We were part-way through the cookery demonstration being given by Yamuna Achaiah, our hostess at the Gitanjali homestay in Mysore, when Yamuna emptied a small bowl of powder into the bubbling chicken and the kitchen landscape changed out of all recognition.
The curry turned bright red and a wonderful deep musky mysterious aroma pervaded. “Hmmmm” we both murmured appreciatively, “what is that?”
“It’s Byadgi chilli” we were told, “I use it a lot with my guests, who often find the heat of our spicy Indian foods is a bit too much. It’s much milder than the normal chilli we might use. And it gives a good colour to the food”.
‘Good colour’? I should say so, it’s rollickingly, rumbustiously red, and as Yamuna said, for those used to a quieter European cuisine it doesn’t overpower, it just adds depth, complexity and richness.
What is Byadgi chilli (also known as Kashmiri chilli)?
Byadgi chilli is mostly grown in the southern Indian state of Karnataka – it’s named after a town there and it gained a GI (Geographic Indication) in 2011. It’s the second most popular chilli used in India today.
The more vivid the colour, the better the quality.
Although it’s often referred to as ‘Kashmiri’ chilli it doesn’t come from Kashmir. In fact another name for it is ‘kaddi’ which means stick-like. Byadgi chillies are shrivelled, pointed and deep red, whereas chillies actually grown in Kashmir are quite broad, not very red and a lot more pungent.
How to use Byadgi chilli
- Add to curries, vegetable dishes, tomato sauce, soups, stews and sambars
- Add it to onions prior to frying and then mix with tomatoes – add to all the dishes above
- Use it for making chutneys
- Use it as a rub for meat
- It gets thrown into many Southern Indian dishes such as bisi bele bath – a hearty mix of rice, lentils and vegetables
- Mix it with ordinary red chilli powder to add colour and temper spiciness
Alternatives to Byadgi chilli
Aleppo pepper is a good alternative, or a hot paprika. Don’t substitute ‘standard’ chilli – the whole point of using Byadgy chilli is that it’s much milder. To give you an idea:
- Paprika is 100 – 1,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units)
- Aleppo pepper is about 15,000, although it can go up to 30,000 – it’s in the same range of heat as Byadgi
- Cayenne pepper is 30,000 – 50,000
For more on Aleppo pepper follow this link.