How bad has our drought been here in the San Francisco Bay Area? It’s been so dry that we were able to let our Thai hot chili peppers dry out on the vine. I harvested them just the other day, in January!
The Southeast Asian peppers, known as “bird’s eye” peppers or chili padi, are small and hot. About 75,000-100,000 on the Scoville pungency scale (various figures are given by different sources), they aren’t as scorching as the very hottest peppers but they’re hot enough to require some care in handling. The peppers are slightly curvy and end in a point; they change color from green to red as they ripen. They generally hang point downward. The photo shown at the end of this post was taken in November; by January the plant was bare of leaves and only the large numbers of peppers that it produced remained on it.
Traditionally the peppers are mixed with hot oil in stir frying or combined with coconut milk. Because we had many more than we could use fresh we will be experimenting with using them dry. A site cheerfully named “Happy News” has this to say:
Thankfully, this chili pepper isn’t just about heat but also about adding zest and sweetness to dishes.
In Thai and Indian cooking, larger dried whole chilies are often used to make curry paste.
The pepper is soaked and the seeds are removed to remove some of the heat (Most of the heat is in the internal membranes of a pepper, and the seeds to a lesser extent). Then the peppers are pounded along with other spices.
Chili paste is also a common use. You can find Thai chili pepper pastes in specialty stores, particularly Asian markets, or you can make your own with ground-up chili pepper, garlic, vinegar and salt. Grinding up the Thai chili into a powder isn’t that hard, since these hot little treasures are often sold already dried.
If you want to make you own Thai chili pepper powder, toast the dried peppers in a hot pan for a minute or so, until you begin to smell the spicy aroma. Then use a food processor, mortar and pestle or other means to grind it up.