Southeast Asian food can be hot! Hot meaning spicy. One of the most famous chilies in the region is the bird’s eye chili, found mainly in Thailand but also available in most parts of Southeast Asia.
The bird’s eye chili, otherwise known as Thai chili or comically referred to prik kee noo (mouse dropping chili) is one of the spiciest chilies in the world. At one time it was even listed as the hottest chili in the Guinness Book of World Records but other even spicier chilies have later been discovered. Prik kee nu chilies are green or red and about one inch in length, with the green ones indicating unripe chilies and the red as ripe ones.
Mouse dropping chili measures around 50,000-100,000 Scoville units in the Scoville scale. The Scoville scale measures the spiciness of chili peppers by the amount of capsaicin in it. Capsaicin is a chemical compound found in chili plants that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the mucous membranes. In other words, it is the chemical in the chili that stimulates the ‘burning’ sensation we feel when we eat spicy food. To compare bird’s eye chili to other spices, pure capsaicin is 15,000,000–16,000,000 on the Scoville scale, law enforcement pepper spray measures 5,000,000-5,300,000 Scoville units, Tabasco pepper measures 30,000–50,000, jalapeño and paprika weighs in at 2,500–8,000 and pimento is at 100–500.
Mouse dropping chilies are also used in different ways. The chili can actually be grounded and used as a condiment in food, especially in noodles and soup dishes. This is called prik kee nu bonn, with bonn meaning grounded. The chilies can also be dried out in the sun. The larger dried whole chilies are used to make curry paste and the smaller ones are usually kept for later consumption. Finally, the chilies can be used to make ground fresh chili paste. Salt, vinegar and garlic are added and the paste usually comes and comes in a small plastic jar, usually with a green lid.
So, you’ve tried the food and thrown in some spice into your meal as well. All of a sudden, you feel this burning sensation and the feeling heightens even more. What do you do to relieve it? It seems natural that water should ease this, but that is not always the case. Water can actually spread the ‘burning feeling’ from your tongue to your throat, compounding the situation even more. Many people find yogurt, milk, ice-cream, chocolate and bananas to help. In fact, the rice on your dinner table can also relieve the spiciness.
Part of your Southeast Asian experience is to sample the tasty and sometimes very spicy food. After trying it, why not cook it yourself and impress your friends back home? While in Bangkok, you can take our Bangkok Tasty Treats – Bangkok day trip tour. An authentic culinary experience awaits while you visit local markets, sample tasty food, learn about the ingredients used in the food enjoy a genuine Thai meal. In Vietnam, we have two cooking classes which include our Half Day Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City and our Cooking Class – Hanoi tours. Before preparing the dishes, you will meet your chef, head to the market to purchase the necessary ingredients and then back to the kitchen for your cooking experience. If you are in Cambodia, you can also experience this with our Culinary Cambodia – Siem Reap tour. These day trips are a great compliment to any of our Southeast Asian tours at www.exotravel.com.
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