Sunday, 26 January 2014

Mitmitta:The Ethiopian miniature Devil-Pepper

Various foodies across the world will go to great lengths to extol the virtues of their favourite kinds of pepper. Pepper, is an essential spice that can transform the bland taste of food into something more, shall I say, tangy, sharp, and perhaps even  hot like when you start sweating and taking in sharp breaths, your host would probably ask you if whether the food was “too hot”!
It takes time to develop a taste for chillies-and I have seen how eating food with a healthy amount of chillies would lead to upset tummies, and embarrassed egos! This, then brings me to the type of chillies that we come across. The false chillies, for me would constitute the Capsicums-they have that sharp scent of the chilly but are without the fire. In India you have two varieties of chillies, chillies that are meant for colour in the curry and are not very hot; the Degi-Mirch is both for colour and that fiery taste. The third variety is called as Tataya-Mirch in the local slang, meaning, Wasp. The word “Wasp” reveals the characteristics  of this tiny variety(Don’t be fooled by its deceptive size!). Unfortunately, I haven’t seen this variety for ages in India. What I have indeed seen is something that comes in between the tiny pepper and its larger cousin, a hybrid which doesn’t  even count!
It was with great eagerness that I looked forward to a packet of the Traditional Ethiopian Mitmitta brought by a relative who recently visited Addis Ababa. The Ethiopians use lots of red chilly pepper in most of their food. Their Doro Wat (Chicken Currie) and Kai Wats (Beef and Muttion curries) are all fiery red with the amounts of red pepper added to them. But then even if this was not enough, talk about adding a light dose of Mitmitta to the Minced Meat! Mitmitta refers to the smaller variety of chillies eaten along regular meals, either whole, or in the powdered form. Mitmitta Powder however is a clever mix of dried Mitmitta Chilly, garlic, onions, ginger and herbs all ground together. The ingredients add zing to the chilly powder-thus it is not just the fiery heat of the pepper that comes out but also a very subtle flavour of the herbs, garlic, and the ginger. Here,I would like to make a distinction between Berbere and Mitmitta. Berbere is a ground mixture of normal red chillies, ginger and garlic. Berbere is less potent than Mitmitta and is used in the preparation of normal meat based curries.
File:African red devil peppers.jpg
The Snap taken from Wikipedia is  for representational purpose as Mitmitta chillies are smaller than those shown in the picture.

I, for one would like to extol the virtues of the Mitmitta powder as one of the best spices that can be added to cooked food which is on your plate like the black-pepper powder or the Oregano Seasoning that you would add to your favourite Pizza or Baingan Ka Bharta! The fact of the matter is that a dash of Ethiopian Mitmitta powder is guaranteed to bring life to otherwise bland food! Any takers, Indian foodies? Now that my stock of this precious condiment is running out, I am worried about what I am going to do after this. We have tried to make Mitmitta from Indian spices, but then something was always missing! The final word, well I would give the Ethiopian Mitmitta Chilly and its powdered form a very high rating perhaps higher than the Bhoot Jolakia, in taste, although I have not tried the Trinidad Scorpion. Tabasco was too hot. For me personally it is not just how hot the chilly is , but whether it has that subtle tang, scent, and right dash of sweetness- all that can be found in the Ethiopian Mitmitta Powder, the biggest achievement in seasoning today! Sometimes it is not just the fiery taste of pepper that makes it favoured but the seasoning powder you make out of it that brings out its true colours! The herbs and spices added to the fiery miniature pepper of Ethiopia helps to tame or cure or rein in its heat and yet enhance its flavour!

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