Foodies, how well do you know your chillies?
For most Indians, watery eyes and a runny nose are common side-effects of feasting on our favourite dish. We’re suckers for that zesty sensation in our mouth that comes with a deliciously hot dish!
But did you know that not all chillies are the same? A chilli’s spiciness, flavour, and position on the ‘Scoville scale’ changes depending on the type. Invented by an American pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville, this is an accurate system used to determine a chilli’s spiciness. The number of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin, the compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin, present in the chilli.
There are few dozens of types of chillies, both fresh and dried, in India alone.
1. Byadgi Chilli
Byadgi chillies from Karnataka are high in demand within the subcontinent. Also known as the Indian paprika, these wrinkled chillies add the perfect levels of spiciness, flavour, and colour to every Mangalorean Fish Curry.
2. Ramnad Gundu
In Tamil, gundu translates to ‘fat’. Grown in Ramnad in Tamil Nadu, these chillies are short and stout. Most South Indians prefer this chilli to add a tantalising spiciness to their chutneys and sambar.
3. Kashmir Chilli
Exported all over the world, this beloved Indian chilli is produced in the valleys of Kashmir. Since this is a lot less pungent and spicy than the other chillies, it's perfect for those who prefer their dishes to have a rich red tint and a wonderful flavour, with just a mild zing.
Andhra cuisine is known for its spiciness, and this spicy, bright red chilli is the reason why. Grown in Guntur, these chillies pack a ton of mouth-watering flavour and spice to delicious dishes such as Bongulo Chicken, Gongoora Mansam, Guntur Chicken Fry, etc.
5. Ghost Chilli
The Bhut Jolokia a.k.a Ghost Chilli from North-East India was the world’s spiciest chilli in 2007, until it was superseded in 2011. Still, just a hint of the Ghost Chilli is enough to spice up Nagaland’s famous smoked pork. Scientists at DRDO created nonlethal grenades with these chillies which are used by the Indian army to control rioters and flush out terrorists.
As Indians are opening up to explore different cuisines, let’s talk about chillies that are popular in other parts of the world as well!
Japanese cuisine isn’t known for its spiciness, but seared or grilled Shishito pepper is the most popular appetizer in Japan. This East Asian chilli is so mild that just one in ten pods will contain any spice. That surprise jolt of heat is part of the allure of these peppers.
Jalapeños are the ambassadors of Mexican cuisine and are a great source of Vitamin C and B12. This medium-sized chilli is fierce enough to satisfy spice-lovers but its heat level varies based on the cultivation method used. Try out the delic
Cooks in Italy, Mexico and parts of Asia often use Cayenne to add heat to their food. It is usually ground into a powder and the condiment is used to spice up a delicious tomato sauce! Some even sprinkle it with chocolate to lend a kick to their desserts.
4. Bird’s Eye
Although it is known as Thai chilli, this small, tapering chilli with a pungent scent is popular in many Southeast Asian cuisines. Though not as hot as Habaneros, these chillies have a fruity taste and pack quite a punch to your food. Most Thai dishes are often served with a Bird’s Eye chilli sauce on the side.
5. Tien Tsin
The Tien Tsin or Chinese Red Peppers are thin, branch-like chillies with a musty flavour that’s similar to a cayenne pepper. These are popularly used in Szechwan cuisine such as Kung Pao Chicken. Chinese use dried Tianjin to infuse heat into the oil or as a flavouring spice that’s removed before serving the dish.
6. Scotch Bonnet
For the longest time, this was considered the hottest chilli in the world. Hiding a distinctive sweet flavour, Scotch Bonnet is the main ingredient in the famous African pepper sauce and plays a huge role in Senegalese cuisine. You should definitely wear gloves while handling this pepper!
Nothing beats the flavour of habaneros if you can handle the heat! They come in varied colours like orange, red and ever white and are deeply ingrained in Mexican culture. Often, habaneros are infused in mango or peach jam to cut the sweetness of the fruit.
How well do you know India’s favourite spice?