What is deggi mirch?

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What is deggi mirch?
Deggi mirch contains Indian red chillies. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Deggi mirch is an important Indian spice made from a unique blend of special varieties of colourful red capsicums and Kashmiri red chillies. It has a mild heat and a deep red-orange colour. It can be found in Indian grocery stores and may be sold as deggi mirch, degi mirch, deghi mirch, Kashmiri mirch or Kashmiri chilli powder. Many traditional Indian dishes use deggi mirch to impart a red colour, including tandoori chicken and Rogan Josh.

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Culinary Uses

Deggi mirch is used in Indian cuisine as both a spice and to add colour. It northern India, it is liberally added to chicken and vegetable curries and dals as well as their nan and paratha breads. Deggi mirch is often used in kebabs and adds colour and flavour to rice, dals, southern Indian sambars, soups and stews. It is often combined with garam masala spice mixes to flavour thick paya soups and birianis.

Hotness

Deggi mirch is full-flavoured but relatively mild in heat. It is slightly hotter than paprika but is used more to add colour than heat to dishes. Paprika measures about 500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the Scoville scale, while degga mirch is around 1,500 to 2,000 SHU. Cayenne chilli pepper can measure 50,000 SHU. When dry, deggi mirch can taste similar to paprika, but when it is fried in oil, the spice blooms to give more heat and adds a different flavour to the dish.

How to Select

In western countries you will mainly find powdered deggi mirch, but some Indian grocery stores may sell it whole. When selecting whole deggi mirch, make sure it is fresh and free of pests. You can dry it at home using traditional sun-drying methods or you can use a vegetable dryer. After drying you can grind it in a mixer. Powdered deggi mirch is sold under many brands and should be in well-sealed packaging.

Storage and Health Benefits

Whole deggi mirch should be stored in airtight containers in a cool place way from moisture and pests. Powdered deggi mirch should also be stored in airtight jars in a cool place. Over time the spice will lose both its flavour and heat, so do not try and keep it for months but use it in your cooking. It contains vitamin C and antioxidants, which are good for your health. A small amount sprinkled across a doorway can keep ants and other pests away.

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