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A chilli tale

Do you know what’s the hottest chilli of the world, and which one’s the most flavoursome? Here’s a quick taste of some red hot devils

india Updated: Feb 22, 2013 01:10 IST
Debasmita Ghosh

Do you often throw away the seeds of the chilli to make your dish less spicy? Well, you probably don’t know that the hottest part of a chilli is not the seeds but the flesh inside that contains capsicain, a chemical which generates heat causing a burning sensation. The hotness of each variety of chilli is determined by the amount of heat it generates.

“While Mexico possibly grows and consumes the largest variety of chillies, India, Sri Lanka, Korea, Sichuan province, Bhutan and Africa aren’t far behind,” says chef Theodor Rudiferia of DoubleTree by Hilton, Mayur Vihar, who recently crafted an elaborate chilli menu featuring six of the hottest chillies of the world, including the famous Naga Bhut Jolokia or Ghost chilli. “It’s deadly spicy and extreme care must be taken when handling this chilli, and the amount used,” warns Rudiferia.

A chilli that’s known for it’s unique flavour is Sichuan pepper. Talking about the same, Chef Xi Bang Tang of The Oberoi Gurgaon says, “It has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black, white or chilli peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth.”

Naga Bhut Jolokia or Ghost chilli
The Guinness World Records named it the world’s hottest chilli, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. However, in 2011 it was superseded by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Again in March 5, 2012, some ghost peppers tested hotter than the scorpion. Now the ghost pepper and scorpion pepper are tied for the world’s hottest pepper. Apart from Mexico, it’s grown in Assam.

This one comes from the Amazon region, from where it travelled to Mexico. Currently, Mexico is the largest consumer of this chilli, but its flavour and aroma is popular across the world. Habaneros usually accompany dishes in the Yucatán province of Mexico, either in solid or purée or salsa form.

Peri peri
Also known as the African birds eye chilli, it grows in Africa from where originates the famous Peri Peri chicken dish. It’s believed that they were originally brought to the Americas by Christopher Columbus. The Portuguese took the chillies to their colonies of Mozambique and Angola, where they renamed them in a Swahili word that meant ‘pepper-pepper’.

This is a common spice used in Asian cuisine but the surprising thing is that despite its name, it’s actually not a pepper. They are reddish-brown berries that hail from the prickly ash tree, and have a powerful numbing sensation. They are mainly grown in China, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, and used in a variety of dishes including dimsums.

A chipotle is actually smoke-dried jalapeño, used primarily in Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisines, such as Mexican-American and Tex-Mex. Varieties of jalapeño vary in size and heat. In Mexico, it’s also known as the cuaresmeño and gordo. Until recently, chipotles were largely found in Mexico only but now they are also grown in the US and China.

Kashmiri chilli
While they look red hot, surprisingly, it’s one of the mildest variety of chillies grown. They are long, wine red and slightly wrinkled. Grown in Kashmir, it’s used in powdered form, and added to dishes while cooking to add a rich redish orange colour to the food. You can even make a variety of dark red sauces with it without having to worry about the spice factor.

Cayenne pepper
Also known as Guinea spice, it’s named after the city of Cayenne in French Guiana. This one’s usually added to dishes in powdered form or used as a condiment in flaky form, when dry. It takes about 100 days for this variety of chilli to mature, and is known to be high in vitamin A, B6, E, C, riboflavin, potassium and manganese.

The serrano pepper or the good ol’ green chilli that’s heavily grown and consumed in India, actually originated in the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The name of the pepper is a reference to the mountains (Sierras) of these regions. It’s mildly hot compared to other chillies.

This purplish-green hued chilli pepper too originated in Puebla, Mexico. While poblanos tend to have a mild flavour, occasionally and unpredictably, they can have significant heat. Different peppers from the same plant have been known to disseminate different amount of heat. It’s one of the best choices to toss up a stuffed chilli fritter or mirch pakora!

These are round cherry-shaped chillies grown in the southern part of Tamil Nadu, and a common ingredient in sambar. They look like dried bush berries with their bright shiny skin. All pepper fry dishes, especially in Chettinad cuisine, uses generous amount of this variety of chilli.