When Peppers are King

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There is a little market up the street and around the corner from the studio. It takes place twice a week and at least once a week very early in the morning either myself our Minh go for a walk and see what is going on at the market. It isn’t a tourist market, it is a local market, lots of clothing, housewares, pre made food that feeds the University where the market is held. There is a bit of fresh fruit and vegetables too and we often buy our produce there as the quality is quite good.
One of the differences between living in India and living in Thailand is the quality and availability of the local produce. In India you get green peppers and if you are very lucky once in a while a red pepper, in Thailand peppers always come in the full spectrum of colors. This past week the peppers at the market were particularly lush and while shopping, I was thinking about our time in India and the frustration of shopping for produce, but as I was choosing peppers, what kept coming back to my mind was some of the Indian dishes that I cooked while we were there.
One of my favorite pepper dishes is, Besan Wali Shimla Mirch.
Other than the peppers, the main component of this dish is besan flour, sometimes called chickpea flour or gram flour.
This is not the first time I have used besan, I use it in pancake or waffle batter. We often had pancakes for a post run or cross-country ski meal, be it a late breakfast or a light supper. That’s right supper. One of the great things about being an adult is that, you can eat pancakes for dinner if want to. Why we really ate pancakes has more to do with the level of physical activity that we were participating in, than just eating on a whim. Gram flour is gluten-free, high in carbs and protein, for flour. It adds a slightly nutty taste.

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Besan Wali Shimla Mirch
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup besan flour
2 cups of bell pepper cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
Heat oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat. Add cumin seeds and roast for a few minutes, until the seeds become golden brown.

Add besan and mix well. The flour will clump up a bit, use the back of spoon to break up the clumps. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture becomes “bubbly”.
Stir in the peppers and the seasonings, mixing well.
Reduce the heat an d cover, cooking 6 or 8 minutes or until the peppers become just tender. Stir in the lemon juice.
That’s it. It is just that simple.
When I first discovered this dish, I was interested in its origins and through some research and talks with some of the Indian women where we lived my discovery was this:
Shimla is the capital city of the state of Himachal Pradesh not exactly known for its crops of bell peppers. Wali is a helper, or a custodian or even a crown. Mirch is chilli or pepper. Rajasthan seems to be the point of origin for this recipe, so I am assuming that somewhere in Rajasthan there is a town or village named Shimla and this dish is the crown jewel of northern Indian sabzi’s. The dish is sometimes served as a stuffed pepper, so perhaps the crown is referring to the decorative way that the pepper top is often placed on top of a baked pepper.

ทาน อาหาร ให้ อร่อย นะ (enjoy your meal)
Max

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