Sunday, November 6, 2016

Red chili pickle(s)/Mirapa pandu pachadi - get ready for an out of the world experience with this 'tongue on fire' pickle :-)

I am pretty sure that what I am going to post today is not a recipe that everyone would love or even make but that said there is definitely a great fan following for this recipe none the less. It is mostly regional and relished by the people during the hot summers of Andhra Pradesh especially in the chili growing region of Guntur. I was not born in Andhra, have not gone to Guntur, so this is not a recipe that is organic to me, with all that explanation what is my affiliation to this recipe, you ask? For one, I am spicy food crazy and I love pickles and pachadis of all shapes and tastes. Would I make this again? Definitely, if I get fresh, red, pickle chilies (may be next summer). Did I like it? Personally, yes though it was hot and spicy, it is at the same time a foodie delight and a ride you want to savor in the spicy world.
Many years ago, when we were new here, a young couple with a baby girl on their shoulders, family mostly spread over the continent, no one really close by (driving distance) and we were missing home hopelessly, we used to crave to meet family and friends on weekends and extended holidays. One of BH's cousin and family lived the closest, about 3 hours drive from our first home in US and had two adorable little girls, one 3 years older and the other a year and half younger than our own 2 year old girl. DD loved their company, sandwiched between two girls and turning the situation to her advantage, cooing as and along with the baby when she wanted more attention or acting all grown up when she wished to be left alone. The three cousins really loved to get together and spend time as did the adults. They were a little more settled, had many friends in their neighborhood than we did and we loved visiting them. I am just reminded as I write this how all three girls have blossomed into beautiful young ladies and spreading their wings in the world.
One summer weekend, we drove the 3.5 hours with a toddler in the back seat who went, "are we there yet?" in her never exasperating, sweet voice every 5 mins or so :-), we understood she was eager to see the cousins especially after a promise of backyard swimming pool fun. They lived in a town that sees temperatues almost akin to those of Guntur itself and cousin B being a native of Guntur felt right at home in the foreign land. We reached home just as they were getting ready for lunch and we all crowded around the dining table. Plates were set, dishes with the regular homely south Indian fare was all over the table. Cousin B passed around the rice and as I reached out for the vegetable, asked me to wait and doled out a spoonful of bright, red chili pickle from a small porcelain container(called 'jaadi'). I have shamelessly made my family aware of my unconditional love for all things spicy and they pamper me with it every chance I get. She also told me to mix it with rice, add some butter and eat it. That was my first time eating the famous Guntur kharam or Korivi kharam, a pickle unlike anything else you have ever tasted, a sensation that is both delirious and delicious at the same time. I was given the gyan that day about how people eat the kharam in the hot summer back home. The small jaadi was just a tiny holder for the daily dose of the pickle while the motherload sat in a big container inside the pantry and it had come all the way from her mom's kitchen in Guntur. I ate only the pickle for that entire lunch and brought some home for later too :-).
Years passed and I never ventured to make the pickle at home since I never saw those red chilies here in the local market. Some of my Telugu friends told me that they would use the frozen red chilies from the Indian stores when craving hit them for that home reminding pickle taste. I was ok eating it occasionally, made by a mom or a mom in law of some friend and brought lovingly across the seas as they traveled here. They shared some with me and I never felt the need to make it myself.
Earlier this summer, as every other year, BH and I regularly visited our local farmers' market which runs May-Oct every Saturday. He likes to get the fresh fruits, wipe them on the sleeve of his shirt and bite into the juiciness right there while I generally wander around between stalls and vendors, stopping wherever fancy catches me from vegetables to fruit to bread to hand made art. For someone bored of the waxy, travel weary tomatoes in the super markets, the farmers market tomatoes are like a breath of fresh air and I try to make most of those 5 months of fresh produce since I cannot stretch them over the entire year. The eggplants, greens, tomatoes, berries, apples all taste super tasty and smell good as well :-). On one of the Saturdays, I came across this store that announced they had varieties of chilies and I went in thinking of getting a few jalepenos and may be green peppers for cooking but when I entered that small tent, was totally hooked on to the bright, red chilies they had. Despite the label saying "Thai Dragon Chilies (Super hot)" in bold letters, I picked up a couple handfuls as they looked way too inviting and super cute in their tiny, red avatars. Honestly, I didn't know what I would make at that time. I sent a message with a picture of the chilies to amma who was home as well. When we reached home 40mins later, she was waiting in the kitchen to see the chilies, she is like that, all child like in her curiosity and always supportive of all my sensible and oh-not-so-sensible decisions :-)
In those 40 mins, from the time I had the chilies in my bag at the market to the time we cycled back home, I had made up my mind that I would make the Guntur red chili pickle with them. Amma doesn't make this ever, her pachadis are mostly the "fresh, eat it today, gone tomorrow" kinds with the exception of her yummy avakkaya and maagaya. Her spice tolerance is way down and she steers clear of all the spicy stuff completely. So the only problem with me making up my mind? I didn't have a recipe and nor did my spice hesitant mother in law. But what we knew was a source that we could completely depend on for an authentic recipe. This is one of the times I love the family WhatsApp group chats :-). Amma sent an SOS on my behalf to the family group explaining our predicament of having brought a bunch of chilies without knowing how to make the pickle and asked for help and just as I was hoping, the response came from one of BH's aunt's daughter. Aunty is known in the family circle for her pickles, vepudus (stir fries), pachadis, and pretty much everything she cooks and I have had the privilege of eating in her kitchen more than once and have also asked for recipes every time :-). When the WA message went around, cousin G replied immediately with not only one recipe for the Guntur chili pickle but another pachadi version which she explained was easier and quicker to make. I set out to work immediately. She also was very sweet answering all my newbie questions over messages and sharing wise tips as she consulted with her mom.
Mosaravalakki (spiced yogurt & poha) with chili pickle - another great combo
I made the pachadi right away (well right away except for the time it took to clean, dry the chilies, fry them and grind them) and mixed with a bowl full of steaming pearly white rice. I skipped the butter as the pickle had a generous amount of oil in it already. Amma ate one morsel of the rice and made a dive for the grapes on the counter top. My FIL conveniently used the excuse of a heavy lunch(yes, lunch was over by the time the pachadi was ready but we made space in the stomach for the yumminess) :-) and refrained from trying the new, fiery pickle totally. BH & I sat leisurely at our dining table and emptied the entire plate enjoying every handful that went into the mouth. The second version was ready by the end of the week and we had another family of cousins visiting us who are true blue spice loving Andhra folks and we shared it with them. Aunty said it tasted very authentic though she had stopped making it herself :-). I can't take any credit since I just verbatim followed the instructions sent to me.
Chilies Galore!!!
The red chilies used in these pickles are not dry red chilies but a variety that are born red and have a distinct taste. I used the Thai red chilies since I don't have access to the Guntur chilies here, they were hot, spicy but rolled in with the spices, flavors and oil, make for a treat altogether. You can't eat a pickle as you would a sweet, that is common sense but note that this pickle is flavorful and not just "hot". Like I mention in the notes below, the pachadi version is mellower than the korivi khaaram. 'Korivi' refers to the raw, unrestrained heat which could be hard to handle for most people so always follow the recommendations of eating it with a dollop of butter or ghee, diluted by mixing with rice if you are new to this taste.
A truly flavorsome, delicious recipe shared generously by cousin Geetha and Radhatta, thank you both for your love and a special thanks to the family WA group :-)

Type 1: Mirapa pandu pachadi (can be made quickly and eaten immediately)
What do you need to make mirapa pandu pachadi? 
20-22 red chilies
1.5 Tbsp mustard
1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 lemon sized tamarind
1.5 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 cup oil

How do you make mirapa pandu pachadi? 
  • Wash the chilies thoroughly in water and let them dry on a kitchen towel indoors until all the water is gone and chilies are completely devoid of water. 
  • Wipe down with a cloth to make sure there is no trace of water
  • Remove the stem ends and chop the chilies into 1 inch pieces. 
  • Heat a big pan/kadai, add 2 Tbsp oil and let it become warm. 
  • Keeping the heat on low, add the fenugreek seeds to the oil.
  • Let fenugreek roast for about a minute before adding the mustard. 
  • Stirring frequently roast both until mustard pops and fenugreek turns beautiful golden, add tamarind & asafoetida, roast for 30 secs. 
  • Take them on to a plate leaving the oil back in the pan. 
  • Return the pan to the stove, add the remaining oil, chopped chilies and fry for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat or until the chilies soften up and develop slight blisters on the skin. 
  • Add salt to the pan, switch off, remove onto the plate, let it all cool completely. 
  • Take all the ingredients into a blender and grind to a coarse paste without adding any water. 
  • Take it into a dry, air tight container or ceramic cup and store it. 
  • It tastes delicious after a few hours of settling time and keeps well in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days if handled with dry spoons. 
Type 2: Kori/Korivi Khaaram also known as Guntur khaaram (Needs 3-4 days of marination time)
What do you need to make Kori Khaaram? 
25-30 red chilies
1.5 Tbsp fenugreek
1 small orange size tamarind
1/4 Tsp turmeric powder
1.5 Tbsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tbsp oil
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
1/2 Tsp mustard
a few fenugreek seeds (optional)

How do you make Kori khaaram? 
  • Wash the chilies thoroughly in water and let them dry on a kitchen towel indoors until all the water is gone and chilies are completely devoid of water. 
  • Wipe down with a cloth to make sure there is no trace of water
  • Remove the stem ends and chop the chilies into 1 inch pieces. 
  • Take the chilies, salt, turmeric powder in a dry blender jar and pulse it to make a coarse paste.
  • Separate the dry tamarind into small bits, remove any seeds and pith. 
  • Take a flat bowl, make a bed of tamarind pieces, top it with the ground chilies paste. 
  • Cover and let it marinate over night in a cool, dry place. 
  • Using a completely dry spoon, mix the contents gently to help the tamarind juices to flow, cover and set aside for another day. 
  • Repeat this process for 3-4 days so tamarind is soft and the chilies have marinated well in the juices. 
  • On the 4th day, take the marinated ingredients in a dry blender jar and grind into a course paste. 
  • Dry roast fenugreek on low heat until the seeds are golden and start to pop. 
  • Set aside to cool and make a fine powder. 
  • Mix this powder with the ground ingredients thoroughly. 
  • This is now ready to be stored for months in a dry container. 
  • When you want to use it, take a Tbsp of the pickle (remember small amount goes a looooong way :-)) in a small cup.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp oil, add asafoetida, mustard and fenugreek (if using). Roasting on medium heat, let mustard pop. 
  • Add this seasoning to the pickle in the cup and mix well before serving. 
Both the varieties taste delicious mixed in with steaming white rice, a serving of ghee on top, mixed in gently. BH & I relish it with a side of chopped onions and a mild sambar/huli or a cup of yogurt or the tangy Andhra pulusu. Try this combination or make your own. 
  • Use gloves while handling the chilies or always use spoons to handle them. 
  • Wash your hands in cold water and buttermilk if you feel the burning sensation in your hands.
  • Use the dry grinder jar of your blender to facilitate easy grinding. DO NOT USE WATER as it spoils the pickle. 
  • Separate out the tamarind layers, remove any seeds, pith and strings from it before using. 
  • Always use dry cups, spoons, blender jars and keep the area water free. This is the secret to the long life of the pickles. 
  • The variety of chilies determines the heat from them, you may need to adjust the tamarind, salt and oil based on that to suit your taste. 
  • I loved the pachadi version better than the Kori kharam since the roasted mustard, fenugreek add a wonderful aroma and also frying the red chilies mellows the heat a notch down. I think it is also a matter of being able to handle that raw heat from the khaaram since the chilies are not roasted in this version. 
  • You can adjust the amount of mustard and fenugreek in the pachadi version based on the flavor tilt you prefer. 


Radhika Rao said...

Very attractive attachments.Good to look.Thank you Nagashree for this recipe.Radhaththaa wishing your blog a bright future.Any idea of video uploading to your recipes?

NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow...what a recipe! long live Korivikhaaram. very tasty and mouth watering.

Nagashree Ravi said...

@Radhika Rao - :-), thank you stopping by and the wishes.

laurawkelly said...

Awesome. Definitely I will try this Red chilli pickle Thanks for sharing here.