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    • Hot Spots: Chili consumption around the world
    • 13 years ago by Ken
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      Most European countries do not use chilies for their traditional dishes; only Mediterranean countries and Hungary have much of a chili tradition, though food is rarely really fiery even in these countries. Consequently, there are only few partcular chili cultivars in Europe. A good example is the fiery piri-piri, a Portuguese variety sold almost exclusively in pickled form. Other hot chilies are mostly used dried, e.g., the piment d'espelette from Pays Basque in France, or the South Italian pepperoncino.

      At it's heart, traditional Mexican cuisine is the various permutations and preparations of chilies. Tamales, tacos, Rellenos, moles, tortillas, frijoles, enchaladas, etc. are all tempered by chilies. While each region of Mexico has its specialties the chili is omnipresent.

      In Thailand, "curry pastes" (prik kaeng or prik gaeng) are ground mixtures of chilies with other fresh spices. Chile-based table condiments are almost ubiquitous in Thailand: nam pla prik (fish sauce with finely choppen green chilies), prik dong (chopped red chilies in vinegar) and prik phom (red chile powder) allow each diner to adjust spiciness (Europeans, however, rarely use the option). The mentioned three chili condiments, plus white sugar and ground toasted peanuts, make up the standard set of "fiver flavours" which is offered even in very cheap restaurants and at family tables.

      In Indonesia a red hot chile sauce, sambal, is provided at the table to adjust hotness level to one's personal taste. Sambal may consist simply of mashed, salted chilies (sambal ulek), but may also be fried or enhanced with shrimp paste, nuts or other spices; a popular recipe is sambal bajak.

      Most Chinese cooking styles, as a rule of thumb, avoid too much spicyness; especially Southern Chinese (Cantonese) recipes. In Central China (Sichuan and Hu-nan province), however, chiles and garlic are very popular and used in astonishing amounts. Dried red chiles are often fried in hot oil until dark brown, the oil then being used to prepare stir-fries. The local tien tsin chile is particularily suited for this high-temperature procedure.

      Another method of using chilies is doubanjiang (hot bean paste), a fiery paste prepared from chilies, garlic and soy beans by fermentation; it is most typical for Sichuan cookery. An example of Sichuan cookery is mapo tofu, spicy minced pork with bean cheese. For this dish, the pork is stir-fried together with doubanjiang and garlic and then combined with mild, soft bean cheese.

      Although Vietnamese food is only moderately spiced, chilies are always available as optional additives at the table, either fresh or in fish sauce (nuoc mam), similar to Thai custom. This applies mostly to the South; in North Vietnam, garlic replaces chilies as condiment.

      In Japan chilies are used less often than in any other Asian country. Chiles are rarely employed in cooking, but table condiments containing chilies are served with specific kinds of food. For example, dried chilies, either alone or in mixture with other spices (shichimi togarashi), are popular for spicing up soups.

      In neighbouring Korea, though, chilies are much loved. They are either used fully ripe and dried (a red powder of bright colour and full heat), or in form of a chile-flavoured hot bean paste.

      South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine uses fresh green chilies, which are taken in mind-boggling amounts for stir-fries and deep-fried lentil snacks. For curries, dried red chilies are usually preferred; three large tablespoons for one liter of curry is not unreasonable.

      In Northern India, as well as in Central Asia, chilies are nearly always used dried. They are sold whole or ground at the market and are intensively fiery, intensively coloured and intensively aromatic. Usually they are fried in fat so the pungency is distributed uniformly in the food.

      Not surprisingly, chiles appear in many spice mixtures: Indian garam masala and sambaar podi, curry powder, their Ethiopian pendent berebere and Arabic mixtures. Far Eastern examples include Japanese shichimi togarashi and the former mentioned Thai curry pastes.
      Other spice preparations are made entirely or at least dominantly of chilies, like the hot pepper sauces of the Southern US and Mexico (containing mostly vinegar or lemon juice, garlic, salt and chilies, or Tunisian harissa, a fiery paste of dried red chilies, garlic, cumin (or caraway), coriander, olive oil and sometimes a hint of peppermint.

      Chile pepper, chili pepper, chilli pepper - which is the correct spelling?

      Each of the three spellings is recognized by different dictionaries as being correct. The Oxford English Dictionary shows "Chilli" as the primary spelling while citing both Chile and Chili as variant spellings. Websters gives equal weight to both chili and chilli but chile is not included. Chile is most frequently used by Americans though chili is also quite common, though this word also refers to the Southwestern bean dish (chili con carne, vegetarian chili). Google searches of the words combined with "pepper" shows "chilli" in the lead. Which is correct? That's up to you - just don't call them chilly. (The Epicentre)

    • TAGGED: chili, thailand, european, chinese, cooking