HOT SPICE THAT SPICES UP SOUTH INDIAN DISHES: CHILI
Chillies are a type of spicy vegetable that comes in different varieties and colors, like green, yellow, orange, and red. They are very popular around the world as a spice. Chillies can be used in different forms – fresh, dried, or powdered. The level of spiciness can vary from mild to extremely hot. Generally, smaller chillies tend to be hotter. The substance that makes chillies spicy is called capsaicin, which is mostly found in the inner part of the chilli and to a lesser extent in the seeds. However, chillies are not just about heat; each type also has its own unique flavor.
If you eat a dish with very hot chillies and your mouth feels too spicy, drinking milk or eating yogurt can help cool it down more effectively than water. When choosing fresh chillies, they should look glossy and firm, without any soft patches or bruises. Some chillies, like cherry hot chillies, may appear wrinkled even when they are at their best.
Chillies not only add flavor to our food, but they also have several health benefits. Here are some of them:
- Green chillies have zero calories and can speed up metabolism, making them a good choice for people trying to lose weight.
- Green chillies are rich in antioxidants, which can help protect against damage caused by free radicals. They are especially beneficial for prostate health.
- Green chillies have a positive impact on heart health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing the risk of heart disease and blood clots.
- The compound capsaicin in green chillies can lower body temperature by stimulating the cooling center of the brain.
- The abundance of capsaicin in green chillies can stimulate the mucus membranes of the nose, promoting blood flow and thinning mucus secretions, which can help fight against common cold or sinus infections.
- Green chillies are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are beneficial for eye health and boosting the immune system. They also have antibacterial properties that can help treat skin infections.
Dry chillies, on the other hand, are used as a seasoning and have a long storage life. They can be used in the same way as fresh chillies but provide a different flavor profile. Dry chilli powder, cayenne, and paprika are all made from different varieties of chillies. In Indian cuisine, there are two common types of chilli powder – hot regular powder and mild Kashmiri chilli powder, which adds color without much heat. Paprika and cayenne are used in Mexican and American cuisines, with paprika being mild and providing a vibrant red color, while cayenne is very hot and only a small amount is needed to make a dish spicy.
Thus, chillies are versatile and widely used in cooking. They add spice and flavor to dishes, and their health benefits make them even more valuable. Fresh or dried, chillies bring a unique taste to various cuisines around the world. Whether it is fish fry, mutton kheema curry or samosa that you order at Amma’s South Indian Restaurant, the rich hot taste of these dishes is due to chillies or red chilli powder.