Whole Thai Chili: At a Glance
The whole Thai chili, also known as the bird’s eye chili or prik kee noo, is a petite pepper that delivers a powerful punch. Registering 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units, the whole Thai chili offers a strong, lingering heat. When the chili turns red, it can have a delayed heat that builds after consumption. It is well known for its assistance in adding spice and flavor to many Southeast Asian recipes and was once the predominant pepper used in the well-loved sauce, sriracha.
Cooking with Whole Thai Chili
Whole Thai chilies are a staple ingredient in Thai cuisine. They compliment many different dishes and are a great ingredient to have on hand. They are most commonly used in the following ways:
- Toasting: To add a more intense flavor, you can toast whole Thai chilies prior to cooking them. This quick, easy step takes less than a minute and will give you better results if you choose to rehydrate or powder the chilies. To do this, you simply cut from the stem down to the point on one side, open the pepper, and remove the seeds. Next, you place the pepper in a pan and heat it on each side until it releases its scent.
- Rehydrating: When planning to use the Thai chilies whole, diced, or sliced, it is recommended that you rehydrate them first. To do this, you simply add the whole toasted chilies to warm water and let them soak for 10 to 15 minutes. When finished, a rehydrated pepper should be pliable and smooth.
- Grinding: If you would like to use your whole Thai chilies in their dried form, you can use the grinding process. Simply place the dried chilies into either a mortar and pestle or an automatic grinder and process them until they reach the desired fineness.
- Sliced or Pureed: Whole Thai chilies are commonly used in sauces, such as prik nam pla and curry pastes. When making the popular Thai condiment, prik nam pla, the Thai chilies are typically sliced and mixed with fish sauce and other ingredients for a flavorful contribution to many different recipes. Thai chilies are also a standard ingredient in Thai curries. When making a curry paste, the chilies are often pureed. However, they can also be added whole to the final dish or used as a garnish.
Whole Thai Chili: History and Origination
Surprisingly, Thai chilies along with other types of chili peppers did not originate in Asia but rather from South and Central America. Evidence suggests that chili peppers were one of the first plants to be domesticated in Central America with use dating back to 7500 B.C. The Europeans discovered the Thai chili in the 1500s after departing their world to explore the Americas.
Portuguese and Spanish explorers introduced the Thai chili to South Asia in the 16th century using trade routes from South America. It is then assumed that traders spread the chilies to China and Southeast Asia using trading routes along the coasts and waterways like the Ganges. Some think that chilies became such a staple ingredient in South Asian dishes because the people there were already comfortable with strong spicy flavors.
Cultivation of Whole Thai Chili
Thai chili peppers have a harvest ranging from 100 to 130 days. Due to this longer harvest, it is recommended that the chilies should initially begin cultivation indoors around eight weeks before the last frost spring. Once the outdoor soil is warm and the weather is consistent, the chilies can be moved outside. This plant fairs best in temperatures between 60 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit and should receive plenty of exposure to the southern or southwestern sun.
As the chilies reach maturity, they will turn green; however, they are not fully mature until they reach a deep red color. They can either be harvested when they turn green or left to ripen on the plant. When collected early, the plants will flower and produce more often, but it is possible that the flavors will vary.
The chilies can be dried either using a food dehydrator, baking them in the oven at a low temperature, or naturally in the sun or a well-lit window. Once the peppers are dry and tough, they can be stored in an airtight container for long term use.
About Our Whole Thai Chili
Burma Spice offers various sizes and packaging for its whole Thai chilies. You can choose from a one to six ounce glass jar, a two ounce resealable bag, or a six or twelve ounce plastic container. The glass jar makes for a beautiful addition to your kitchen while the resealable bag is great for smaller kitchens. The plastic containers are ideal for professional and commercial use.
After sampling each source of Thai chili available, Burma Spice chose whole Thai chilies originating in Thailand so that you are guaranteed to get the best flavor and quality available.