It goes without saying that being from India and having grown up in Texas, chili peppers have always been a part of my life! In Indian cuisine, chilies show up in all forms. There are the fresh, green chilies (generally called Anaheim chilies in the States), the dry red chilies that are toasted and ground into fresh spice powders, the red-hot chili powder that flavors just about everything. In South India, the famous mulagapodi (a special, made-from-scratch chili powder using dried red chilies, various dried lentils, poppy and sesame seeds) is mixed with oil and used as a condiment for idlis (fermented rice cakes typically eaten for breakfast) and many other dishes. In Texas, where the influence of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine is ubiquitous, chili peppers show up in many preparations, including salsas, guacamole, hot pepper sauce (Texas Pete, Cholula and El Yucateco were always my favorite brands), chili rellenos, you name it!
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I started working in Africa back in 2001 and found that chilies, in many different forms, are much loved on that continent as well! In Malawi, I used to lap up the Nali brand hot sauce with just about everything! Travels in South Africa and other countries in the southern part of the continent exposed me to the much beloved Nando’s fast-food chain, which is known as much for its peri-peri chicken (based on a Portuguese/ Mozambican recipe) as it is for its famous hot sauces! I buy a bottle of Nando’s sauce (my favorite is the garlic peri-peri) whenever I’m in that part of the world and always keep a bottle of it in my desk at work, where the cafeteria food is disgusting and bland.