Chillies are curious things, and so are the reactions people have when confronted by them.
There are people who steer clear of chilli, like they’ll fuss even if they see a plate at the end of the table, and then there are those that refuse to eat unless the food is red-face-sweaty-forehead-mouth-on-fire spicy.
(Side le note: There are studies now that state that personality type determines this preference for spice, but that is one long science type fellow, so if you want to know more, simply Google maadi.)
Everyone has that one Uncle growing up, who you’d always look at with a combination of horror mingled with deep admiration, every time he’d ask for a separate bowl of chillies and would then proceed to consume them as if they were vegetables or something.
And you wouldn’t be wrong in being mildly horrified—fewer things can induce more extreme reactions than a chilli that has been accidentally bitten into.
Funnily enough though, thanks to this same ‘reaction inducing’ ability, the consumption of spicy things has become beloved visual entertainment. People consuming food (chicken wings being the popular choice) covered in sauces with increasing levels of spice is a very popular YouTube series, and has spawned a variety of YouTube and Instagram challenges, because millennials. And also because television seems to have become about people suffering across the board. (Oooh going into a darkly profound space here.)
This seemingly idiotic challenge has everything you need for solid primetime television content though—excitement, anticipation, false sense of security, calamity, sadness, tears, violence, profanity, giving up, powering through, being rescued (albeit by a glass of milk), and happy (?) endings. What’s not to love?
You’re probably shaking your head in disbelief at this point, (smh based on how old you are) but be honest—you’ve also probably, at least once in your life, eaten a dish so spicy that you literally had tears streaming down your face, but also so tasty that you wiped those tears and powered right on.
Don’t let this dracarys type feeling (too soon for a Game of Thrones reference?) put you off from appreciating this deadly but versatile fruit. Yup, weird as it may feel to say it, the chilli is indeed a fruit.
Used the right way, and in strictly measured amounts, it can magically transform a dish from basic to most delicious. And sometimes, medicinal too. (But take this ‘medical’ advice with a pinch of salt, and some pills plis.)
Think about it—can you imagine your peanut masala without the occasional sting of green chillies? (Or our Paati’s Magic Rasam without the chilli on the side?) We think not.
But chillies aren’t restricted to just some smashing savoury snacks or our classic cocktails. A surprising culinary space in which chillies have featured more prominently than you might think is desserts.
There’s everything from Sriracha Lollipops to Jalapeño ice cream. And as unpalatable as that might sound at first, give it a chance—you’ll be surprised with what a curiously delicious contrast the combination of sweet and chilli creates for your tastebuds.
And this is commonplace depending on where in the world you are from. Chillies are a very common addition in Mexican chocolate and the subtle spicy aftertaste is so common that this is used in everything from cakes and truffles to brownies and shakes. People also make Chili (the gravy dish, no to be confused with our little fruit friend) out of Mexican chocolate. So, there’s that.
India of course is swimming in them chillies.
Do a quick Google search now and it’s probably first or second on every list of spiciest countries/spicy food countries.
We love our North Indian chilli cousins (special shoutout to the Bhut Jolokia, making India proud by driving people insane with its rating on the Scoville scale), but just in the south alone you have the Guntur Red from Hyderabad, the Chettinad Ramnad Mundu, also cutely referred to as the Gundu (chubby) Molzuka (chilli), the classic Curd Chilli or Moru Milagai which is very dear to the Tamilians, the Kanthari from Kerala, and from namma ooru Bengaluru, the Byadgi.
Plus, it’s not just the varieties that make it such an integral part of our cuisine. It’s the manner in which you can use such a seemingly tiny ingredient.
It is literally used in all its forms, full, split in half, diced, powdered, and ground. Think about it—you’ll see it in fried food like bhajjis and vadas, in rice dishes like chitranna and biryani, vegetables like every vegetable ever, meat dishes like chilli chicken, chicken 65, pepper mutton, chops, in chutneys, and in the hallowed chilli powder form which pretty much goes into everything. (including your eyes if you’re not careful which is why Indian children are advised early in their lives to treat it with the same care they’d treat a nuclear device with.)
And these are just few examples to give you an idea of what an integral part of Indian food they, across cuisines. There is basically no Indian food without the chilli. And if there was, the world would be a very sad (and bland) place.
Even the non-spicy version of the food that they make separately for your spice-intolerant paati will have trace amounts of chilli for flavour.
Like, what is curd rice without the salty perfection of the moru milagai? What is a good Andhra meal without Chilli Chicken? And what is roadside chai slamming without some chilli bhajjis?
Speaking of which, tried the Permit Room version of the chilli bhajji? No?
Our mulaga bhajji is generously stuffed with cheese, and after being nicely and properly batter fried, is served with a tamarind chutney.
Yup. We take a comfort food, stuff it with warm cheese, batter fry it with some nostalgia and serve it to you with love. (How's that for extra cheese?)
The cheese perfectly offsets the spice of the mulaga and tanginess of the tamarind chutney.
And whether it’s with tea, coffee, one of our cocktails or just by itself, the Chilli Cheese Bhajjis will leave you super satisfied. Plus, the weather in namma ooru right now couldn’t be more perfect to sample this one. Come off!
Oh, and the pot of gold at the end of this already shimmery shiny rainbow? We have a version with bacon too.
Need we say more? Didn’t think so.