Ghost Pepper Chili: Flavor Profile
Dried ghost pepper chilis have a reputation for their intense heat. In fact, the ghost pepper is rated at 855,000 Scoville heat units. (For reference, jalapeños have about 8,500 units.) Known for its ultra-spicy, capsaicin heat, as well as its smoky and hickory flavors, a little ghost pepper goes a long way. A dash of rehydrated ghost pepper can add some serious heat to any long-simmering dish.
Using Ghost Peppers in the Kitchen
Dried ghost pepper chilis have a red-orange, rust color, and are dried intact. To prepare, most commonly the stems and seeds are removed. (The seeds contain the most heat and can cause the five-alarm hot feeling in the mouth, so it’s best to remove them.) It’s also recommended to wear gloves when handling ghost peppers. They can irritate the skin, as well as the eyes and nose.
Traditionally, ghost peppers have been used to add sustained heat and spice to long-simmering dishes. To use the dried peppers, you’ll want to rehydrate them. Soak the peppers in warm water for 20 minutes, or blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes. Once rehydrated, the stem and seeds should be removed. A few common preparations and pairings include:
- High Fat Dishes – The heat of the ghost pepper is soluble in rich, fatty dishes. That makes it ideal in cheese sauces, beef and pork chilis, and with high-fat oils.
- Citrus – Citrus tames some of the ghost pepper’s heat, and therefore, it’s a necessary pairing ingredient. Almost any dish that calls for ghost pepper will include citrus or a strong acid. Zest of lime and lime juice are natural complements.
- Wines – Like citrus, alcohol can also neutralize some of the ghost pepper’s bite. Therefore, it’s commonly paired with red or white wine in sauces. A glass of wine is also the perfect complement for a ghost pepper dish.
Ultimately, the pepper should be used sparingly. Too much can render a dish inedible. Yet, when used in tiny doses, ghost pepper is a bold flavor enhancer, adding a strong heat and spice.
Ghost Pepper Cultivation
Also known as Naga Bhut Jolokia, the ghost pepper originates in India, although its mistakenly attributed to Mexico. And it’s one of the world’s spiciest peppers, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The plant is grown primarily in India’s northeast, in the states of Nagaland and Assam. The origin of the ghost pepper is not widely known. But it’s believed to have been a cultivar of voila peppers – another ultra-spicy chile. In terms of cultivation, the ghost pepper grows like many other chilis. The plant grows to about 3 to 4 feet in height and produces a red fleshy fruit. It matures on the vine, increasing in heat, until it naturally starts to lose moisture.
In India, ghost peppers are typically sundried on tarps, before being ground or sold whole.
Ghost peppers have been cultivated in India’s Assam state for thousands of years. In fact, the name ghost pepper is a literal translation of its Assamese name Bhut Jolokia. The Assamese have known about its extreme spiciness for many years, and the people have given the plant many colorful nicknames, including the poison chili pepper. The pepper is believed to have been brought to the region by the Bhutanese as the voila pepper, and through natural selection the ghost pepper was born.
The pepper wasn’t widely known until recently. In 2000, the Indian government tested the ghost pepper on the Scoville scale, finding it to be off the charts in terms of heat. Since then, the ghost pepper has achieved international acclaim, and many YouTubers now take “ghost pepper challenges” and try to eat the peppers whole. Today, though the Carolina Reaper has taken the throne of the world’s hottest pepper, although the ghost pepper remains the most well-known super-hot chile.
About Our Ghost Peppers
Burma Spice works with a select group of ghost pepper growers in India’s Assam region. The state is known for producing some of the hottest peppers in the world, thanks to its extreme heat and humidity. Temperatures in summer can climb up to 120 degrees, with near 100-percent humidity.
The result: Assam-grown ghost peppers are consistently hotter than those produced anywhere else in the world. Our growers in Assam use traditional sun-drying. We purchase dried ghost peppers in bulk and hand package them in our spice shop in South Florida.