Monday, June 28, 2010

Kitchen Essentials: Meet Mirsang (Salt Chilli) Paste / Puli Munchi

Meet Mirsang is to Mangloreans, what Bottle Masala is to East Indians and Reichado to Goans. Ginger Garlic Paste doesn't even begin to compete. Every Manglorean Catholic household has their own recipe for Meet Mirsang and will always have a buyaon (Earthen-Ceramic Jar) full of it sitting in a cool corner of the kitchen or larder. The Manglorean Bunt Community has a similar masala called Puli Munchi which serves the same purpose.

The masala is ground without a drop of water and hence will keep for months on end, as long as you take the same precautions with it, as you do with home made pickles that are stored in cool cupboards.

The best Meet Mirsang is ground fine on a traditional grinding stone. I remember doing this as a child in my grandmothers house. This was the only masala for which I was forbidden to use my hand to scoop the masala back into central bowl (a technique essential to grinding on a traditional grinding stone) and had to use a katti (dried coconut shell) or a spoon.

The 2nd best option for grinding this paste is a tilting mixer grinder which still manages to grind the paste quite fine. The 3rd option which is sub-optimal but manageable in a modern kitchen is to soak the chillies in the vinegar overnight, so that it moistens the skins and seeds and makes it easier to grind in a regular mixi (food processor) in the morning.

Since the husband is not too keen on us lugging a 80-100 kilo grinding stone contraption across the world every year (he gets transferred practically each year), I survive by getting mum to grind me enough to last me for a couple of months, until my next trip home. (I hope to buy a tilting mixer grinder soon, but haven't yet found a good brand in Delhi.)

As I mentioned before, each family does have its own proportions and recipes, but basically this masala is a combination of red chillies, salt, vinegar, jeera (cumin) and turmeric.

Kashmiri Chillies turn the masala a lovely dark red and local Kundapuri or bedgi chillies are used to make the masala spicy. Again, the proportion of chillies used depends on each household. We love spice, so mummy uses about 95% spicy chillies and 5% chillies for colour.

The recipe below is just to give you a general idea of the proportions, but go ahead and tweak it to suit your own palate.

50 red chillies (dried - Kashmiri/bedgi or any other variety of your choice)

3 tbsp sea salt (or regular salt if you cannot get your hands on sea salt)
1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
1.5" turmeric or 1-2 tbsp turmeric powder
About 500-750 ml vinegar

Make sure all implements to be used are completely dry including the storage bottles.
Grind all the ingredients to a fine paste (consistency of ginger-garlic paste), slowly adding vinegar as needed.
Bottle and store in a cool corner of your kitchen and use when required.

Synthetic vinegar will preserve the masala longer, but you can substitute it with any organic/wine vinegar of your choice.
I know a friend who grinds this masala with tamarind (imli) instead of vinegar and stores the masala in the fridge.

Instant Meet Mirsang
If you just do not have the option to grind masala or have run out of meet mirsang and need it in a hurry.

Take 4 tbsps chilli powder
1/2 tsp jeera (cumin) powder)
pinch or 2 of turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt
Mix well and slowly add vinegar till it forms a smooth paste (regular salt will dissolve in the vinegar)

This instant masala cannot be stored for too long, because the ingedients tend to seperate on storage, so mix just as much as you need and use it up immediately.

Meet Mirsang Fry
I will soon be posting recipes requiring this masala. But in general, it is used as a marinade for frying fish, sea food, chicken or vegetables (plaintain, jackfruit, breadfruit, brinjal). Apply masala on slices/pieces as required, marinate for awhile and then deep fry or shallow fry.

Meet Mirsang Coconut Curry
This masala can also be used as a base to make a coconut curry (when you don't have time to grind a fresh masala).
Saute some cuttings (any combination of onions/tomato/ginger/garlic/green chillies)
Add meet mirsang masala and fry for awhile, then add meat/fish.
When cooked, add coconut milk, give a light simmer and serve hot with rice or polis.

Do not marinate vegetables for too long, they might turn too salty or sour depending on the potency of your masala and quantity used .
Meat can be marinated even overnight.
Too much vinegar and too much masala could potentially split coconut milk, so be aware of the tartness of your masala.

Further Reading:
How Grinding Stones are made around Mangalore


Anonymous said...

Please join the group The Mangalorean Cuisine on Face Book

Anonymous said...

Thanks Karishma! I was trying to make something and did not have meet mirsang, so went online.

Francis Aranha

Karishma Pais said...

Thanks Francis.

Did you try the traditional or the instant version?

How did it turn out?


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