Guide to Chillies

Pritesh Mody |


Chillies: From Mexican to Indian, Our Chilli Tips!

From Mexican to Indian, we've created a quick guide on the different varieties of chillies, how to measure their heat scale and how to cool their effects!

Let's talk chillies, those fabulous mainstays of Asian cuisine...believe it or not, all chillies actually originate from Central America (around Mexico) where records show that they were recognised around 7000bc and cultivated since 3500bc! Most experts credit Christopher Columbus with discovering the chilli when he first landed in America, but it was most likely the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who introduced them to India. Realising that India had a climate conducive to growing chillies, Vasco took them with him on a trip in 1498.  More resilient, easier to grow and tastier than the long-pepper that the indigenous population were accustomed to growing, the mass farming of chillies spread quickly across India. By the start of the 16th century, merchants travelling the spice routes had spread the cultivation of chillies across much of Asia.

Measuring Chilli Heat on the Scoville Scale

The substances that give chilli peppers their intensity are capsaicin. In 1912, Wilbur L. Scoville, a pharmacist discovered the first scientific method of measuring the pungency of the chilli – known as the Scolville Test. To put the heat of chillies in perspective, a bottle of Tobasco is rated at 2500 Scoville Units, Cayenne Pepper has around 30,000 - 50,000 and the mighty Naga Viper weighs in at a 1.3million! Here's a full list for you:

Chillies are Addictive!

They may burn like hell, but there's no denying that you can't get enough of them! What kind of madness is this you may wonder?  Well it's simple really. You bite a chilli, your tastebuds say ouch, your brain dumps a load of endorphins into your system (natural painkillers/happy chemicals), you feel all headrushed, you go back for another bite.  And so the vicious circle begins!

Cooling Chilli Heat

Much of our food is now booby-trapped with chillies so it's inevitable that you're going to need something to calm the burn. Water categorically doesn't work. What you need is something containing casein - a protein that breaks down the capsaicin in the chilli - so look towards dairy products to sooth the pain.  It's no coincidence that Indians accompany their food with a yogurt based side and Mexicans love cheese smothered over theirs! Not quite as effective, but arguably more fun, alcohol can also be used to abate the pain.  Be warned, however - alcohol is a solvent to capsaicin but doesn't actually neutralise it, so whilst it will break it loose from your tastebuds, it may just spread it around your mouth further! Click here for mode Chilli based ideas and advice:

From Mexican and Peruvian to Indian, here's a quick Chilli Guide:

Mexican Chillies Peruvian Chillies Indian Chillies

Guide to Chillies

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