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Looking for the hottest chillies? Visit Mumbai's Mirchi Galli

The age-old Mirchi Galli in Mumbai might have shrunk in size and strength over time, but for those looking to buy the hottest, freshest chillies this season, it still manages to pack a punch.

travel Updated: Jan 23, 2015 14:53 IST
Serena Menon
Serena Menon
Hindustan Times
Mirchi Galli

Beyond the maddening bustle of Crawford Market lies a street that is a haven for spice lovers. Called Mirchi Galli, this age-old, tiny lane is located near Jumma Masjid. And even though asking around will get you here easily, what you will see when you reach is perhaps only a relic of what it used to be.

In its heyday, we’re told, the Mirchi Galli was known to have over a hundred shops selling chillies and assorted spices. Now, there are only traces visible of the legacy of this flourishing spice trade.

“This entire street used to be full of such stores, but now it’s just a few of us,” says Jatin Shah, who is the fourth-generation owner of the popular shop, Shah Gabhrubhai Uttamchand, that was founded by his great grandfather. The other famous store in Mirchi Galli is Vadilal Champaklal & Co. that’s also located at the beginning of the lane.

While some blame the younger generation’s lack of interest in the business for the fading away of these stores, others feel these shops have become redundant because trade channels have evolved and it’s far easier to buy powdered, packaged chillies. But the ones who prefer buying their annual stock of Reshampatti (a popular medium-hot variety used widely in Gujarati cuisine) chillies, and then powdering them themselves, have always sworn to return to Mirchi Galli.

Since this is the ideal season for a few varieties of chillies to find their way to this market, and even many pickle jars, we went exploring Mirchi Galli and its neighbouring lanes to see what’s on sale.

DRY varieties
Kashmiri Mirch
This variety of dry chilli is particularly famous for the deep-red colour it adds to any dish when sprinkled during the preparation. Although it isn’t known to add too much spice to the dish, its distinct flavour is what makes it a hit among Kashmiri households.
price: Rs300 per kg
Bedgi or Byadagi Mirch
Grown extensively and often brought from the state of Karnataka, these chillies look very similar to Kashmiri Chillies, but are far spicier. They’re apparently named after the town of Byadagi in a district in Karnataka. They’re a crucial ingredient in cooking a variety of south Indian food, and are most often used in tadkas.
price: Rs220 per kg
Guntur Mirch
Borrowing their name from the Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh, these chillies have several sub varieties and are known to be among the best-selling chillies in India. They are very spicy and are used in different proportions to add hotness to a dish. These chillies are usually powdered and used as cooking masala.
price: Rs240 per kg
Sankeshwari Mirch
This spicy chilli is what gives a lot of regional cuisine, including Konkan food, its unique flavour, spicy zing and red colour. Used in the powdered form in fish preparations, assorted gravies and sambhar, this chilli is popularly used by the Koli community.
price: Rs220 per kg
Bor or Boriya Mirch
This dry variety stands out for several reasons. Its unique look might make it resemble a Habanero chilli or even a cherry tomato, but according to reports, it gets its name from the word ‘berry’ (or ‘ber’ in Hindi) as it looks like one. It is extremely spicy, and is often used in tadkas to give a variety of preparations a rich flavour. It is also considerably expensive as compared to other varieties.
price: Rs450 per kg

Store right
Dry variants of chillies can last long when stored correctly. Chilli powder should ideally be stored in an airtight jar and kept in a dry place.
Buy right
While buying fresh chillies, make sure they are not broken. Look for ones in bright shades of green or red that do not have spots on them.

FRESH varieties
Light green chilli

Of the fresh varieties, these are the least spicy and are often used to make pakodas or simple marinade-based pickles that can be munched on for their light flavour. Gujarati cuisine uses a lot of these chillies.
price: Rs20 for 250 gm

Dark green chilli
It is said that the darker green the chilli, the more spicy it is. In that regard, these tiny chillies are as good as dynamite; the smallest ones are the spiciest fresh chillies available and are commonly used in tadkas in several Indian preparations.
price: Rs20 for 250 gm

Bhavnagri Mirch
These chillies are barely spicy. They are often stuffed to make appetisers and pickles. Once they are slit through the middle and the seeds are removed, they can be stuffed with paneer or cheese and deep-fried. Late Chef Tarla Dalal’s website, for instance, has several such recipes available online, including Stuffed Bhavnagri Chillies (moong dal stuffed chillies).
price: Rs80 per kg

Red chilli
Once the dark green chillies ripen, over time, they change colour and become red. As their colour darkens, they also lose their hotness, and earn a light flavour. These chillies are best used in salads, soups, uncooked preparations, and for garnish.
price: Rs20 for 250 gm

Picador Mirch
Similar to Bhavnagri chillies, these ones are also popularly pickled and can be stuffed and fried for other preparations too. They can grow long, sometimes up to half a foot as well.
price: Rs80 per kg


*12 green or red chillies (Bhavnagri or Picador varieties) n 1/2 cup mustard seeds n 3 tsp salt (or as per taste) n 1 tsp haldi n 1 cup mustard oil

*Grind the mustard seeds in a mixer till they are coarse.
*To make the filling, add 1/2 cup of mustard oil, salt and haldi powder to the processed mustard. Keep it aside.
*Wash and dry the chillies and then wipe them individually.
*Slit each chilli using a sharp knife. Fill the cavity of each chilli with the mustard paste.
*Place all the chillies gently in a glass jar and pour the remaining mustard oil on top.
*Keep it in hot sun for at least 4-5 days before consuming the pickle.

— Chef Kunal Kapur

First Published: Jan 23, 2015 13:42 IST