The New Food Order

You’re hungry and you know it. It’s time to order some food.

It isn’t always an occasion that demands a choice away from your regular favourites. It could be a special drift in the air, a sway of one’s mood, a happy thrill of going beyond the ordinary and eventually a leap of faith in the food gods (read chef) and the hope to attain a foodgasm.

You know that particular feeling that rises up from the pits of your stomach, tingling your arms, culminating into a ton of drool you can barely hold shut? It starts when you toss the idea of trying out ‘something different’.

It could be as simple as fried noodles; you’ve had noodles before but “what’s fried noodles?” you ask yourself. Amused by the different images for answers your brain just tossed around, you announce your choice and settle into the most difficult bit- the wait.

Waiting for that exciting plate of order is no easy task. It’s especially hard when someone else is eating around you- office colleagues, flat mate or random stranger sharing the table.   You don’t really want to stare at their food, but you can’t help it, can you? You send across a silent glance. If caught, you steer a few casual glances at random objects hoping to pull off “I am just thinking about work.” When you fail to convince the other, you steer into the ‘ponder mode’. You fix your eyes onto empty space between you and the plate of food and fake a trance of serious thinking. The kind that could solve the city’s water problems if given a chance. It’s a mini victory for cheap thrills when you break your trance and catch the other person staring at you. You brush off the “Oh, you looking at me?” to be the bigger person and excuse the harmless stare exchange.

In an unexpected moment the food arrives! Ah-ha! Finally!

Global Cuisine: Penne Al Pomodoro with Garlic Bread

A delight filled exhale accompanies your anxious eyes waiting to see what the dish looks like. Does it match the mental image that popped in your head? Sometimes. Sometimes, it refreshingly exceeds your expectation. Clever packing, thoughtful garnishing and an inviting aroma, all things good that make you want to say Hola Chef (shameless plug), trigger the satisfaction of having made the right choice of trying ‘something different’.

With that happy thought you take that first decisive bite. You’re not easy to please, you tell yourself. You put on the hat of a tough cookie food critic and move the food around on your tongue, delicately allowing it to please your palette. Rarely is the choice a miss, if you’re one of the lucky ones i.e. When it’s a hit, a score, a bulls eye, a perfect melody for your food soul- you embrace your food choice like a mother embraces a new born. You’re THE discoverer, the adventurous risk taker, the bad ass who saw it all through, the new advocate for this dish, the enlightened one. It’s going to be one of your recommendations to friends, family, strangers and the neighbourhood dog pack.

All good things come to an end, when it comes to food hour. And as you lick your plate clean, you walk away a happy victor. Ready to make bold choices all over again; faith in food goodness restored. Speaking of bold choices, have you heard of Hákarl? (Look it up!)

No, I haven’t tried it yet. If you have the heart, do let me know.

Memories Of Lamb Cheese And Camel Milk Tea

The first time I had eaten lamb cheese had been in a Tel Aviv restaurant where our friends were all trying to help me order a completely vegetarian meal. After specifying what I didn’t eat, I left them to choose the dishes for me, albeit a little apprehensively. I was told that a particular dish contained lamb’s cheese and was highly recommended by the chef as being fully vegetarian. I love cheese and am also pretty adventurous when it comes to tasting something new, so I nodded happily.

But I hadn’t bargained for its strong flavour. As they all looked at me expectantly, I made a great show of enjoying it which I am sure was no less than an Oscar performance! Between large gulps of red wine, I somehow managed to finish it! Remembering that it was made from sheep milk – yes that woolly animal of Ba Ba Black Sheep fame didn’t help matters any!

I remember another such awkward moment dating back to my adolescence. Funny how some incidents, not to speak of tastes – remain etched in one’s memory decades later.

My father, a Central Government employee, had been posted to Jodhpur and since he wasn’t sure how long he would be there, I was left with my elder sister in Mumbai so that my school term was not disturbed. When the summer holidays came, I was off to Jodhpur – yes to the dry desert city during the hottest months of the year!

There were many places of tourist interest and we went to the Umaid Bhavan Palace, Mandore Gardens, Balsamand Lake and other places, but the most important landmark — the Mehrangarh Fort remained to be visited as father couldn’t find the time to take us. Man Singh, one of the staff in his office offered to take us. He lived inside the fort, his family having served the King’s family for generations. We took a tonga to the fort.

The fort was magnificent, not to speak of formidable. The climb looked and was arduous, but we were so excited that we didn’t mind it one bit even in the sweltering heat. Man Singh had an insider’s knowledge of the fort and also could go into many sections freely, being part of the fort staff’s family. After several hours of roaming and learning about the history of the fort, we were tired and thirsty.

He took us to his home, where we were offered chilled water from the clay pots kept on the window sills. His mother talked to us in Rajasthani and we replied in Hindi, with Man Singh acting as the interpreter. We were plied with the wonderful sweets of Rajasthan and a little while later his wife brought us tea.

I eagerly picked up the cup and took a large sip. My face must have changed visibly because my sister, having taken a sip herself, pinched me surreptitiously perhaps to prevent me from spitting it out. Even the generous flavoring of cardamom couldn’t mask the strong flavour of the milk. Man Singh was most apologetic, saying that he should have warned us about the camel milk and that we could leave the tea if we couldn’t drink it. We were after all his boss’ children and he wanted to make a good impression!

But we shook our heads and managed to gulp it all down valiantly so as to not offend our wonderful hosts. As we left, we each took a mava ki kachori, to try and remove the flavour from our tongues.

Suffice to say that I still can’t look at a camel without remembering the taste of the tea made from its milk!

Why Farm to Table ‘Should’ Be The Future

Farm to (restaurant) table is a concept that is a huge hit with my psyche. I feel it is a wonderful extension of farm to home, and ensures that when we eat out or order in, then too we are sure of plating food that is intrinsically good for us. Plus, it is a fact that this way the food does taste different – more ‘healthily delicious’ if I may twist the phrase and use here. I remember eating some super delicious grub at many farm to table restaurants during my trips to California and Italy, and have been reading about similar restaurants now coming up in India, Mumbai in particular. Delhi sadly did not have a place like that till now, so last week when I ate at newly opened Pluck at Pullman in Aerocity, bang next to the airport, I could actually point out (with utmost glee) to what I wanted to eat at the restaurant’s in-house mini farm that was teeming with cabbages, lettuce, oregano, spinach, parsley, pumpkin and lots more and soon it was served to me farm fresh (pun intended). This mini farm located within the premises of the hotel is the restaurant’s way of offering the freshest, safest ingredients to the diners, and ‘if this means offering only a seasonal menu, than be it’ he says. Kudos to this thought. I am all for it, as I too believe that this is the right way to cultivate a healthy relationship with our table, be it at home or in a restaurant.

So basically to cut the long story short, on that day at Pluck I fancied lettuce and spinach and some parsley too from their farm, so the menu that landed on my table for lunch was fresh lettuce with a dip as a starter, a soup with parsley and oregano sprinkled liberally and an uber delicious spinach, mushroom and bacon salad, and as I sat eating it all, trust me I actually tasted health, and satisfied both my taste buds and soul. Good meal this one was, a kind I won’t mind having more often.

And there’s science behind the goodness of farm to table too. Firstly this way you can ensure eating organic food, and keep the toxic load down (and God knows we need to do that). Second it is as close to getting to live the way our ancestors did (pluck and eat, hunt and eat… get the drift) and they sure were far healthier than we are today. And thirdly most importantly research has proven that the less the time lapse between plucking veggies and fruit and eating, the higher the nutrient composition of that food will be. As time elapses, nutrients keep skimming off too. So basically this way (the farm to table way) you eat food the way nature made it – bursting with goodness, nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes. And who can doubt or contest the fact that ‘fresh’ definitely tastes better too.

I just wish more restauranteurs and chefs follow the lead. Worth a try definitely! Meanwhile, I took away some herb seeds from their farm and am now waiting for them to grow up (on my mini balcony farm) for me to be able to pluck them at will for my soups and sautés soon. You should begin your mini farm too.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

Make Cutting And Chopping Fun With Good Knives

There was a time when I used to collect cutlery and knives. I have since, stopped buying the former but I can’t resist buying a knife if I see a good one. I use at least 4-5 knives along with my trusted cleaver during the course of the day to do various cutting jobs in the kitchen. And all need to be sharp enough to cut off my finger. Note, I said ‘cut off’ not cut — they have to be that sharp! I keep one blunt knife for jobs that don’t require a razor’s edge.

And to think that in my mother’s house, we hardly had any knives. There was this old fashioned board with a curved knife mounted on it. We learnt not only to cut all kinds of vegetables on it but also grate coconut on the serrated plate-like contraption at the end of the blade. I learnt to use knives only after marriage and then it became a life-long love affair. And the cleaver? I will come to that soon.

Source –

Cooks and their knives have to vibe with each other. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Well, there was this cook in my son’s house who didn’t like any of the knives in his kitchen and kept complaining. Finally, he gave her some money and told her to get what she wanted. The next day, she brought home something resembling a carpenter’s thin saw with a handle, her face beaming!

On the other hand, some cooks can make anything work for them. I know some women who manage with just one knife! They peel, chop, cut, slice, shape – all with that one small knife. And we once had a neighbour who made beautiful fruit and vegetable carvings using a small knife with a four-inch blade and a broken handle! I guess it is all about how good you are at what you do. The tools are incidental to your craft.

By that standard, I am most inept. For instance, if I have to cut something hard like, say, yellow pumpkin, I would first use a cleaver to chop them into about 4 inch squares. Then I use a largish knife to slice off the peel (a peeler is useless on the tough pumpkin skin). I then use a smaller knife to remove the peel from parts my large knife did not reach. Finally for the actual cutting, I go back to my cleaver. Chop, chop, chop….and the pumpkin lies in a neat pile of half inch cubes in no time! Thank you Yan!

Oh you don’t know who Yan is? Well he was the host of the cookery show Yan Can Cook, which aired on Star TV back in the early 90s. Martin Yan made magic on the chopping board with his huge cleaver, wielding it like a surgeon’s scalpel to cut, chop and slice! Mesmerized, I had promptly bought a cleaver. The first time I used it, despite carefully watching his lessons on how to do it, I had almost chopped off my left forefinger. However I soon got the hang of it and for the records, I haven’t lost a digit in all these years! But my greatest regret is that I still can’t use it as skillfully as he does.

One need not be a knife collector like me, or even have a cleaver like Yan, but I would suggest that you have at least two or three good knives of different blade lengths, to make cutting vegetables a pleasure — even an art!

The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard! 

Chickpeas Are Deliciously Good For You!

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are the big daddy of legumes. Dating back to about 7500 years, these are eaten extensively across the world. And for a good reason!

Both kinds of chickpeas – desi (Bengal gram or kala chana) and kabuli (safed chana) are nutrition powerhouses: 1/2 cup cooked (80 gm) will give about 130 calories, 7 gm protein (a great source for vegetarians), 6.5 gm fibre and multiple vitamins and minerals. By the way, bet you don’t know that chana dal is split chickpea with the skin removed!

They are loaded with fibre, which helps fill up with less; so you stay full for long with these. In fact some research shows that urge to snack is lower after eating chickpeas and they help lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, so they are cardio protective. Desi chickpeas score better than Kabulis in terms of fibre content and thus have a very low glycemic index.

They are packed with antioxidants – vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene, and also with immune protecting minerals, copper and zinc along with the hard to find manganese too (1 cup gives 40 mg, almost half our daily requirement). Here too the desi variety with its thicker seed coat stores greater concentrations.

There’s more good news: according to some reports the phytoestrogens in chickpeas help protect against osteoporosis and lower the risk of breast cancer. Basically when beneficial bacteria in our gut ferment chickpea fiber, a metabolite called butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid is produced. Butyrate is down to induce apoptosis (self-destruction) of cancerous cells.

Plus all you insomniacs out there please note that as chickpeas are a high tryptophan food, they can help calm your mind and lull you into deep sleep too.

Eat em

Definitely make a nice spicy chickpea curry and pair it with rice. After all who doesn’t like chhole chawal! But get a little experimental too (they are very versatile, try them): add them to salads and soups, roast them (drizzle olive oil, roast at 400 F for 30/40 minutes, add salt) try falafel and hummus.

Hummus Recipe 

  • Soak 1.5 cups of chickpeas for 4-5 hours and then pressure cook for 2-3 whistles (till they become soft enough to grind in a mixer/grinder).
  • Cool and grind them with 3 garlic cloves, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, 1/4th cup sesame seeds and salt to taste.
  • Add 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp olive oil, mix and set aside. Also try sprouted chickpeas (their nutrients skyrocket this way).

And definitely try this Lebanese-ish recipe I learnt from a foodie friend of mine and make pretty often: mash leftover chhole to make miniature tikkis you can grill in the OTG or pan-fry till golden. Add matchsticks of carrots, radish and beet with a splash of vinegar and dig in.

By the way, in Philippines chickpeas preserved in syrup are eaten as a dessert. That’s a great idea too. But whichever way, I say try to have half a cup of cooked chickpeas thrice a week at least.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

How a Foodie Celebrates Valentine’s Day

Love food? And in love as well? That’s double celebrations then, and this Valentine’s Day, here’s what you are likely to do while romancing your true love – whichever it is.


1) Expects the gift to be anything edible
Expensive watches, gadgets or phones are a necessity but food is the want. Doesn’t matter if it’s the regular pizza or a box of chocolates – infact how about gifting some assorted paans? You can adore the sight of him incessantly chewing them and atleast think of this gift to be a worthy one!




2) Thinks of the day to be yet another opportunity to gorge on food 
Bro 1 – Today is what?
Bro 2 – Today is Valentine’s Day.
Bro 1 – What’s cool about it?
Bro 2 – You gotta be like loud in love.
Bro 1 – And?
Bro 2 – You gotta gift.
Bro 1 – And?
Bro 2 – You gotta go on a dinner date.
Bro 1 – Wow, thanks bro! I think am gonna go celebrate dinner.



3) Gifts food vouchers to your loved one
Not a bad idea if the vouchers are of a high-end restaurant, you can look forward to another dine out soon. But here is a honest reminder – a Chanel perfume, a pair of CK jeans or a Louis Vuitton handbag are such gorgeous, materialistic, show off gifts. Vouchers? Seriously?




4) Brings in pizza and shares it
The love triangle is right there – in each slice…but did he just share the pizza with you? That shows the amount of love! There’s a clear winner then and we hope it’s not just for the day!




5) Idea of a special date – orders more food than usual
At the restaurant table:
Honey – I think I will have a manchow soup, chicken kebabs and aglio olio.
Baby – I think I will share the manchow.
Honey – And I want to have veg wontons, shahi paneer and butter naan.
Baby – Isn’t that too much food, honey?
Honey – It’s Valentine’s Day, baby.
Yeah, right.




6) Checks for buffet places to dine at 
Were you expecting candles adorning your table, soft music in the background and red balloons randomly gliding around? Brace yourself, this is going to be one crowded place with clinking cutlery and loud ramblings … but it’s unlimited food, sweetheart!



7) Instagrams food first, selfies with date later
The food tastes the same whether you edit it with Hudson, Valencia or Mayfair but there’s so much fun adding some 30 hashtags and flaunting the plate, isn’t it? Meanwhile, your date is wondering if her make-up will stay till you click a few selfies with her to post.




8) Quickly decides to order so there is less talking, more eating
Sweetheart – How do you like my dress?
Darling- Hey, let’s order first.
Sweetheart – But why didn’t you wear that black shirt?
Darling – Let’s order first.
Sweetheart – But let’s go on a drive na, after this.
Darling – LET’S ORDER.



Download Food: 5 New Tech Features on Holachef

Constantly endeavouring towards making the meal ordering experience interesting yet simple, the tech team at Holachef takes away all credit for adding the food – ‘tech’ prefix to the startup. And with these 5 brilliant features that make food ordering so classy, we are pretty much hoping our super cool techies will one day crack a code to download food!

1. Look and Feel

Ordering food gets interesting with easy navigations, neat alignments and information highlights. What’s more, enjoy picking and choosing your meal as much as you love eating it! Experience a smooth user interface with impressive layouts, colours and clicks.

Holachef Homepage

2. Gift a Meal: Send Holachef food as a gift to make someone’s day

Here is a great way to make someone relish their meals the way you do. Surprise them and send some love with a gift of food they relish! And with world cuisine by our stellar chefs this is surely going to be a goodie that will be cherished for a long time!

Gift A Meal from Holachef

3. Notify feature for ‘Sold Out’ dishes

Have you logged on to Holachef only to discover your favourite meal to be ‘sold out’? Now, it won’t be a long wait before you get to enjoy the dish you have been craving for! Check out our cool notify feature where you can click to tell us the meals you would not want to miss and we shall inform you whenever they are on our menu next.

Set alerts for dishes that are sold out with ‘Notify’ option on Holachef

4. Filters

Helping you simplify decision-making and pick the right dish, are some apt filters – from snacky meals to filling ones and desserts to soups, choose from a variety of platters and make your own meal combos! A quick and efficient way to order away.

Quick filters on Holachef website

5. Tell us what you want!

Do you tend to have the menu mein-kuch-toh-missing-hain-wala moment often? Worry not, check out the form that lets you submit a list of dishes that you would prefer eating and we shall ensure they are up on the menu soon. Wish away!

Didn’t like anything in today’s menu?

There is much more in store, to help you pick the meal effortlessly and ensure a happy experience. And all this with more interesting designs, concepts and communication. Just keep craving, we say!


Meal times, story times!

Today toddlers are expected to eat by themselves as early as they begin semi-solid foods. Feeding them is frowned upon. While it might be a good way to inculcate independence, I feel it robs them of the emotional bond and physical contact that come with a loved one feeding them.

In our times, we told them stories, showed them the crows and dogs and the moon as we gave them little spoonfuls of food. They ate a little more, ate everything we fed them and were none the worse for it as generations of adults would vouch.

Not all kids were easy to feed though. There were the fussy eaters, and naughty ones, who ran around the house, with the one feeding them running behind with the bowl of food! Overall though, distracting a child to make her or him eat was the easiest way to get a wholesome meal into their little bellies.

I remember my little two-year-old nephew who was a darling but was impossible to feed. He loved all fruits and he loved even his unsweetened milk but hated proper food. Fortunately, he enjoyed animal stories and so we made them up with lots of sound and action which he loved. The problem was, he got so absorbed in the tale that he forgot to open his mouth or chew his food!

So the little lion/cheetah/elephant in the story had to eat his food given to him by his mother too – by opening his mouth wide, of course!

I would say: ‘How did the baby lion open his mouth when his aunty gave him mummum?’ The little mouth would open most obligingly to demonstrate and a spoonful of mashed food would slide in smoothly. Now it was time to make the cub chew his food and naturally the little boy had to show me how he did it!

You won’t believe me if I told you that I managed giving him his entire dinner one day by just asking the two questions over and over between narrating the exploits of the cubs in the jungle. I am sure the super-smart kids of today would have got wiser after a couple of times as they realised that it was not the lion cub which was eating but they were! Thank god for the naiveté of kids back then!

I feel that even today, stories make the food go down faster, and not just for toddlers. It is for this reason that I never objected to my boys reading while eating. The only rule was that they could read only if they were eating alone. I know of a lot of children and adults who have this habit. Psst…I read while eating alone even now!

How can I forget the moon while talking about meal times and toddlers? The three were inseparable. There are rhymes in many regional languages serenading the moon, affectionately referring to it as ‘mama’ and calling it down to play with the child. How many meals have gone down generations of little throats by looking at the moon and listening to stories about it? There are many Chanda mama songs too. This one was the favourite of my kids. Listen to all the lovely food being described!

Coming back to the current trend of insisting on children eating by themselves, how many of them eat without distraction if they do it at all? The difference is that the idiot box has taken over from the mother or other elders sans the emotional bonding and closeness. And I don’t think it is a good way to eat watching inane cartoons and sundry serials, do you?

The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard! 

Oodles Of Noodles And A Pasta Recipe

I have never understood the flak noodles getall the time. Agreed it is a high carbohydrate food, but who says carbs are bad – we need them for energy after all and grains do provide nutrients like B complex and multiple minerals that we anyways dont get to eat enough of. And let’s be clear, here I am not talking about the preservative laden instant noodles, or even about the oil dripping roadside stalls gooey stuff. I am talking about simple dishes that are cooked with noodles (and other pastas) the way they should be – with lots of colourful vegetables and if possible even a source of protein. Eaten this way they are simply a variant or rather a combined version of our Indian roti-sabzi (instead of having it separately, here you mix everything together to create one wholesome dish and chomp it happily) and a nice change if nothing else; plus extremely convenient to put together.  

What I also like about them is that they can be made in many-many ways and taste different each time, and are a wonderful vehicle to ensure loads of fibre (opt for whole grain pasta and add lots of veggies), calcium (cheese, cottage cheese), protein (meat, egg, tofu), and difficult to find micronutrients (add roasted seeds, nuts and herbs) in our diet. Also you’ll be surprised to learn that pastas that are classically made with a rich tomato sauce deliver (thanks to the tomato) loads of an antioxidant called lycopene, which helps in protecting us from heart disease, cancer, asthma and even cataracts.

Of course, what goes without saying is that portion control is most important (like for any other food). Eating huge portions smothered with highly calorific cheese or a heavy cream sauce will obviously lead to expanding waistlines.

Still worried about the carbs, or have a reason to reduce them from your diet? Then check out this interesting new trend of transforming vegetables into pasta-like noodles. I find them super exciting and think that these nutrient-rich pasta-imposters are a wonderful way to eat more vegetables – and yes they can help you cut down on calories and refined grains, if that is so important to you. Apparently there is a spiralizing machine which helps do that but lot of people make do with simple peelers to make vegetable juliennes and turn carrots, turnips, beets and zucchini into noodles, actually called zoodles. Then you simply top them with a sauce of choice (I love pesto) and dig in or use as a base for a salad or casserole instead of spaghetti.

Finally I am sharing a fabulous (and my favorite pasta recipe) from my book Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People for you to try minus any guilt (it’s loaded with goodness, and is super-super tasty).

Pasta with Chickpeas and Spinach 

  • Boil half cup pasta (or 150 gm spaghetti or noodles). Keep aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil (or any oil), add 1 sliced onion and salt to taste. Next add 1 tsp sliced garlic. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes and then transfer to a plate and keep aside.
  • Put 100 gm baby spinach, 1/2 cup boiled chickpeas (channa white) and 1 cup water and 1 chopped tomato in a pan. Simmer till spinach is done. Add pasta, salt, black pepper and red chili flakes to it. Toss till coated. Serve combined with the onion mix made earlier.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She is also the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico). She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog. 

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan   

A Chilli Hot Story

Have you ever eaten green chilli? No, not when it is used as masala or garnish, but a fresh, raw one? I wouldn’t advise you to do it unless you like to feel like your whole mouth and gullet and stomach are on fire. I still remember it from the time I had eaten a small bite of one, way, way back in time.

In one of the houses we lived in, had this kitchen garden with many vegetable plants, among them some chilli plants too. Every day, before starting to eat, mother would pluck a fresh green chilli to eat along with her food. She relished its zing, scarcely wincing at the heat. It made my mouth water just looking. One day I went and plucked what I thought was a perfect one. Mother warned me not to eat it, but naturally I didn’t listen to her and merrily bit into it. I had not even chewed it properly before my tongue was on fire!

Black Grapes Of Chillies – Source –

I got up, ran to the washbasin and rinsed and rinsed my mouth; stuffed it with spoonsful of sugar and downed gallons of water. My stomach only got bloated but I was still on fire. Finally I went and stood under the fan, my face turned heavenwards, my tongue hanging out – like a puppy!

After growing older, I read about Scoville Heat Units (SHU) which are used to measure the heat factor of chillies and the SHU of various kinds of chillies. Hilly India is home to the largest number of chilli varieties going from the mildest Kashmiri chilli (about 2000 SHU) to Bhoot Jholokia (Ghost chilli) of Assam (1,041,427 SHU). This last is a rich red and looks innocuous, but its sharp sting-like curve gives it away. See the picture if you don’t believe me!

Bhoot Jholokia -Source

Bhoot Jholokia ruled the records as the hottest chilli in the world till it was displaced by its hybrid the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion which was about 1,200,000 SHU. The ruling chilli till date is the Carolina Reaper at over 2,200,000 SHU! Talking of records, there is one of a man munching through 3 Carolina Reapers in 10 odd seconds! That is over 6 million SHU! Remembering my eating a positively mild chilli by comparison and going berserk, I don’t even want to think of what happened to the one who ate three of these killers!

There are so many varieties of chillies in the world and India itself has the largest number of them. I remember this horticultural show where there were chillies of all shapes and shades ranging from white through pale green to fiery red, all the way to black! I was fascinated by the last. One stood ramrod erect, its end pointing to the sky and there was another that looked like a bunch of black grapes. Needless to say, I wasn’t tempted to try any of them!

Upright Black Chillies – Source –

For a spice that came to India just over 600 years back, chillies replace the hitherto ruler of kitchens – pepper. This was the spice for which Europeans undertook expensive expeditions and waged wars and colonized spice producing countries including India. It was said that a small sack of pepper was worth a man’s life, so precious it was. It is easy to see how chillies almost replaced pepper because they grew practically in all climates and soil types and so were cheaper and easily accessible to everyone, while pepper production was largely confined to Kerala and so was very expensive.

I will tell you more stories about this wonderful spice and share a fiery recipe of chilli chutney another day.

The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard!