Nothing Succeeds Like Chilli Roulette: Chef Ali Akbar Baldiwala Shares His Best Recipes

Express press service

Nothing succeeds better than chilli roulette,” says Executive Chef Ali Akbar Baldiwala, Slink & Bardot, Mumbai. The pepper pasha brings sweet touches of pepper to his dishes. Take the Green Chilli Poppers. “I wasn’t a hot pepper fan when I started, but I learned to experiment with the different flavors.” His latest favorite is the Bhavnagri pepper with its unique spice quotient. “You can never tell which piece will have the most punch,” he smiles.

His spicy repertoire brings fine Korean chili powder into the bold gochujang in which he drizzles sweet pineapple, with wasabi buttermilk, into the tropical ceviche. “You can even give the classic chicken wings an edgy twist like I do with the Fermented Berry Hot Sauce – it packs the punch.” Chilies work differently in different dishes for Baldiwala as he blends flavors to temper the spiciness. Blame it on his spirited culinary journey that began at his father’s restaurant specializing in Mughal and Chinese cuisine, and took him to the Grand Hyatt, Ellipsis, Trattoria and Masque before he set about shaping gastronomic gospels. at Slink & Bardot.

“I like the complexity that chili varieties bring with them. The grand daddy of jalapenos – the Mexican chili pepper, ramos – is usually served with cheesy chicken or a meat filling. My vegan version brings a fiery choice chickpea tofu belly,” he shares. “The chile de árbol wraps up the earthy flavors and works great in salsa. Byadagi peppers add a lovely aroma and color to dishes. You need to understand that there are two types of heat quotients provided by chillies: the fresh, herb-like Bhavnagri that textures dishes with heat, or the dried versions that hit the throat with vengeance. By combining the two in deft measures, you can play with the level of spice in whatever you prepare.

Green Chilli Poppers

Ingredients (for four people)
✥ Bhavnagri chillies (medium) – 300 g
✥ Refined oil – for frying

Padding
✥ Soaked Chickpea – 80 g
✥ Reserved soaking water – 80 g
✥ Almond flour – 80 g
✥ Coriander (chopped) – 5 g
✥ Mint (chopped) – 2 g
✥ Shallots (chopped) – 5 g
✥ Miso paste – 2g
✥ Raisins (chopped) – 7 g
✥ Salt – to taste

To beat
✥ Refined flour – 160 g
✥ Cornmeal – 40g (plus extra coating)
✥ Baking powder – 1g
✥ Ice water – 350g

Salsa Roja-
✥ Kashmiri chillies – 20 g
✥ Byadgi chillies – 20g
✥ Peanuts unsalted without skin – 40 g
✥ Garlic cloves – 30 g
✥ Cilantro stems – 80 g
✥ Jaggery – 36g
✥ Water – 600g
✥ Oil – 50gms
✥ Salt – to taste

Method
✥ Char the Bhavnagar chillies for stuffing. Let them steam in the residual heat. Peel their charred skin and seed them.
✥ Blend the soaked chickpeas until fine. Strain with a muslin cloth. Transfer this liquid to a flat baking sheet and steam this mixture for 20 minutes or until the liquid solidifies resembling tofu. Refresh it. Now combine this with almond flour and mix to form a thick paste. Take it out in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients for the stuffing and transfer it to a piping bag. Stuff the peppers and put them in the freezer for at least an hour.
✥ For the Salsa Roja, roast the peppers, peanuts and garlic in the oven at 150 C for 15 minutes. Combine them with the water, cilantro stems and jaggery in a saucepan and boil until the chiles become soft. Cool this mixture and toss with oil and salt, to make a smooth emulsified sauce.
✥ Mix the dry ingredients for the dough and add water, while whisking. Coat the chiles in the remaining cornstarch. Dip them in the batter and fry them.

Freeda S. Scott