Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lasun Chatni, Mirchi cha Thecha and Sandgi Mirchi

- by Deepa Krishnan

Ever since I moved to our new office at Mahim, I have been trying out restaurants in the area. Last week I dragged my friend Kiran to Diva Maharashtracha, to check out their thali. 

The first thing we got was the accompaniments to the thali: and what a fabulous set of 4 they were!
The red powdered mix is lasun chatni, made with garlic and dried coconut. Just a little bit of it is enough to bring all your tastebuds tinglingly alive! It is among the most widely used accompaniments in Maharashtrian food. You'll find many vada-pav sellers in Mumbai using lasun chatni to add a kick to their vada pav. In rural Maharashtra, you'll find farmers using this to spice up a simple bhakri / roti.

Lasun chatni is really simple to make - slice dried copra into manageable bits, saute it with a few cloves of garlic in a table-spoon of oil, add chilli powder and salt - and grind it all together without adding water. That's it. You're good to go.

The copra gives it a sort of nutty flavour. You can adjust the garlic and the chilli powder to whatever suits you. Like I said, this is a miracle powder and gives everything an amazing zing - add it to hot fried potatoes, or sprinkle it over onion bhaji and see how it perks up everything. Oh and one more thing - remember, anything you make with coconut or dried copra should be either consumed quickly or refrigerated.

The green stuff in the other cup is mirchi cha thecha, green chillies roughly mashed with garlic and spices. Here's a closer look:
This is another divine accompaniment to roti. Sometimes grated coconut or roasted peanuts are added to give it body, but my friend Kiran Modak gave me this "only the basics" :) recipe for her mom's mirchi cha thecha:

Take a table spoon or two of oil, heat and add turmeric and hing (asafoetida) to it. Roast a few green chillies in it (lightly please... just for a min or so to soften them). Now take it off the flame, add a few cloves of raw garlic and salt and grind it coarsely. You could add a few drops of lemon juice to add the tang.

Sounds delightful, really. And even writing about it is making my mouth water!!

So now, for the last two accompaniments, the popular sandgi mirchi, and behind it, the mango pickle:
All Maharashtrians know (and have eaten) sandgi mirchi at some point in their life! It is made, not only in Maharashtra, but all over Southern India, with slight variations. You find some not-so-spicy green chillies, soak 'em in buttermilk and spices, then dry them, and deep-fry them. 

According to my friend Sujata Patil, in Maharashtra, the chillies are soaked in buttermilk with a mix of fenugreek seed powder, coriander seed powder and salt.  I've also seen variants with asafoetida in it, cumin in it (but in general everyone agrees there should be fenugreek!). When the green chilli has absorbed the buttermilk, you sun-dry it; then put it back into the buttermilk for soaking, then dry again, then back again, etc, for about 4-5 rounds, until you've got chillies that have completely absorbed all the buttermilk. Then you dry everything one final time, and bottle it away for deep frying later.

The mango pickle that you can see behind the sandgi mirchi is also tasty; and apparently the magic ingredient is a thing called Kepra Pickle Masala, which is made by a Pune-based company. I have to look for it next time I go there!

Here's Kiran and me having lunch; we both had vegetarian Maharashtrian thalis. They served us two interesting types of rotis: Tandlachi Roti, made of rice and Jwarichi Roti made of jowar. They were the perfect things to go with these four accompaniments. In fact, I would have been happy to just eat the rotis with the mirchi cha thecha, drink some buttermilk and go home :)
But our thali had a whole bunch of other things - and it would take me a lifetime to describe everything! This isn't even a complete photo of the meal :) After this, there was Masale Bhaat and two types of dessert as well.
I really enjoyed this thali, because it was so different from the usual Gujju fare I eat all over the city. Maharashtrian food is really Mumbai's secret cuisine, waiting to be discovered and celebrated.


Lotus said...

Really nice article! A real feast for sure :) Thanks for sharing the recipes - they are precious.

Lotus said...

Really nice article! Thanks for sharing the recipes. A feast for your eyes :)

BombayJules said...


Anonymous said...

It should be "sand-gi" mirchi and not "sang-di" (Sang-di alludes to ker-sangdi from Rajasthan!!)

A photographic sandgi mirchi receipe is here:

Deepa Krishnan said...

Thanks, I corrected the spelling. It's a similar word in Kannada also. Sandige. Generic word that refers to dried stuff for frying.

Janvi said...

This is really an informative & useful blog. Thanks for sharing with us. Day care in Noida

Anonymous said...

koda or "more" molagai would be better