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Food coloring in Indian Dishes

30 posts in this topic

Dear Thanks for the Crepes, 

I am from India, but unlike some of the other folks on this forum, I am not a chef nor a well known book author. But I am a foodie heheheh! And I love cooking and eating and reading all about them too!!

I will certainly look into the thread you mention. But before I start posting stuff about, I need to learn properly about posting pictures. And I am finding that just like you are friendly, others on this group are also being kind to me and helping me to learn. So let me perfect the art of reference first......

Then I will plunge with my ladle into the thread!! 



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Bharlela Mirchya Bhaaji


Bholar Mirch is the local name for a fat long chili pepper that is dark green like an ancho chili. It is available for about a month in between summer and monsoon in Gujarat and Maharashtra. And that is the time when we usually make this dish. It is called BHARLELA MIRCHYA BHAJI in Maharashtra, and BHARELA BHOLAR MARCHANU SHAAK in gujarat. 

I use either Ancho Chiles, or Banana peppers or Poblano here in the USA. If the peppers are soft and pliable, then those are good for this dish. We don't really want to make them limp by roasting them on the stove flame as in poblanos for Chile Rellenos, if I understand correctly. 


Here is my recipe (I don't have exact measurements because I did not write those down. I will start getting into a habit of doing that: 

About ten good sized chilies, either Bholar, or Ancho or Banana Peppers
1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/2 cup peanut oil divided

Salt, Asafoetida, and Turmeric to taste, 
1 tspn sugar
1/4 tspn lemon juice

Pinch of soda by carb
Crushed fresh green chilies and ginger

Mustard seeds, Whole Methi (Fenugreek) seeds 

Mix the garbanzo bean flour in about two tablespoons of peanut oil. Place in a microwave safe dish and microwave for one minute. Stir completely and put back for 30 seconds each time, till you get a roasted aroma. Be careful, it can burn. Alternatively add the same amount of oil, roast slowly by stirring constantly on a pan. Let the flour cool. Add salt, turmeric powder, asafoetida powder, grushed green chilies, crushed ginger root, and a pinch of soda bi carb. 

Wash and wipe each chile. Do no de-stem or de-seed. Slit them from tip to end but not all the way through. This is done to make a pocket. Stuff the chili pocket with this garbanzo and spice mixture. Lightly stuff as the flour will expand. 

In a cast iron frying pan, heat the remaining peanut oil on a medium flame. Once warmed not smoking, add mustard seeds and methi seeds. Immediately turn off the heat. Arrange all the stuffed chilies in a single layer over the oil, mustard and methi. Set the flame to medium LOW. Cover the pan with a wide container that can hold about a cup of water, like a stainless steel thali. Cook the Mirchi slowly and they condensation from the water in the thali will keep the mirchis cooking and steaming in their own juice. Try not to stir more than once or twice. It does not take long to cook, since the garbanzo flour was already roasted. As soon as you see the chilies wilt, stir gently so that they turn, but not break. Don't let any of the filling fall out. Pretty soon, a little caramelization will begin on the chili skins. Don't let it burn. Turn off the heat, cover and keep aside to cool. Plate when cool and garnish with lemon juice. You can serve this at room temperature. If you live in a cold climate and this dish has turned very cold, you can reheat for one minute at a time in a microwave. The skin of the chilies is not thick, and the flour inside cooks easily. So don't overcook. 


Posting Again. Please bear with me as I learn how to post. 



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I am not sure why there is so much fuss made about colouring in food.  I saw a documentary about some regular festival in India where dozens of people throw powder paints bright red bright orange and florescent colours all over each other and then chuck buckets of water at each other and the massive mess that ensues rather negates the comments about the Indians not using colouring.  They use dyes all the time in clothing and cloth.

Where food is concerned nobody ever got poisoned from cochineal red colouring added to desserts to make the milk pink.

Turmeric has been used in India and everywhere else to colour rice yellow.  Indian restaurants made rice more attractive by adding yellow orange and red colouring and mixing up the grains with un-coloured white rice.  Birianis look more festive with colour.   As for Tandoori, well an authentic recipe in a book I have makes Tandoori Murgh Masseladahr using pureed red plums or papaya fruit.  This added to turmeric for the marinade causes the chicken portions to roast to a rich red colour and it's utterly delicious. It has both sweetness and spicy taste with plenty of hot chilli or mustard seeds.  


Anyone who is squeamish about colouring in food is obviously thinking of bad additives in Western foods by manufacturers of processed foods who throw in some pretty awful muck to give food colour.   Many still add MSG as a "flavour enhancer" and I often tell them that if the food was any good or had decent quality in the first place - the flavour shouldn't need enhancing.  It was in my view a practise that was introduced to make Fish Fingers and Burgers addictive to children so they would bully their parents into buying more.  The practise continues in far too many British food manufacturers and in Chinese Take-Aways and Restaurants where they chuck MSG powder into everything despite many people being allergic to it.


So I say forget worries about colouring;  the Indians are well aware of steering out of the way of toxicity in foods and when you're making your own - use turmeric fresh or dried for getting a yellow colour;  use beetroot juice for bright red;  use a mixture of the two for orange colour.  Plenty of foods will add colour if you look around - even broccoli cooking-water strained adds green if you want green!

Good Currying




Edited by Plado missing word (log)

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Thank you for your comments. Its been a while since I posted on this topic and a discussion on Indian food is always welcome.

However I dont think the topic was ever a discussion of 'toxicity' of color, or as we would spell it in India 'colour'. At least my memory seems to indicate just a discussion of colors and spices in Indian foods, like turmeric. 

So you are right, we do use plenty of color-imparting foodstuffs since ancient times and none of them are toxic. 

But the reference to the festival of colors 'Holi', is a cultural celebration of the spring harvest and has nothing to do with food coloring as such. I just wanted to highlight that. Holi is celebrated with a lot of colored powders being thrown about and smudged on each others hands and cheeks all in the delight of a great spring harvest. 

My two cents, or should I say my two paise


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8 hours ago, Plado said:

I often tell them that if the food was any good or had decent quality in the first place - the flavour shouldn't need enhancing. 


What a ridiculous attitude. I take it you don't use salt either, then.


Many "additives" are used to enhance flavour all across the world: salt, sugar, pepper, acids (vinegar or lemon juice etc), wine and other alcoholic beverages etc. The list goes on.


MSG is just another on the list.


8 hours ago, Plado said:

they chuck MSG powder into everything despite many people being allergic to it


I have no intention of reviving this old argument, but very few, if any, people are allergic to MSG. No controlled study (and there have been more studies of MSG than any other "additive") has ever identified a single case of MSG allergy. If you want to see what's been said here before, there are over 200 comments here.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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