Thursday 6 December 2012

The scorcher from India that brings tears to the world

I was never ever partial to the sweet tooth and I swore never to be taken in by sweets come what may. From an young age, I was proud to be called as a person who could, without batting an eyelid, digest the “hottest” and most “pungent” food, so much so that I could even eat chutney made of green chillies.
Even the Guntur chillies was not all that hot.   
Well, my world came crashing down a few days ago when I had the real taste of the real chilli. My tenant told me her parents would be coming over to Bangalore from Mizoram to settle her marriage. “What do you want from there”, she asked. I replied, “a little tea from Assam” and some other spices that are well-known in the area.
Well, the tea was fine, rather outstanding. Then came the real test. My tenant gave me a small bag full of chillies. She said the chillies are really hot and warned me not to use more than one or two.
I dismissed her suggestion with disdain and asked for the chillies to be used in the day’s preparation.
Chutney goes well with Idli and at home we prepare green  Chuntney with a dash of coconut powder. Generally four to six green chillies are used. This time around, four chillies that our tenant had brought, were used.
The aroma of the chutney made me all the more hungry and I picked up a piece of idli and dipped it in the chutney. The next thing I remember was that I almost chocked and my eyes, mouth and even nose began to water.
Never the loud one in the house, I startled all my family when I yelled aloud at the top of my voice for water. I drank more than four glasses of water, ate fistfuls of sugar and emptied several blobs of  butter but to no avail.
The hot and pungent chilli left its mark and my tongue felt swollen the whole day. I subsisted on liquids for the rest of the day-drinking coconut water or Yelaneeru, juice and even ate a lot of sweets.
It was only after several hours that I felt normal and could go back to my normal eating habits.
Meanwhile, I was curious to know why the chilli had become so hot. I later learnt that it was called Bhut Jolokia and that it is the world’s hottest chilli.
Bhut Jolokia has been declared by the Guiness Book of Records as the world’s hottest chilli. This is mainly grown in Assam and some parts of other north-eastern states.
This chilly or rather its hotness was measures on the Scoville heat chart, which is the world-wide yardstick adopted to identify the hotness of a chilli.                 
Associated Press reported yesterday from Albuquerque that the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was on the verge of formally displacing the Bhut Jolokia, grown in the Northeast, primarily in Assam, as the world’s hottest chilli.
The Bhut Jolokia had measured 1,001,304 Scoville heat units, beating Naga Viper, also of India, which some years ago had logged 1,382,118 Scoville heat units but had subsequently declined.
Bhut Jolokia’s main challenger and the nearest today apart from Nagar Viper is the Carribian Scorpion. Though not scientifically tested and validated, the Scorpion is capable of  exuding nearly 1.2 million Scoville heat units.
Much of the information on chillies, their “heat”  and scoville score are undertaken by the Chile Pepper Institute.
of South America.
The institute planted more than 125 varieties of chillies- including the Bhut Jolokia- and fruits from each were picked, dried and culled  and ground into powder.
The capsaicinoids, which emit the true chilli sensation,  were measured on the Scoville heat scale. It was during this exercise that the Bhut Jolokia displaced all other chilli champions.
Another variety which is “hot” and was the champ chilli a few years ago is Red Savina of California, US. This is not a naturally evolved chili and it has been patented by a US company. It, however, measures only a quarter of what our Bhut does on the heat scale.
Today, Bhut Jolokia is a premium product of the north east. Apart from Assam, it is grown in Nagaland and Manipur. However, it is known by different names in the areas they are grown such as king cobra chilli, Nagahari, Raja Mirchi, Naga morich, Dorset naga.
In terms of spiciness, the Bhut Jolokia scored over Red Savina pepper and a test to determine this aspect was carried out in the Defence Food Laboratory of India.
This chilli is in great demand from the West and it is primarily used in the making of flakes, pastes, powder, and pods.
 The Naga chilli too is scorching. There is a story about this chilly. A club in London, Cinnamon, had made the hottest curry. The curry was so red hot that diners were asked to sign a document before sampling it. Yes, this curry had Naga chillies.
Chilli  is a native of  south America. It is believed to have been introduced in Inda by the Portugese in the 15th century. Since then, chilli has made its presence felt on the Indian palate. In Karanataka, Byadagi Menasinakai is used commonly. The other variety common in south in Guntur.    
Today, chilli has found a variety of uses. It is used in the  preparation of  medicines and as a counter irritant to treat rheumatic and neuralgic disorders and even for lumbago. It is also used to treat some kinds of cancer. Now a days, chilli extracts are widely used in cosmetics.
Dehydrated green chilly is a good source of vitamin C.
Generally, chilli takes three months to grow and about two weeks to turn from green to red. In India, 60 per cent of the chilli is grown in Andhra Pradesh, particularly the Guntur belt and the rest comes from Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Karnataka has three main varieties of chilli and Andhra Pradesh two.
Well, coming back to my story, I could not complain as heat is the natural defence of the chilli, But from that day on, I swore off such chillies and today I have developed a sweet tooth. Yes, I can eat as much sweets as I want. The sweeter, the better.     

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