  • Fill the slit chilies generously with this powder, arrange them in a single layer on cookie sheets or wide plates. 
  • Let it sun dry (preferred temp: above 75F) for atleast 4 days or until the chilies turn crisp. 
  • Store in air tight containers or ziplock bags. 
How do you use dried, stuffed chilies? 
  • Heat oil for deep frying, put 4-5 chilies (depending on the size of your pan) and fry until the chilies turn a dark brown.
  • Enjoy with hot rice and dal or yogurt rice. 
  • You can also use these fried yummies in seasoning.
Chilies in various stages of preparation and drying here..
  • I used amchoor powder to give a slight tangy flavor, it is completely acceptable to skip this ingredient. 
  • Use a small spoon to fill the chilies and wear gloves if you are not chili hear tolerant. 
  • Dip your hands in buttermilk if you get reduce the burning sensation from handling the chilies.
  • Salt in the stuffing oozes moisture and helps hold the stuffing intact, make sure your hands and any spoons you use are dry. 
  • When you hold a dried chili, it should feel crispy and brittle to touch without any moisture. Make sure it reaches this stage before storing it away otherwise you face the risk of it turning moldy. 
  • Frying until the chilies turn deep brown reduces the spice level. 


Daksha said...

I eat one time store bought it's test really nice.. thanks for sharing this......

Prathibha said...

I get a pack from my MIL every year...Never tried 4m it wid majjige huli or andhra style dals..

Tina said...

Gr8 idea..Looks tempting and delicious.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

real yummy chillies with majjigapulusu or pappukura...........wonderfull. with hard procedure of this preparation we get very good taste mouth watering.

Roshni said...

wow! we make somthing similar with ypgurt and chillies...

Now Serving said...

Hmm.. What an interesting post - a variation of MoreMolagais with the stuffing.Sounds delicious

Aparna Datt said...

You cannot even imagine my joy when I read this recipe.Actually in very few houses it is prepared without buttermilk. My mother used to make this way in winter months ,(she was from Mysore/nanjangud region).Sadly she passed away suddenly and I thought I lost this reciepe along with her. For the past few years I have been searching on the internet as well but almost all of them follow buttermilk method.She also used to add coriander seeds powder..
Thank you so much for this recipe

Nagashree Ravi said...

@Aparna - I am so sorry about your amma, ammas are precious beyond expression. I haven't been on the blog in a few days (playing amma to my own little girl who is home for vacation) but this was the first comment I saw and it made me tear up. I am glad in a small way I was able to bring a piece of the memory to you. I grew up in Mysore (if you can't tell from all my references across the blog:-)) and Nanjanagudu is our mane devara sthana, very very familiar.

Coriander seeds powder sounds like a yummy addition, I will try when I do my next batch. Look forward to seeing you & hearing from you around the blog.