World Palate Series
Hyderabadi Mirpakaya Pakodi /Bhajji
I had promised my readers some local recipes on my return from Hyderabad and Mumbai. For a festive recipe from my home town Mumbai, see Besan Ladoos for Deepavali.
Now lets’ savour street food from Hyderabad. The street stall down the lane where I reside, has always been a popular meeting point for the local labourer community. ‘Ting ting…. ting ting ‘ announces the hawker as he hits his large seived iron ladle on the simmering hot iron pan. Mirchi Pakodi or Mirpakaya Pakodi, as called in local Andhra language are sizzling hot and ready. Soon, crowds begin to gather around the simple Lungi clad hawker who fries the stuffed chilli peppers and hands them out coarsely on paper plates, garnished with chopped onion. Hmm… I was wary of taking a photo here – lest the local labour community begin to get curious.:(
Welcome to Hyderabad! The city of Charminar, the iconic building with four minarets and the popular Chudi Bazaar, Lac Bazaar and pearl markets in the old town areas. But it is the Hyderabadi cuisine, and the popular Biryani, that draws chefs and tourists from all over India!
Pages from history describe the Nizam’s kitchen as elaborate and authentic, drawing the best of Khansama or cooks from the Mughal/Persian/Arabic lineage. It was the art of blending spices, mutton /lamb and slow cooking Tandoor methods used that created some finest dishes and best kept secrets. It is said, even the young ladies of the house were banned from entering the kitchen! Recipes were passed down ONLY to the incoming daughter-in-laws, and they would learn and guard them. Mirchi ka Salan, lentil soups, kebabs, Biryani, Rogan Gosht and sweet treats like Double ka Meetha and Qubani are some delicacies of the era.
Another type of cuisine is the local Andhra food. Rice is staple diet, cooked in a variety of flavours. After the harvest, rice sweet /puddings are cooked traditionally using clay /earthen pots. For a Tamarind rice recipe, see here. Also popular are podi /chutneys/pickles that have a fiery, tangy element. Andhra people mix it with mounds of rice topped off with ghee and the fiery pickle to enjoy a hearty meal and some lip smacking. Beware you timid outsider…the experience might send your tummy rumbling and eyes tearing.
Let me share the recipe of Mirpakaya Pakodi / Mirchi Pakodi
4-6 broad peppers / Jalapenos (de seeded)
Oil for frying
1 cup lightly roasted Gram flour (chick pea /Besan)
2 tbsps. roasted flattened rice / Poha
Cumin powder, salt, chilli powder, ajwain – as per taste
Pinch of Soda bi carb (optional)
Fresh cut coriander as required (optional)
100 gms.unsalted, roasted peanuts
50 gms. sesame seeds, roasted
1 inch size ball of tamarind
salt /cumin powder to taste
2 medium finely chopped onions
Wash, dry and de-seed the chilli pepper and leave aside to dry.
Prepare the stuffing – Coarsely grind the peanuts and sesame. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add 2 tbsp. of warm water to tamarind and crush the pulp to make juice. Add this as required to dry ingredients, avoid making it too soggy. Begin filling the chilli peppers one by one, set aside on plate.
Heat oil in large wok /frying pan – do not smoke it!
Prepare the batter by mixing ingredients with small amount of water, at a time, to make a thick, pouring consistency.
Take one chilli pepper at a time, gently dip and rotate it in batter, coating it on all sides. Put it into the hot oil. Do same with remaining. Fry gently, turning it so as to give even heat and cook chilli on all sides till brown.
Remove from frying pan using large sieve ladle, draining excess oil. Set aside on plate.
To serve, garnish with chopped onion and lemon slice. Serve whole or sliced diagonally in half keeping th estem intact. Best served with frothy, milky Chai.
Tip: If preparing 1 hour ahead of party, pre heat oven to low temperature, line aluminium foil on tray. Place Pakodi/ Bajji on them. Keep warm till ready to serve.
Mirchi /Mirpakaya pakodi