A key ingredient for the bold and spicy flavors of some Asian cuisines
Related to the sweet bell pepper, the chili pepper varies in hotness and intensity from mild to painful. Introduced to Asia from the Americas (records suggest that chilies were eaten in the region of modern day Mexico over 9,000 years ago), chili peppers are a common ingredient especially in southeast Asian cooking and the cuisine of Korea. Thai cooks grow and use almost a dozen varieties of chilies in their cooking.
Chilies are used whole or chopped in cooking, pureed in chili sauces and dried and ground for year-round use. Care should be taken when handling chilies, even dried, as the capsaicin (an alkaline oil) that gives chilies its hotness is the same ingredient used in pepper sprays.
Varieties of Chilies
One of hottest chili peppers available, habaneros are small, orange peppers about the size of a cherry tomato.
Usually deep green in color (becoming red in the later part of the season), these plump chilies are used in cooking or salsas.
Slightly hotter than jalepenos, seranos are green, thin-walled chilies.
(bird chilies, bird eye chilies; Thai: Prik khee noo suan) Although small in size, these small (not usually more than ? inch in length) chilies are some of the hottest chilies found. They are a key ingredient in Thai cooking.