Chilli Peppers were originally native to Central America before the great explorer Christopher Columbus discovered the splendid spicy herb in Mexico and introduced them to Europe. The chilli fame, then rapidly spread around the world and very soon the hot relish was being cultivated in Africa, India and South East Asia. Chillies have become an integral part in Thai cuisine.
Sweet peppers and chillies belong to the same genus known as capsicum and there are scores attached to the Thai family including the fiery bird's eye. As with sweet peppers, most chillies start life green and then ripen to a rich red colour while others change from yellow to red and finally brown or even black.
What might appear to be an assortment of chillies could easily turn out to be the same type of chilli in varying degrees of ripening.
It matters not whether the size or colour of chillies are a sure indication to their hotness as some green ones can actually be hotter than red ones as are large chillies peppers sometimes hotter than small ones and vice versa. They can easily range in size from mere millimetres to 12-inch monsters.
Although the flavour is just as important, heat, however, is a quality most closely associated with chillies. The degree of heat can vary from very mild to downright explosive. Removing the seeds and pithy membrane where most of the heat resides, can subdue the intensity considerably.
It is perhaps a myth to think that chillies grown in hot climatic conditions tend to be hotter than those grown in cooler climatic conditions as it is a paradox to think that it's perfect to consume spicy food in cooler countries other than their hotter counterparts. The fact is, chillies actually promotes cooling because they encourage blood to rush to the surface of the skin.
Chilli peppers contain capsaicin the chemical that makes chillies hot and is known to inhibit neuropeptide, substance P which is found in the brain and spinal cord and associated with inflammatory processes and pain. Chillies are exceedingly healthy for you and for this reason they should perpetually be included as a regular nutrient in foodstuffs whether sweet or savoury.
1) Chillies help in fighting migraine headaches and sinus headaches
2) Chillies contain anti-bacterial properties to help fight chronic sinus infections, thereby preventing sinusitis while clearing nasal congestion
3) Chillies help in the treatment of prostate cancer
4) Chillies help in lowering high blood pressure
5) Chillies help fight inflammation of the bowel
6) Chillies help fight intestinal disorders
7) Chillies help prevent stomach ulcers
8) Chillies help protect your heart by reducing bad cholesterol
9) Chillies help protect you from possible strokes
10) Chillies help inflammation, thereby ideal for treating arthritis
Although ready-made chilli paste is sold throughout the world, it is just as easy to make your own at home. Want to give it a go! Simply deseed some fresh chillies and then place the fleshy part into the bowl of a food processor and press the button. In no time at all, you will have a hot and spicy paste.
If you like, add a coarsely chopped onion to give the paste extra bulk. You can store small amounts of the chilli paste in the refrigerator for as much as one week. For longer storage put some paste in a sealed container and freeze for up to six months.
Take about one pound or half a kilogramme of mixed green and red chillies and using a mortar and pestle, grind them finely. If you prefer the relish to be slightly chunky, that's also okay. Add a little vinegar to the mixture.
Once completed, preheat 375 millilitres of olive oil and when hot, add one tablespoon of mustard seeds and one tablespoon of curry leaves (see table below) and all the ground chilli. Getting a tad excited are you! Well, there's more.
Add one and a half ounces or 100 grammes of pickle masala with a teaspoon of sugar, a little salt to taste and a tablespoon of tamarind paste. Allow to cool then spoon mixture into a sterilised bottle and store in a refrigerator.
Here's how to create Sriracha hot chilli sauce made famous in Thailand.
First halve and seed 250 grams or 4 ounces of fresh red chilli peppers and place them in a mortar and using a pestle, grind them up
Slice half a kilogramme or 8 ounces of fresh red tomatoes into small sections and add to the chillies then continue pounding. Remove and set aside.
Add one tablespoon of olive or canola oil in a saucepan and preheat to a medium temperature.
Peel 4 to 6 garlic cloves and roughly chop them up, then add to saucepan and brown lightly.
Add 1 tablespoon Soy Sauce, 4 tablespoons rice vinegar and 4 tablespoons sugar and continue simmering for 10 minutes until all the mixture thickens.
Remove from heat source and allow to cool. Transfer to a blender and puree until completely smooth.
Place in a
sterilized bottle or airtight container. The sauce is best used the day
after it's made and good for as much as two weeks when refrigerated.
Kaffir Lime and Leaves is a sub-species of the citrus family, has a strong fragrance and flavour and is highly prized in Thai cuisine.
Lemongrass is a wonderfully aromatic herb with a distinct lemony flavour but more than that, it also provides a whole host of herbal and therapeutic benefits.
Cilantro is an edible herb known as Pak Chee in Thailand, but in other countries, it's known as coriander. It's also sometimes known as Chinese Parsley.
Galangal is popularly known as Krachai in Thailand and is considered to be more of a spice than a herb. It has a strong and sharp peppery flavour.
Curry Leaves are excellent as an herbal tonic and is similar in style to bay leaves, but with a hint of green pepper and has a tangerine fragrance.
Thai Basil is also known as Oriental Basil or Asian Basil in Thailand and is a close cousin of the sweet basil variation that's frequently used in Thai cuisine.
Thai Long Pepper is a tangy spice known as Dee Plee to the local Hmong Hill Tribe people of northern Thailand. It's also referred to as Piper Chaba.
Tamarind is available in a variety of forms. It's available as fresh, compressed blocks and dried slices, all of which have been around for quite some time.
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