The many ways the Telugus’ favourite ‘pandu mirapakaya’ can be made to extend its short stay
When the season of pandu mirapakaya (ripe red chilli) arrives at the end of winter, there is no stopping chilli lovers in the Telugu states. Sold in heaps by the roadside, the vivid red chilli is a coveted ingredient in regional cuisine.
Ripe chilli from Warangal, Telangana, is not too hot; in fact, it has a sweet aroma and leaves a sweetish aftertaste. The skin is fleshy and becomes slightly leathery when left to dry. If not sun-dried or refrigerated, these chillis do not last long. Despite being mild, pandu mirapakaya is rarely eaten raw, and popularly made into pickles, chutneys or used as an ingredient to add colour and spice to dishes.
A big reason behind the coveted status of pickles and chutneys made from this chilli, is its short season — it appears around Sankranti, stays for a couple of months later, and disappears just before harshest stretch of summer sets in. So, pandu mirapakaya has long been relished in the form of various sauces, pickles, dips and marinades, any medium that can help extend its stay in the kitchen.
Arundati Rao, a baker who also runs Culinary Escapades Studio, Hyderabad, says that apart from the traditional chutney made with generous amounts of fresh garlic, pandu mirapakaya can also be used to make red pasta sauce.
She suggests, “De-seed the chillies and puree them along with tomato. This cuts the tanginess of the tomatoes and adds a delicious red tinge. De-seeding takes away the heat from the chillies, making it an absolute winning ingredient. It can also be used to make chilli oil.”
‘Pandu mirapakaya kharam’ recipe
- Ingredients: 500 gms pandu mirapakaya chillies; Salt to taste; 125 gms tamarind; ½ tsp turmeric
- Wash the pandu mirapakaya and pat dry with a cloth. Cut each into two or three pieces. In a grinding jar, add the chillies, tamarind, turmeric and salt and make a coarse paste. The paste can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for six months.
- To make fresh pickle, cut a medium-sized onion into small pieces, and stir fry it with one tablespoon of Bengal gram dal, urad dal, cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add this to a dollop of the chilli paste and mix thoroughly. Serve with hot rice and ghee.
- Recipe by Srigouri Ketavarapu
In the restaurant world…
Sampath Srinivas Tumala, restaurant owner Spicy Venue, Hyderabad, says, “Pandu mirapakaya pickle is one of the most popular dishes in Telugu cuisine. In our household, we make a delicious pickle out of it with gongura (sorrel leaves) and it is finger-licking good. As a restaurateur I find the paste of this chilli to be an excellent marinade for any shallow or dry non-vegetarian dish, especially prawns and chicken. Somehow, I haven’t heard too many people using pandu mirapakaya paste for curries.”
Srinivas also suggests mixing (de-seeded) fresh chilli paste with hung curd and roasted garlic, as a dip for finger foods.
Innovations aside, some old favourites persist. For instance, Srigouri Ketavarapu, a retired general manager with the Ordnance Factory, makes sure she makes enough pachhadi (chutney) with this mirchi. She says the recipe is her connection with her mother who used to make it every year without fail — a connection Telugu children everywhere can relate to.