Bird’s Eye Chilli Pickle


Bird’s Eye Chilli is commonly found in South East Asia and is widely used in Thai Cooking. Remember the heat the raw papaya salad has? That’s from this tiny, weeny red chilli. Native to the North East of India –  Meghalaya and Assam, this is also found in Kerala and eaten along with ‘Kappa’ or steamed tapioca. I got a pack of dried bird’s eye chilli from Zizira. The organization works in the North East of India and helps unlocks the potential of local farmers by bringing to the market a range of spices, herbal teas and traditional food specific to the region. Some of the spices are so unique and unknown to people in other regions, that you feel you’re discovering  a new palette!  I got cooking and made a Bird’s Eye Chilli pickle with my much-loved South Indian twist. Beware: This is not for the faint hearted. You need to have it in you to brave the heat from these chillies.

Here’s what you need: IMG_20160212_100904-01

  • Bird’s Eye Chilli – 1 Cup
  • Cold pressed sesame oil – 1/2 Cup
  • Roasted and powdered Cumin- 2 tbsp
  • Roasted and powdered Coriander seeds – 2 tbsp
  • Mustard seeds – 2 tbsp
  • Hing – a pinch
  • Rock salt – to taste
  • Garlic – 3-4 pods
  • Curry leaves – 10-15
  • Tamarind – 1 med lemon size ball
  • Hot water – 1/2 cup


  1. Heat water and add dried red chillies, tamarind, salt and garlic into and allow to soak for 25-30 minutes.
  2. Add the soaked ingredients into a blender and grind to a paste
  3. Heat sesame oil and temper with hing (asafoetida), mustard seeds and curry leaves
  4. Then add the paste and keep stirring constantly.
  5. Add the Roasted and powdered cumin and coriander
  6. When the oil splits and/or floats on the sides of the mixture, it’s done.
  7. Make sure the raw smell of the chillies and garlic fade away!

Note: This is not a pickle soaked in oil, but more a powder soaked in oil. Take a spoonful of this mixture, add some cold pressed sesame oil to it and dip into Idlies, Dosais or as a spread on bread. Make sure you drink a glass of cold milk right after having a spoonful of this to settle your burning stomach.

If you do not find bird’s eye chilli in the market, you can purchase it from Zizira’s online store.

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The musings of two Chennaiites seeking to discover the world through food and travel. As they open themselves up to adventure, the accompanying puliyogare, travels well and ensures that the idea of home is never lost

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