Some chefs say flavour rises and falls on cumin levels, others think the story begins and ends with chillies. Imagine that warm bowl of rich-red soul food, that piquant beefy stock, or even the oh-so-flavourful chaat. But fancy a green chilli Pavlova with layers of meringue, cream and passion fruit, topped with fresh green chillies? Or a yellow chilli halwa garnished with pine nuts, sea salt and black pepper? Or say, chilli-infused ganache in bon-bons and pralines?
The nifty chilli is going places. Spicy desserts, earlier met with guffaws, are now met with knowing smiles at snack tables and potlucks. Restaurateurs think it’s the new wasabi cool, while cafes are riding the Mexican wave. Swathi Venkatesan, founder chef of Great Desserts in Gurgaon, says, “Just as caramel and salt blend well, the sudden burst of spiciness in sweets adds depth to a preparation.” Saransh Goila, author of the food travelogue, India on My Platter, says, “Any good dessert can’t compete without a pinch of salt, and chilli just keeps it exciting, imparting a different flavour profile.” In Surat a few years ago, Saransh met a roadside vendor churning out innovative ice-cream flavours like coriander, green chilli and ginger. “It was a delicious mix of vanilla essence, chopped green chillies and lemon zest. So I thought why not play around with chillies?” But the real gourmet breakthrough came with the launch of chocolate thandai biscotti infused with black pepper, hitting the throat with its sharp tang.