No Pakistani or Indian food is complete without its fair share of red chilli powder. If you aren't used to its high intensity, it can easily set your taste buds along with your tummy on fire. Why would people in their right mind even use such a spice? If you are new to the flavor and heat that this spice induces in a dish, you will be surprised to know that it doesn't taste as bad as it sounds.
Whether red chilies are used as a whole spice or in their powder form, they are the star ingredient of nearly every Pakistani/Indian dish. There are several types of red chilies that are available across these countries, with each chili having its own unique flavor.
These chilies are then converted into a powder where they are used to impart a spicy kick to otherwise bland meals and provide flavorful food.
What Is Red Chili Powder?
Red chili powder can make your dish adventurous and fiery. This potent spice can affect your tongue, stomach, and ears in one go. But how is this devilish red spice powder made?
Chilies are fruits that belong to the capsicum genus. They come in different varieties and are categorized based on their pungency. When ripe and dried, a chili fruit becomes a red chili. This dried red chilli is then grounded to a powder, which is ultimately called red chili powder.
How did this fiery spice become a top hit? In the olden days, black pepper was too expensive to get your hands on. A cheaper yet flavorful alternative was needed, and voila! Red chilli powder became an instant hit due to its pungency, taste, and flavor resembling black pepper.
Red Chili Plant
What environment does the chili plant thrive in? A fertile, deep, and loamy soil with adequate moisture levels works best for a chili crop to grow in. Although dry weather is needed at its harvesting time, the weather should be humid and hot when sowing red chilies.
Red chili powder comes in many variations depending on the spice level and the type of chili used. Depending on the brand and type of powder, it may also contain various spices such as cumin, oregano, garlic powder, etc.
Types Of Red Chili Powder
Different types of red chili powders range in taste and level of spice and pungency. Let's look at some of the most widely used chili powders that have made their way into our pantries:
- Indian Red Chili Powder: The Indian red chili or Laal Mirch powder is made using local red chili varieties, which impart an instinct spice to every dish. The credit goes to capsaicin, which is the active flavor imparting ingredient in the chilies. The laal mirchi powder may also include various chilies to balance the level of heat.
- Kashmiri Chili Powder: This most sought after chili is found in Kashmir and is famous for its bright red color. This renowned spice powder has made its way into every Pakistani/Indian kitchen owing to the color and flavor it imparts in every dish. In comparison to other red chili powders, Kashmiri chilli powder variation is less spicy.
- Deghi Mirch Powder: This powder is also a special variation of red chili powder, concocted with Kashmiri chili and red capsicums. The result is a deep orange and mildly spicy chili powder. As compared to the Indian red chili powder, this type is milder in heat and is used for imparting color to dishes.
Guntur Sannam Chili Powder: This red chili powder variation rules all the other types of red chili powders in India. It has a bright red color, and its powder is very hot. Its lip-smacking flavor, pungency, and fresh aroma make it a top hit.
How To Check The Quality Of Your Red Chili Powder?
Gone are the days when our grannies used to dry red chilies in their yard and make their very own red chili powder from scratch. For our own convenience, we happily buy readymade packets from the store.
However, do you know that your trusted chili powder may contain much more than red chilies?
You can easily check if your red chili powder's quality is compromised by doing the following tests:
- Water Test: Chili powder is mostly adulterated with brick powder, talc powder, or salt powder. To confirm your suspicions, add a teaspoon of your chili powder to a glass filled with water. The red chili powder will never dissolve if it's pure. However, if your water changes color, the mirchi powder is artificially colored.
- Brick Powder: Brick powder is one of the most common adulterations in red chilli powders due to their color similarity. Simply take a pinch of the lal mirch powder and rub it on a smooth surface. If there is any grittiness, it may be due to sand or brick powder.
- How To Confirm Artificial Color: Sometimes, chilli powder is also artificially colored. To find out if your red chili powder has been a victim of artificial coloring, sprinkle it in a glass filled with water. If the powder has colored streaks, the chances are that it has been adulterated.
How To Store Red Chili Powder?
Red chili powder has a very long shelf life, so you can store it away without any worries. Remember to store it in an airtight container and keep it away from heat and sunlight. Your red chili powder should last you a good two years. You can also add a few asafoetida chunks to ensure its potency.
If spicy food is your guilty pleasure, you can safely label yourself as innocent. When this spice is used with its natural goodness, you are sure to enjoy flavorful food. If you haven't used chili powder before, we suggest you start doing so now for new cultural experiences through food.