I first tasted a very good Mirchi Ka Salan at a wee Hyderabadi restaurant in Colaba, south Mumbai, called Vintage, operating from a colonial era bungalow on the quiet Mandlik Road.
The salan was very well made and I vowed to learn how to reproduce it. So, in those Internet-less days I scoured different cookbooks for a good approximation of the dish, but I had only partial success.
Back in the 1990s, the footpaths around Fort, also south Mumbai, were occupied by even more diverse sellers than they are today. Pavement book hawkers existed cheek by jowl with vendors selling purloined Air India cutlery and dishes.
These hawkers -- I am not talking about the more established stalls selling all kinds of rare books near Flora Fountain and the once-functioning Central Telegraph Office -- sold all kinds of pirated books like Thy Neighbour's Wife, Harold Robbins and Sidney Sheldon's Rage of the Angels and also a series of pamphlet cookbooks for recipes from each Indian state or region.
In the Andhra Pradesh or Hyderabad booklet I found two interesting recipes -- Baghara Baigan and Mirchi Ka Salan.
Using that recipe as the base, I perfected my own version of Mirchi Ka Salan that's popular with my family, especially the foodie youngest daughter.
Mirchi Ka Salan goes best with steamed rice -- basmati or a tasty small-grain rice. It also can be eaten with parathas or rotis.
Mirchi Ka Salan
- 250 gm Bhavnagari chillies or the large pakoda chillies
- 2-3 green chillies or to taste, slit lengthwise
- 1 generous handful peanuts, dry roasted
- ¾ cup grated desiccated coconut
- 2 tbsp khus khus or poppy seeds
- 1 sprig green dhania or coriander or cilantro
- 10 pods garlic, roughly crushed
- 1-inch piece ginger, grated
- 7-8 curry patta or leaves
- ½ tsp hing or asafoetida
- Juice of 1 lime
- ½ cup dahi or yoghurt, whisked
- 1 tbsp imli paste or to taste, optional
- Dash sugar
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 tsp oil for tempering + oil to fry chillies
- 1-2 tsp ghee
- Dry roast the chopped onion on a tava or griddle till browned.
- In a frying pan, saute the whole large chillies in a little oil till soft and they start developing patches of brown.
Add the green chillies and fry 1-2 minutes more.
- Grind in a mixer/blender the roasted peanuts, khus khus, coconut, green dhania and a little water so it's a thick paste.
- Heat the 1 tsp oil in large heavy-bottomed kadhai or saucepan over medium heat and add the hing, curry patta and fry for 1 minute.
Then add the garlic, ginger and fry for 2-3 minutes more.
Add the ground paste and cook till it begins to simmer and bubble.
Add salt, sugar, ghee and the lime juice.
Then add the two types of fried chillies.
Let it cook in the gravy for 3-4 minutes.
Add the whisked dahi and lightly mix without mashing up or breaking the chillies.
- Taste to check sourness.
If not sour enough, add a little imli paste and carefully mix again.
Take off heat and serve hot with steamed rice.
Zelda's Note: For a Jain version of this Mirchi Ka Salan recipe, omit ginger, garlic and onion. Add 1 tbsp saunth or dried ginger powder and increase the hing to 1 tsp.
To veganise this recipe, use vegan yoghurt instead of regular yoghurt and omit the ghee.
To work in advance, you could fry both types of chillies a day before and store in the fridge. The paste can also be made in bulk and kept in the freezer for the next use.