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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Chp 685. Mizo Chilli


A lot of chilled stuff happened the past few days.

First, it was the glorious moment for India as Manushi Chhillar was crowned Miss World 2017.

And then came Sashi Tharoor who took a potshot at demonetization by tweeting, "What a mistake to demonetise our currency! BJP should have realised that Indian cash dominates the globe: look, even our Chhillar has become Miss World!"

His tweet was an attempt to make a pun on Chhillar (chillar) which means "loose change".

It got a mixed response though, with many people being offended by his tweet and even the NCW stepping in while others tweeted back saying this was a light-hearted humor and that the NCW should focus on more serious issues like the bounty placed on Deepika's head.

Ah, just another usual day at our Indian social media.

Finally, Miss World herself sent a classy response saying, "Chhillar talk is just small change - let's not forget the 'chill' within Chhillar".

And with that, I guess everybody chilled out...

For us Mizos, we had another reason to keep chilling.

Yesterday, our state government sent out an official circular stating that the popular and common chilli in Mizoram known as "Vaihmarchate" or "Bird's eye chilli" will henceforth be called "Mizo Chilli" from now onwards.

Wooohoooo! :D

I think this is a wonderful move. To celebrate this moment, as a long term chilli fan, I made this for dinner last night...


Just… just… appreciate the awesome art masterpiece display above okay? :D :P It took me a really long time to carve those letters out from my Prosciutto dry-cured ham dinner! By the way, the green pieces below the words "Mizo Chilli" above are the actual Mizo Chilli pickles. :)

It would have been more apt if I had made a Mizo cuisine last night, but it's a weekday and I cook Mizo dishes only during the weekends. Still, this was my contribution to mark this momentous occasion.

For those of you who want to see the circular, here it is (thanks to Rinkimi for sending this info to me) -


So, yes, ladies and gentlemen, from now on, all Bird's eye chilli or Vaihmarchate grown in Mizoram will now be known as Mizo Chilli.

There is a popular misconception within our Mizo community, especially among the Millennials and Generation Z, regarding our Vaihmarchate. I have heard many people say stuff like, "When we travel and live outside Mizoram, we call this chilli Mizo hmarcha, but when we are in Mizoram, we call it Vai hmarcha. That is so strange and funny."

Well, according to my good friend and brave firefighter from the USA Henry Vangchhia, he said that the "Vai" in Vaihmarcha has absolutely nothing to do with the term "Vai" used to describe a non-Mizo. The "Vai" here is used to denote something small, just as how Vaimîm means "small species of mîm (corn)", he said. This was something that his grandfather Pu Laldailova had told him many years ago.

And yes, this makes sense. This particular chilli specimen does not grow anywhere else in India other than the North Eastern states (and a few regions in Kerala), and is more popular in South East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore etc. In fact another popular name for Bird's eye chilli is Thai chilli.

That is why every Friday evening here in Pune, I rush to Nature's Basket at KP straight from office to buy their freshly arrived batch of Thai bird chilli!


Because by Saturday evening, they are all gone. Sometimes I would get some for my friends Sanga and the others @ Aundh since their Nature's Basket over there doesn't have this particular chilli. Yeah, KP is the best :)

We usually prepare Vaihmarchate Mizo Chilli by grinding them and making them into chutney-like paste with roasted tomatoes and onions. Below is a recent Mizo Chilli paste made by my neighbour Zama. One bowl contains fermented soybean, and the other is without, because some of his non-Mizo guests that night didn't eat bekang.


Before writing this blog post, we had a brief discussion at out Mizo Bloggers WhatsApp group. I asked the others if the word "Hmarcha" has anything to do with "Hmar" people. The others laughed and ridiculed me for my assumption, but some of them said it was quite appropriate because Hmar cuisines are extremely spicy and they have a very high tolerance limit when it comes to spicy food (Hmar bai is sooooo freaking awesomeee!).

But later Hrangkhupa told us that the Mizo word Hmarcha was derived from the Hindi/Assamese word Marcha (Mirch/Mirchi).

Apart from Mizo Chilli (Vaihmarchate), we also have Hmarchapui. It is bigger in size and used in a number of dishes as condiment. It is slightly thicker than the common green chillies (hara mirch) that we get all across India.

This is hmarchapui (pic courtesy Muantea, Mizo Bloggers group) -


We also roast it regularly to make different chutney paste…


Trust me, this chilli is also to die for. The normal green chilli over here does not exactly have the same zing, though I think it is the closest substitute to it. Here is John trying to roast normal green chillies at Sanga's place :D


So these are the two main types of chillies in Mizoram - Vaihmarchate, now known as Mizo chilli, and Hmarchapui. Other than this, there are also other types of chillies, though not as common as these two. For example, we have a popular chilli flake called "Hmarcha hmui rawt dip". It is a chilli that has been roasted, dried and grinded. This is made from neither Mizo chilli nor Hmarchapui, but just plain chilli.

Here's a pic of that particular plain chilli that Muantea sent me -


Once it is grinded to pieces, it is packed into smaller packets and they last for a very long time. I usually add this to my fried eggs or bekang chutney here in Pune.


I'm still trying to get accustomed to calling Bird's eye chilli as Mizo chilli on my blog, I'm sure I'll get used to it after some time.

I did have this brief discussion with a friend yesterday, who thought it was quite unnecessary to change the name.

"A bird's eye chilli by any other name is still a bird's eye chilli," he quipped.

"True," I replied, "But take a look at Raja Mirchi, aka King Chilly or Ghost pepper. It is also known as "Bhut jolokia" in Assam, "U-Morok" among the Meiteis of Manipur, "Malcha-Phoh" among the Kukis and "Naga chilli" in Nagaland. They're all the same and everybody knows that, I don't think it hurts to have our own regional name for it."

"But we already have a name for it - Vaihmarchate!" he said.

Well, he kinda got me there. But I think the name "Mizo chilli" is more catchy, especially to non-Mizos outside the state, and as a foodie who regularly takes part in different food fests and North East cookouts, I would be filled with so much pride if some of the guests exclaimed, "Oooh, this Mizo chilli is so awesome!"

At the end of the day, the circular clearly mentions that this is just a Geographical Indication, meaning only the Bird's eye chilli grown in Mizoram will be called Mizo chilli. I think this is more about patenting the name. I can still very much call it Bird's eye chilli if it is from someplace else. As David from our Bloggers Group said, "This is about preventing bio-piracy and establishing a secure place at the gene-bank so that in the future, outsiders will not steal our home-grown identity."

Touché.

So peeps, just chill. :)

Enjoy Mizo chilli if you haven't tried it out yet. You can order this chilli and a lot of other awesome spicy Northeastern chillies from giskaa.com and placeoforigin.in. And there's this new place I discovered recently called sprig.co.in that sells Bhut jolokia sauce! I have placed an order and will let you know how it is once it arrives.

Until then, keep chilling yo.

Cheers!

[Addendum: I did mention earlier that you will also find Bird's eye chilli in Kerala, but trust me, they are not as spicy as the ones from North East.]


1 comment:

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