Indian Chilis -
[mostly C. annuum]
Mirch is the Hindi word for chili. Chilis were brought from South America to India by the Portuguese through their trading colony of Goa. India is now the largest producer and exporter of chilis in the world, growing a wide variety of different types, particularly in the south. The majority are left to ripen to red, and then sun dried. Photo of chilis drying in Rajasthan, northern India © i0091.
Indian chilis can be difficult to identify. Some sites say people in India only pay attention to "mild", "medium" and "hot", not named varieties. This is not precisely true - they know the mild, medium and hot chilis provided by their local merchants. These can be very specific types, but the merchants can be very inexact about names and origin.
This no longer works well. Indian communities are now scattered all over the world, and transportation of goods is fast and easy. Very accurate information should be made available as to exactly what kind of chili it is and exactly where it is from. This is not yet the case.
Since few identifiable varieties of Indian whole chilis are available
in North America, even here Los Angeles, I have been able to take only
a limited number of photos. Since I prefer not to "borrow" photos in
violation of copyright, I have instead provided
Links to some Indian sites that do have
More on Chili Peppers.
In India, chilis are generally used either fresh and green, or dried. Fresh red chilis are not so common in home cooking.
Byadgi / Byadagi varieties Kaddi / Dabbi
Dried Red. A long pointed chili, dark red and strongly wrinkled. The Dabbi variety is wider. Grown mainly in Karnataka, this chili has very little heat (H1, sometimes H2). It is much used in Goa and Karnataka, states on the south west coast of India, and is considered essential to Marathi cuisine. It is particularly valued for the bright red color it imparts. It is often used in Goda Masala (for recipes that include chili, not all do).
This chili is also often ground and sold as "Kashmiri Chili Powder".
It also supports a large oleoresin extraction industry. The red oleoresin
is much used as a coloring in food and cosmetic products. The photo
specimens, up to 7-1/2 inches (19 cm) long and 5/8 inch (1.6 cm) across,
were purchased from a large Indian market in Los Angeles.
These are small green chilis soaked in yogurt or buttermilk and salt,
then sun baked for nearly a week. Fry them in a little oil and serve as
a condiment. They are used most on the west coast of India. Actually
pretty tasty, hotness from H3 to H5,
depending on what chilis were used. The photo specimens were Mullaku,
about 1-7/8 inches long (48 mm), so quite hot. Dried green chilis,
Dhani: - [Bird Chilis, African Devil; C. frutescens or C. annuum]
There are a great number of varieties of Bird Chili in the world, but they all have a lot in common. They are small, intensely hot (H8 to H9), and grow point up on the plant. Most ripen to deep red, but the ones I grow ripen to bright orange. Unripe, they are commonly green, but some are white, yellow, purple or black. The hottest varieties tend to be a bit shorter and wider than those in the photo. They are hottest when green, losing a little heat when red, and more when they are dried.
While a number of varieties are available in India, used green, red
and dried, Indian expatriates in North America are quite happy with the
Thai Bird Chilis grown here, found in every Indian markets. The
photo shows fresh green and red Thai bird chilis grown in California,
and dried red from Thailand. The largest was 2.63 inches (6.68 cm) long
(not counting stem) and 0.4 inch (1.01 cm) diameter.
Dried. A large conical chili (similar in shape to our Fresnos) used in Goa, where the Portuguese introduced chilis to India. It is only moderately hot, and when not available one or another variety of "Kashmir" chili is used.
Ramnad Mundu / Gundu Molzuka / Round:
Dried. A small almost spherical chili with shiny skin, an orange-red
color and medium heat. It is grown particularly in the Ramnad district
of southern Tamil Nadu, and is used in that state, particularly in
the Chettinad cuisine. The photo specimens, purchased from a large
Indian market in Los Angeles, seemed to vary from around
H7. They ranged from 0.7 to 1.25
inches diameter, with most around 1.0 inch (2.5 cm).
This is a non-specific term. Guntur, near the central coast of Andhra in southern India (just north of Tamil Nadu on the east coast of India) is a center for chili production, and the source of most exports from India. Many varieties are grown there, mostly Capsicum Annuum var longhum. Here are a few examples:
Guntur Sannam S4: This is the major variety. It is
usually around 5 inches (12.5 cm) long, narrow and hot (Scoville 35,000
to 40,000, our H8). About 280,000
metric tons per year are produced.
Wonder Hot: The hottest Guntur chili, (our H8 - H9).
334: A premium export chili.
Teja and Phatki: Rather hot varieties.
Photo copyright unknown - widely used by Indian exporters .
This is the fresh green chili produce markets in Los Angeles have been
selling as "Indian Chili". I don't know if such chilis are actually
grown in India - I haven't seen Indian references to long green chilis
that are as mild as these (about H3).
They are up to 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) long, and most are just shy of 1/2
inch (1.3 cm) in diameter.
Indian Hot Green Chili
These started appearing in a Los Angeles produce market in January 2017,
in place of the green chilis pictured above. They are a much more
satisfactory Indian Chili, being quite hot (about
H7). They have the thick taper at
the cap end and the more wrinkly appearance I see in photos of Jawala
chilis in India. The photo specimens were about 3-7/8 inches long and
0.38 inch diameter (9.8 x 1.0 cm).
Jwala - [Hot Finger Chili; C. annuum]
Fresh Green, but sometimes used dried red. This is the
most popular hot green chili in India. They are long (about 5-1/2
inches (14 cm)), very narrow, a little wrinkled, and quite hot (about
H7) - the name means "volcano" in
Hindi. It is grown mainly in Gujarat (situated on the northwest coast of
India). Subst: Serrano (hot end of range) or green de Arbol.
Photo copyright uncertain - used by various chili and seed
vendors in India and elsewhere.
Dried. A very flavorful intensely red chili grown in Kashmir. It is a largish chili with medium conical shape and a fruity flavor, and little heat. Dried it is fairly smooth and very dark in color. Kashmir chilis are not much exported from the region, due to scarcity.
Kashmiri: Since real Kashmir chilis are in
very short supply in India, and demand for this type of chili is very
high, substitutes are far more common than the real thing. Most chilis
used to make "Kashmir" chili powder are a more elongated type, often
Byadagi varieties Kaddi or Dabbi, but still very mild. They are not so
intensely red, so a little paprika is often added to a dish for color.
Subst: Indian chefs abroad recommend a mix of mostly paprika with some
cayenne for heat, but Kashmiri chili powder (the substitute kind) is
easily available from Indian markets here in Los Angeles.
Photo by Miansari66 contributed to the Public Domain
Kanthari - White
Dried. An ivory white chili grown in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the far south of India. It is small and very hot with a medium conical shape - a typical white bird chili. Note that there are also green and red bird chilis under the name Kanthari.
"Mulaku Chili" [Bird Chili, Bird's Eye Chili]
This is a classic Bird Chili, grown in southern India. Like other
bird chilis it is very hot, (H8 to
H9). I have found these sold as
"Moru Mulaku Vadagom" or Dried Green Curd Chilis (see Curd Chilis,
Photo by Rojypala contributed to the Public Domain.
Naga Jolokia: - [Bhut Jolokia, Ghost Chili, Bih jolokia, U-morok; C. chinense x C. frutescens]
This chili is grown in the far northeast of India, mainly the states
of Nagaland, Assam and Manipur. It was famous for a while as the hottest
chili known (2007), at about Scoville 1,041,427 (varies widely depending
on where it is grown). It was displaced in 2012 by the "Trinidad Moruga
Scorpion" at about Scoville 1,200,000, which was itself displaced in
2013 by the "Carolina Reaper" from U.S. South Carolina at over Scoville
2,200,000. While commonly red, it is also grow in white, yellow and
purple varieties, and shape can also vary somewhat.
Photo by Thaumaturgist distributed under license Creative
Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.
Dried. A long narrow chili from Andra Pradesh.
Dried. A popular chili in northern India, which will grow in a wide variety of climates. It is about 4 inches (10 cm) long, 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) diameter, bright red and wrinkled. Very hot.
Dried. A short, broad conical chili of a maroon color and medium heat (H4). It is very popular in Gujarat on the west coast, but is a fine chili for the cuisines of most of India. In Gujarat and Maharshtrian it is used to spice pickles. I have yet to see whole dried Reshampatti chilis here in Southern California, but powder is easily available in Indian markets here. It is deep red and quite flavorful. The photo specimens, purchased from a vendor in India, were typical. The largest was 2-7/8 inches (7.3 cm) long and 2 inches (5 cm) wide.
There is a lot of confusion about this chili. Some Internet sites
show it as a long, thin, very hot chili, but the Indian sources from
which I have bought reshampatti chilis, have them as wide and medium
Serrano: - [C. annuum]
Fresh Green. I don't know if these are yet grown in India, but
they are now popular in Thailand. They are commonly used in place of
Jawalas here in North America. All the Indian markets here carry them
(but so does just about every other market). They have more flavor than
most hot green chilis - but nobody seems to be complaining. They are
fairly hot (about H6) and can be up to
4.5 inches (11.5 cm) long and 0.8 inch (2 cm) diameter.
Shimla Mirch: - [Capsicum (British); Bell Peppers (North America); C. annuum]
This is the Bell Pepper available everywhere in North America.
They are always available fresh and are only dried for use by industrial
food processors. Box shaped to heart shaped, these are up to 5 inches
(12.7 cm) across here in California, but may be a bit smaller in India.
They feature thick, crisp and flavorful flesh with no heat
(H0), though occasionally one will be
found to have a faint trace of heat.
Tomato Chili / Warangal Chappatta:
Dried. A wide conical chili with a blunt end (similar in shape to our Fresno chili, but with a blunt tip and thinner flesh) grown in Andhra in southeast India. They are fairly mild.
"Vathals" are vegetables, dried with a coating of salt or curd and
salt. these chilis claimed only "Chilis, Salt", but the taste suggested
curd was also used. They were about 4-1/2 inches long (114 mm) and quite
hot. The instructions were "Dip fry and serve hot".
Dried. A yellow chili favored by gourmets in northern India for their white and yellow curries. It is grown mainly in Punjab in northern India, just south of Kashmir.
[Kashmiri Mirch (India)]
Hotness H2. Less sweet and a bit hotter
than Syrian Aleppo, Kashmir chili powder is widely used in Indian
cooking, particularly in the relatively softly spiced meat dishes of the
north. It is rarely made from actual Kashmiri chilis, which are in very
short supply, but from other mild, intensely red chilis, particularly
Paprika is much used in Indian cuisine to provide a bright red color
without making the dish too hot, particularly when true Kashmir chilis
are not available. The best to use is genuine Hungarian paprika, which is
sweet (H0), flavorful, brilliant red,
and far superior in taste to American paprika. which is usually ground
from New Mexico chilis.
This chili powder, actually usually a fine flake, is a bit less sweet
and a bit hotter (H4) than Kashmir,
and a good choice for all-around Indian cooking where you don't want
too mild or too hot.
Though whole reshampatti chilis are not much seen in North America, the ground version is very common in Indian markets here. This chili powder, often a fine flake, is a less sweet, significantly hotter (H4) and less red than Kashmir, and a good choice for all-around Indian cooking.
There is confusion about this name. Some sites and vendors list
reshampatti as "very hot" and show long thin red chilis. The photo
specimen I ground myself from the wide reshampatti chilis I purchased
directly from India, so I know exactly what it is.
India Extra Hot
This is the hottest, up to H8, of the chili powders sold in the Indian markets here in Southern California. It is likely ground from Guntur Chilis and is about as hot as Cayenne, but with better flavor than most cayennes. Use it for the cuisines of southern India and on the west coast from Goa on south, or wherever Cayenne is called for.
White Chili Powder
This ground chili powder is used a fair amount in India to spice up recipes with white sauces (all white feasts were popular with the ruling class during the Moghul empire period). I'm not sure how it's made but it's an extremely fine powder and about as hot as Reshampatti ( H4), but it lacks the distinctive flavor of red chili peppers. Consider it a "hottening agent" only, but much safer to use than capsaicin extracts.