Chilli also called chile is the most popular spice and throughout history, wherever it was it transformed the previously bland cuisine. Latin American, Asian, African, Caribbean and certain regional Oriental cuisines made extensive use of this spice. Chillies are native to Mexico. Columbus, who was searching the New World for pepper came across these fruits, which, he discovered, were even hotter than peppercorns. He carried his prize to Europe and from there to Africa, India and the East where chilli became an intergral part of each cuisine. The long shelf life of the seeds was a bonus in the days of sea travel.
- Other Names
- Ají, chilli, guindilla, or pimienta (Spanish); berberé or mitmita (Amharic); biber (Turkish); bisbas (Arabic); cabé or lombok (Indonesian); chili-pfeffer (German); csilipaprika (Hungarian); diavoletto or peperoncino (Italian); hari mirch or lal mirch (Hindi); la jiao or lup-chew (Chinese); ot (Vietnamese); pilipili hoho (Swahili); pilpel adom or tsili (Hebrew); piment fort (French); piperi kagien or tsili (Greek); piripíri (Portuguese); pisi hui or prik (Thai); Spaanse peper (Dutch); togarashi (Japanese).
- Aroma and Flavour
- The characteristic pungency of chillies is caused by the presence of capsaicin. Research has indicated that the components of capsaicin promote different taste sensations when eaten, giving either a short fiery flavour or lingering hot taste. The hotness is said not to come from the seeds but rather the placenta. This is the pithy white part of the fruit to which the seeds are attached, and it contains the most capsaicin so removal of both seeds and placenta should reduce the pungency of chillies, if required.
- Culinary Use
- The chilli flavour revolutionized the cooking of tropical countries with bland staple foods, like cassava in South America, West and East Africa; rice in India and South-east Asia; and beans in Mexico and the Southern States of America. Famous Mexican moles, chilli con carne and Tex-mex foods make extensive use of chillies. Curries from Thailand and Malaysia, and Indonesian sambals and satays all rely on chillies for their characteristic flavours. Many Szechuan dishes depend on the chilli flavour. Countries which do not use chillies as extensively in everyday dishes also depend on their heat for certain traditional preparations; for example, piquant pasta dishes from Italy use fresh and dried chillies, and prudent use of chillies is made in many of the pickles, relishes and cooked chutneys of the more Northern European countries.
- Chilli Pepper Heat Scale in Scoville Heat Units (SHU)
- This scale measures the relative content of capsaicinoids that give the heat.
1 Mild – below 3,000
2 Medium – 3,000 to 15,000
3 Hot - 15,000 to 50,000
4 Very Hot - 50,000 to 300,000
5 Super Hot - above 300,000 up to 2,000,000
Fresh chillies are available almost everywhere, from independent green grocers to Oriental stores and supermarkets. It is difficult to be specific about their heat: even fruits from the same plant can vary in strengh.
Anaheim: These are about 10 cm long, red or green and mild to medium in flavour.
Bird's Eye: These chillies are so hot that they taste explosive to the uninitiated. They can be green, red or orange in colour.
Caribe: These spicy yellow chillies are the perfect choice for people looking to add noticeable heat to salads, soups, and other dishes with a raw pepper that won’t melt your mouth.
Cayenne: Sometimes called finger chillies, these are slimmer than anaheim chillies, they are always red and hot.
Serrano: Slightly chunky, these red or green chillies can be hot or slighty milder.
Preparation Tips For Fresh Chillies
Cut away and discard the stalk end
Holding the chilli under cold running water to prevent the oils from affecting your eyes and throat, slit it from the stalk end to the tip
Scrape out the placenta and seeds
Afterwards, wash your hands, knife and chopping board thoroughly to clean off the oils
Do not rub your eyes or lips — even after washing your hands
Those with sensitive skin should wear rubber gloves when preparing chillies.
Serving Suggestions For Fresh Chillies
Make a Thai curry with shrimp or chicken, coconut milk, fish sauce, and thinly sliced hot green chillies.
Dried Mexican Chillies
Ancho: The most commonly used dried chilli in Mexico, Ancho Chillies is the name given to the dried Poblano. They have a mild fruity flavour with undertones of plum, raisin, tobacco and a slight earthy bitterness. Their delicious flavour means that Ancho Chillies are often used as the base for chilli and mole sauces (sauces enriched with bitter chocolate or cocoa), they can also be stuffed or cut into strips. Spice rating: Medium. 5000-9000 Scolville Units.
Cascabel or Little Rattle: Cascabel Chillies are also known as Rattle Chillies due the tendency of loose seeds to rattle inside their bell like shape. Cascabel chillies provide woody, acidic and slightly smoky flavours with tobacco and nutty undertones. They are also quite mild (rating at around 1,000-2,500 on the Scoville Heat Scale), meaning they can be used generously to take advantage of their delicious flavour.
Chipotle (Dried Jalapeño): A chipotle, or chilpotle (pronounced chipotlay), which comes from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli meaning "smoked chili" is a smoke-dried jalapeño. The peppers may have been smoked to keep them from rotting, since the jalapeño is prone to quickly deteriorating when stored as fresh peppers. It loses little of its heat through the smoking process, and many enjoy both its spiciness and the natural wood smoke taste that accompanies it. It's used as a flavouring ingredient in many dishes. It is smoky and spicy. Can be found as whole dried peppers, or, more usually, dried powder or paste or sauce. 2,500 – 8,000 SHU.
Guajillo: Guajillo Chillies are a variety of the Capsicum annuum that are produced by drying the mirasol – a popular Mexican chilli. It has delightful flavours of berries and green tea and can be made into a delicious paste with onion, cumin, garlic, Mexican oregano and shallots. Used to make the salsa for tamales; the dried fruits are seeded, soaked, pulverized to a thin paste, then cooked with salt and several other ingredients to produce a thick, red, flavourful sauce. Used in pastes, butters or rubs to flavour all kinds of meats, especially chicken. Alternatively, they can be added to salsas to create a sweet side dish with a surprisingly hot finish. Do note that the skin is tougher than most dried chillies, so they require an extended soaking time.
Habanero: Habanero Chillies are amongst the most popular chillies in South American cuisine, particularly in Mexico. The chilli is revered as much for its fearsome heat as it is for its fruity flavour and floral aroma. With a spice rating of around 350,000shu, this is definitely one chilli to be respected!
Mulato: The Mulato is another dried poblano and part of the Holy Trinity of Mexican chillies, along with Ancho and Pasilla, used in mole poblano. The difference between the Mulato and Ancho is in the harvesting. Whereas Ancho is harvested just as it turns red, the Mulato continues to ripen to a deep rich red, almost brown, colour which gives it a complex character and flavours of smoky coffee, liquorice, cherries and a hint of chocolate. The rich brown colour deepens the colour of sauces making it the perfect spicing for casseroles and stews. Since the Mulato has thick skin and flesh, it is best prepared by rehydrating it in boiling water for max. 20 minutes then blending it into a purée. Alternatively, after rehydration, stuff with your favourite mixture and shallow fry.
New Mexico Red: These are famous for providing a rich red colour to dishes and Mexican sauces. Mild in heat and flavour, with a touch of sweetness followed by straightforward spicy notes.
Pasado: Pasado chillies are either New Mexico or Anaheim red chillies that have been roasted, then peeled and dried. Pasado has a toasted flavour combined with apple, celery and citrus overtones. They have a medium heat level. Use in place of fresh New Mexico or Aneheim chillies to flavour soups, stews or bread.
Pasilla or Little Raisin: Pasilla pepper is the dried form of the Chilaca chilli. These peppers are often used in sauces. These chillis are sold whole or powdered in Mexico and the United States. The pasilla chilli, or chile negro, is the dried form of a variety of Capsicum annuum named for its dark, wrinkled skin. In its fresh form, it is called the chilaca. It is a mild to medium-hot, rich-flavoured chilli. The fresh narrow chilaca often has a twisted shape, which is seldom apparent after drying. It turns from dark green to dark brown when mature. Pasilla is a flavourful spice with berry-raisin-cocoa overtones. The Pasilla pepper has a Scoville Heat Unit rating between 1,000 to 2,500.Tepin: This small, hand-picked chilli has a searing heat and it tastes of corn and nuts. Crush the chilli over food or use it to flavour bottles of vinegar or oils.
Tepin Pepper Facts
: Tepin are considered one of the hottest chillies.
: Tepin are native to northern Mexico and southwestern US.
: Most tepin chillies are harvested from wild plants.
: Tepin are considered to be one of the oldest hot peppers.
: Also known as bird chilli, flea chilli, and mosquito chilli.
: Attempts to cultivate have proven to be problematic.
: Often confused with chilli pequin
: Tepin ranks 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville units.
Dried Smoked Spanish Chillies
Dried, mild-smoked chillies are widely used in Spanish cooking.
Choricero: This sweet pepper is very common in Basque cooking. From Navarre in the North of Spain, It is usually dried then rehydrated for use in stews and Basque dishes. The paste (Carne de Pimiento Choricero) made from the meat is used to make Chorizo sausage. It is not interchangable with the Ñora as each has a distinct flavour. Used to make Potatoes Rioja and Cod Bilbao. Thin skin and meaty.
Guindilla: Guindilla's are Spanish chillies, often from the Basque Country. The guindilla is a thin chilli, picked early while it is still greenish yellow. Conserved in white wine vinegar and packaged tight like sardines in glass jars. Traditionally eaten with beans or bar snacks as an aperitif. The red guindilla is medium-hot with a sweet flavour. In the Spanish Basque country, guindilla is served as a tapas or vegetable, fried with garlic in olive oil. The red guindilla is dried and used as a flavouring component in dishes such as dried cod al pil pil and gambas al pil pil.
Ñyora: The ñyora (or ñora) chilli is a fat round chilli in the bell pepper family. It has a glossy wrinkled flesh that is dark red to near black. The heat of the chilli is very mild. It has a rich sweet flavour with an earthy taste. The chilli is most commonly purchased as dry crushed pepper flakes. It is used as a condiment in Spanish cuisine such as stews and soups. When it is added to food whole or sliced it turns the dish to a red colour. Ñyora chillies are a main ingredient of the popular Spanish dish Bacalao a la Vizcaina. Ñyora chillies are often used to season sausages and add flavour to rice dishes such as paella. They are a common ingredient in savoury romesco sauce; which often accompanies sautéed or grilled seafood and vegetables. Other recipes that use ñyora chillies are smoky mashed potatoes and crab cakes. Octopus Ceviche with ñyora chillies is an entrée served in many restaurants. Scoville Range: 0 - 1,000
Preparation Tips For Dried Chillies
Dried chillies can be soaked, then cut into thin strips and added to stir-fries, soups or stews.
The strips can also be stored in a jar, covered with olive oil; herbs may be added to flavour the chilli strips.
To make chilli purée, remove the stem and seeds.
3.1.Soak the chillies in boiling water for 20 minutes, then purée them with some of the soaking liquid.
3.2.Sieve the purée to make a smooth sauce.
3.3.Add to taste when cooking.
3.4.Purées can be stored in a covered jar in the fridge for up to a week or frozen for up to a year.
Cooking Tips For Dried Chillies
To make chilli vinegar, fill a bottle with chillies, top up with vinegar and leave for two weeks before using.
Dry-roasting heightens the flavour of chillies.
2.1.Heat a heavy frying pan without adding oil.
2.2.Press the chillies on to the surface of the pan to roast them.
2.3.Do not allow the chillies to burn, or their flavour will be bitter.
2.4.When roasted, remove the chillies from the pan and grind them
Larger, thick-fleshed and thin-skinned dried chillies (such as anchos or mulatos) can be stuffed with meat, rice or vegetable fillings.
3.1.Make a small lengthways split in the chilli and remove the seeds.
3.2.Leave the stem intact.
3.3.Soak the chilli, then drain and pat it dry on kitchen paper.
3.4.Stuff carefully and bake until heated through.
Chilli Powder: Milder than cayenne pepper and more coarsely ground, this is prepared from a variety of mild to hot chillies. Check the ingredients list, as some chilli powders (especially those of American type) contain a variety of others flavours, such as garlic, onion, cumin and oregano. They are added for convenience for use in chilli con carne. If the chilli powder is dark in colour, it may contain the rich-rust-coloured ancho chilli. For best results make your own chilli powder. Deseed dried chillies, then dry-fry them and grind them to the required fineness.
Chilli Sauce: Tabasco® sauce is a North American seasoning made from extremely hot tabasco or cone chillies, which are mixed with salt and vinegar and then matured in white oak casks for several years. Many of the islands of the Caribbean have their own style of chilli sauce. Most are, like Tabasco®, made from steeping the chillies in vinegar and all are very hot. Chilli sauces are widely used in small quantities as a general seasoning. Tabasco® is served with tomato juice and used to flavour Bloody Mary cocktails.
Chilli Paste: Ready-made chilli paste is sold in small jars. However, it is easy to make at home. Simply seed fresh chillies, then purée them in a food processor to make a smooth paste. An onion can be added to the processor to add bulk to the paste. Store small amounts in the fridge for up to one week, or spoon into small containers, cover and freeze for uo to six months.
Crushed Chillies: These dried chilli flakes contain both the flesh and seeds from red chillies and can be used in place of some or all of the chilli powder in a dish.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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