Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.


Food coloring in Indian Dishes

Recommended Posts

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!! 



  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

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. 



  • Like 3

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

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)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


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


  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
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)
  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, dennisedward said:

if you need food color, then use natural colors. It does not have any threat to human life.


What do you mean by "natural"?


The idea that "natural product"s do not harm the human body is ridiculous. Arsenic is natural but trying sprinkling that on your dinner!


Cochineal, used in food coloring, is natural but some people are allergic to it. And it's certainly a threat to the bugs killed to produce it!

  • Like 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By Suvir Saran
      What role do they play in your Indian kitchen?
      Do you use it in other dishes you prepare? Maybe even outside of the Indian food realm.
      Do you find it easy to find Cilantro?
      What parts of cilantro do you use?
      How do you keep it fresh?
    • By bague25
      Which are the pickles you have in your pantry right now?
      Which are the ones you dream of?
      Any recipes? Any secrets? Any reading material?
      Please share - as Monica says Inquiring minds want to know...
    • By Bhukhhad
      Breakfast in India vs Breakfast in our homes outside India
      My breakfasts have varied from the time I started to cook for myself instead of just enjoying my Mother’s cooking. At first they were a mix-match of meal fixings, or just dinner leftovers. Or the good old breakfast cereal and milk. But as the years passed and I was more organized, the meals I enjoyed in my Mother’s home began to swim in my memories. And I began to prepare those for my family. However, I am no amazonian chef, so depending on  the hectic nature of the days plans, I switched back and forth from convenience with taste, to elaborate and of course tasty breakfasts. We do have both vegetarian and non vegetarian foods but Indian breakfasts will mostly be vegetarian. 
      So here are some of the things I might make: 
      1. Poha as in mostly ‘kande pohe’.
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
      3. Masala toast
      4. Indian Omelette
      5. Handwo piece
      6. Thepla
      7. Vaghareli rotli
      8. Dhokla chutney
      9. Idli sambhar
      10. Leftover sabji
      11. Muthiya
      12. Khakhra
      13. Upma
      14. Paratha
      1. Kande Pohe: 
      The dish derives its name from Maharashtra where the Kande Pohe are celebrated as breakfast. They can of course like any breakfast, be eaten at any time. 
      Pohe/ Poha are steamed rice grains that have been beaten flat and then again redried. So they are like Rice flakes. Except they are hand pounded, so have a knobbly texture. 
      You get several varieties in the market. I prefer the thick white variety. 
      1 cup dry poha per person
      1 medium onion sliced
      1/2 jalapeno deseeded
      1 sprig curry leaves
      2 small garlic cloves
      1/4 t cumin seeds
      1/2 lemon 
      1/8 t asafoetida
      1/4 t turmeric
      small handful of cilantro leaves
      1T fresh grated coconut
      2 T Peanut oil 
      salt to taste
      sugar to taste
      In a pan heat some oil and add cumin seeds. When the seeds sputter, add sliced onions and stir. Saute on medium heat till they turn slightly browned here and there. Do not burn the onions. 
      Meanwhile wash the Poha in a colander and drain. Do this two or three times to get rid of any dirt and also to allow them to rehydrate. They do not need soaking. Fluff the poha with a fork. Add salt sugar turmeric asafoetida and chopped cilantro. Mix and set aside. 
      Once the onions are ready add minced garlic and chopped jalapeno along with the curry leaf sprig. 
      Turn the heat to low and add the poha mixture. Stir to coat and to allow the turmeric and asafoetida to cook. The poha will turn mildly yellow and start giving a wonderful fragrance. 
      Turn off the heat. Fluff gently and plate. Garnish with fresh grated coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice. 
      Finger licking good!! 
      Now when I make this next I will post a picture. 
      Update: Ok I felt the urge to have Kande Pohe for tonight’s dinner. So here is a picture. I am certain to enjoy it for breakfast as well. The measurement of 1 cup poha per person is too much for one meal. But carried over to another meal thats super good! I will also have some stir fried bok choy greens made in the same kadhai after the poha was done, and some cooked and sliced beetroot for salad. My family will add some haldiram sev on the poha for extra crunch! And we will all have some chaas to round off this meal. 
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
      These are essentially crepes but in the Indian style. 
      1/2 cup sieved garbanzo bean (Besan) flour. 
      Water to form a thin batter
      1T plain yogurt 
      1/2 t ginger garlic paste 
      1/4 or less green chili crushed
      2 t heated oil *
      pinch asafoetida
      pinch turmeric 
      salt to taste
      chopped cilantro (two sprigs)
      some ‘masala’ from a readymade pickle
      mix the ingredients together except oil. Heat oil in a separate pan and add about 1 to 2 t of the hot oil onto the batter. It will sizzle. Use a whisk to stir thoroughly. The batter should be pouring consistency. 
      Let the batter soak for about half an hour if possible. 
      On a hot griddle, pour a ladle full of the batter. Turn the griddle with your wrist to spread the batter around. Cook on moderate to high flame. Flip the crepe when all the sides look like they are ready. You can add a little oil to the sides of the frying pan to make the edges crispy. 
      In my home we usually have a Besan cheela with some yogurt its a quick and filling breakfast. You can have a small salad or fruit with it to make it more complete. Or fill the center of the cheela with some cottage cheese and fold for added creaminess! 
      3. Masala Toast : 
      1 slice of bread (your choice) toasted
      1/2 small red onion minced
      1 medium roma tomato diced (or whatever you have)
      cilantro (few leaves)
      1/8 t cumin (optional)
      1/4 t chaat masala ( available in stores)
      1 inch cube paneer
      1 T peanut oil
      pinch turmeric (optional)
      Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions. Add the tomato and cook down to mush. Crumble the paneer and add the dry spices. Stir for a few seconds to warm the paneer. Add the cilantro and though I have not written it as an ingredient, I like a few drops of lemon juice. Do not overcook paneer.
      I started this topic because someone asked for Indian recipes on the new forum. I don’t think they have seen any yet. I hope they find this useful. I am enjoying it. 
      I will add recipes to the list slowly. I have to however add that after a certain ‘age’ I have now resorted to having to make sure I have three things for breakfast besides coffee: a glass of water, a small portion of fruit and a small portion of some protein not necessarily meat. 

    • By Deeps
      This is one of my daughter favorite dishes, being mild and less spicy she loves this rice dish.  Its super easy to make and goes well with most Indian curries.
      Do try this out and I am sure you will be happy with the results.

      Prep Time : 5 mins
      Cook Time: 5 mins
      Serves: 2
      1 cup rice(basmati), cooked
      1/2 cup coconut, shredded or grated
      1 green chili, slit
      1 dried red chili
      1 1/2 tablespoon oil/ghee(clarified butter)
      1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
      1/2 tablespoon chana dal(split chickpeas)
      1/2 tablespoon urad dal(split black gram)
      1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
      A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
      Few curry leaves
      Salt to taste
      1) Heat oil/ghee(clarified butter) in a pan in medium flame. I used coconut oil here because it tastes best for this dish.
      2) Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal(split chickpeas), urad dal(split black gram), green chili, dried red chili, ginger and curry leaves. Fry this for 30 seconds in medium flame. The trick is to ensure that these are fried but not burned.
      3) Add a pinch of hing(asafoetida) and mix well.
      4) Now add the cooked rice and coconut. Stir well for about 15 to 20 seconds and switch off the flame.
      5) Finally add salt into this and mix well. You could add peanuts or cashew nuts if you prefer. Goes well with most curries.
    • By Sheel
      Prawn Balchao is a very famous Goan pickle that has a sweet, spicy and tangy flavor to it. 
      For the balchao paste you will need:
      > 8-10 kashmiri red chillies
      > 4-5 Byadagi red chillies
      > 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      > 1/2 tsk turmeric powder 
      > 1 tsp peppercorn
      > 6 garlic cloves
      > 1/2 tsp cloves
      > 1 inch cinnamon stick
      > Vinegar 
      First you will need to marinate about 250 grams of prawns in some turmeric powder and salt. After 15 minutes deep fry them in oil till them become golden n crisp. Set them aside and add tsp vinegar to them and let it sit for 1 hour. Now, make a paste of all the ingredients mentioned under the balchao paste and make sure not to add any water. In the same pan used for fryin the prawns, add in some chopped garlic and ginger. Lightly fry them and immediately add one whole chopped onion. Next, add the balchao paste amd let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the prawns and cook until the gravy thickens. Finally add 1 tsp sugar and salt according to your taste. Allow it to cool. This can be stored in a glass jar. Let this mature for 1-3 weeks before its use. Make sure never to use water at any stage. This can be enjoyed with a simple lentil curry and rice.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...