India has been called ‘The Land of Spices’ for eons, and for good reason. India is not only the home to some 14,000 varieties of chillies by some estimates, but has also become the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spice worldwide. But today, we’re going to highlight the an unsung hero of Indian cooking – sankeshwari chillies.
There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Of A Good Thing
While there are some well-known exports like the Bhut Jolokia and Naga chillies, we have some local warhorses, which while popular in their respective regions, have not garnered the respect and appreciation of the nation at large. To be fair, this is likely due to a combination of the following reasons:
- The sheer number of chillies are staggering and difficult to track
- Cheaper-to-find local chilli variants often lend themselves better to the local cuisine so people don’t explore beyond the already bountiful options available to them
- There are many variants of a given chilli and to the untrained eye (or tongue), they’re essentially passed off as each other
Sankeshwari Chillies: Origins
Grown in Sankeshwar (a town near Kolhapur, Maharashtra) from which it also draws its name. The Sankeshwari chillies are a lot like sex, it plays an important and spicy role in the life of many Indians, yet still isn’t talked about very much.
Along with its cousin the lavangi mirch, it adds a bright red colour to the local cuisine. Koli people don’t mess around – they like it hot and their deep love for spice shines through when compared with food from the rest of Maharashtra. The chilli has also found favour in Goa and Karnataka (further south) and to the locals, its value is common knowledge with its frequent use in both Koli, Malvani and Konkan cuisines.
During our early efforts to ethically source and perfectly sauce the goodness of sankeshwari chillies into the signature variant of our Indian hot sauce, The Original, we often found a delightful look of surprised approval from Maharashtrian locals and chefs alike. Moments like these really solidified our early mission to ‘hero’ Indian chillies.
The Inside Track
The Sankeshwari chilli is versatile and it is often ground into chilli powder for routine consumption in an assortment of fish preparations, gravies and sambhar. With a medium heat level (it is a dried chilli after all) and a consistent release of spice right from the time you start chewing to when you swallow your food, the chilli’s flavour profile faultlessly lends itself to sauces, pickles and other condiments.
Not A One-trick Pony
Spice and a little zing are not all that the Sankeshwari has to offer. It also comes with a host of health benefits! The chilli is used to protect the inner lining of the stomach and intestines from ulcers and is also known to help with acidity if consumed in small but regular quantities.
Relatively easy to find. Healthy(ish). Tasty. In many ways, the perfect chilli to make an indian hot sauce.