Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Shimla Mirch ki Sabzi (Sauteed Green Bell Pepper)


Everyone wonders why we call bell peppers “Shimla Mirch” in India. Bell peppers were brought to Europe from Mexico by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century and later spread to Africa and Asia. In 1864 Shimla became the summer capital of British India and was part of the Punjab till 1966 when it became capital of Himachal Pradesh. Perhaps this vegetable was first grown in this lovely hill station area, which has a moderate climate, by the British and earned it the name “Shimla Mirch”. Another vegetable with perhaps a similar origin maybe long green beans, which are often called “France Bean” in north India.

Bell peppers are part of the Capsicum family but are the only ones that do not produce the spicy seeds of other peppers. Their color can be green, red, yellow or brown and the red ones are the sweetest. Bell peppers are full of vitamin C and antioxidants and are also rich in calcium, potassium and phosphorus. The red peppers have nine times the amount of carotene of the green ones.

There are many ways to prepare Shimla Mirch and the one which stands out the best is stuffed with potatoes, a typical Punjabi dish that only tastes good when the potatoes are not mashed and have some other ingredients in it. I will give that recipe later.

The recipe below is another way to make Shimla Mirch and its best feature is that it can be made fast in 10 minutes – 5 minutes on high heat and 5 minutes on low heat – and is a tasty side dish that can be eaten with roti or paranthas. Some people even eat it with pasta. So, if you don’t have much time to cook, try this easy, fast and nutritious recipe.


4 medium Shimla Mirch (green bell peppers)

1 large piyaaz (onion) – peeled and sliced

2 tbsp tael (olive oil or vegetable oil)

½  tsp  haldi (turmeric powder)

Spices to taste: namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), lasan (garlic powder), garam masala, amchoor (mango powder)


Wash the bell peppers and dry with a soft cloth. Slice them and remove the seeds and the top stalks. Cut them into small or medium pieces as you like.

In the kadai or wok, heat the oil over a medium flame. Throw in the turmeric, onions and bell peppers, stir to mix. Cover and let it cook in its own steam for 5 minutes over high heat.

Take the cover off and check for tenderness. The bell pepper should not become too soft, but should stay slightly firm. Stir gently to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Remove the cover and add the salt and pepper to taste. If desired, add the other spices too. Cook uncovered another 5 minutes on low heat. The dish is ready to eat.

mamas recipe inside3Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.