Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some like it Hot! An obsession with Chili Peppers.

A cupboard full of sauces.

I bought 10 seeds of the Naga Jolokia (Bhut Jolokia, Ghost Chili, Naga Morich) which cost me a small fortune of 70 cents per seed including shipping from the Chili Pepper Institute of NMSU which is the only source for the seeds.

The Bhut Jolokia is known as the hottest pepper in the world. These are rated at over 1,000,000 Scoville units by the New Mexico State University Pepper Institute, which is twice as hot as the next hottest pepper the red Savina scotch bonnet or habanero. A quote from Wikipedia: "Samples of Red Savina have been measured as high as 580,000 Scoville units. For comparison, this is twice as hot as a regular habanero pepper (100,000–350,000 Scoville units), and 65 times as hot as a jalapeño pepper. A cayenne pepper rates only 30,000–50,000 Scoville units."

Interestingly, we went to an Indian restaurant in Baltimore a long time ago and ordered some food telling the waiter that we wanted the food "Indian hot". Actually it was my wife who opened her big mouth and insisted that she wanted food the way the Indians ate it. Well the food was incendiary! It was so hot I literally almost passed out. I was sweating profusely, my face was flushed and I had difficulty breathing. Maybe they had the Bhut Jolokia. I saw the ghost and the apparition was ME!

Here's an NMSU article about the Bhut Jolokia

Here's more information about the Bhut Jolokia.

Here's a fun story on why they call it the "ghost chili".

And finally here's a woman who consumed 60 Bhut Jolokias in one sitting! I wonder how that turned out in the end? ;)

I'll let you know just how hot these peppers are after we grow them next year. Stay tuned.

If you are interested in buying some seeds, you don't have to download and print and mail the form on the NMSU Chili Pepper Institute site. You can just order it over the phone with a credit card.

Thanks (I think) to Entangled for finding the source for the Bhut Jolokia seeds.

Some of our Jalapeno peppers which are still going strong. We also planted some cayenne peppers this year but though they taste pretty good, they were not hot enough. We dried a bunch to make pepper flakes but was disappointed that it didn't have more heat. Someone mentioned it was because the plants weren't stressed enough but there were times when the shrub was wilted so it may just have been the variety. I notice there are some heatless varieties sold in the markets now. What good is a hot pepper without heat?

These are bird peppers which we unfortunately forgot to plant this year. This one has a wonderfully unique taste and is quite hot. The peppers are the size of baby peas but biting into one of these can bring tears to your eyes and snort fire from your nose.

Here are some Asian hot sauces. The large strange looking bottle on the left was a disappointing Chinese garlic and pepper sauce. I usually buy the Lan Chi brand which is great but tried this one instead with less than sterling results. It's just hot with no pepper taste or character. The hot bean sauce is great. And the green curry sauce can't be beaten in my opinion. I haven't tried the red curry sauce in the small can.

Some sauces and chipotle peppers commonly available in grocery stores except for the Sonia. The Goya sauces are run of the mill which I only use when I want a different taste. It's no better than the generic red hot sauces you see in stores. But the Goya chipotle peppers in sauce are great. Hot, smoky and wonderful tasting. Chipotle isn't a variety of pepper. It's the Jalapeno pepper which is smoke dried before made into a sauce. We haven't tried the La Morena chipotle sauce yet so I can't comment on its quality.

Of the commonly available sauces, we like the Tapatio which is very cheap but a step above the usual offerings at the grocers.

This Sonia sauce deserves special attention. This was a common sauce used in Mauritania where our daughter was a Peace Corps volunteer. It was cheap, about 60 cents, but very tasty and has about the right amount of heat for me. It has an interesting pepper taste, one that I had not encountered before. But we are on our last bottle and I can't find a source for it online. ;(

The Death sauces are my wife's favorite. It even comes with a skull keychain ornament.

I don't remember buying these sauces. It may have been a gift from our daughter when she visited Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She's an enabler. We have yet to try these sauces.

We have yet to try the Ass Blaster or the sauce on the right but the XXX sauce is delicious - just the right amount of heat and piquancy.

The sauce in the middle is a killer. Dave's insanity sauce is the hottest sauce we've come across. Just the fumes from the open bottle will set your eyes tearing. My wife who has a very high tolerance for peppers - she will literally cover a pizza with a layer of the red peppers in a restaurant - dabbed the tip of her pinkie in some sauce and put a bit on the tip of her tongue. Her face immediately turned beet red, she reached for some water and was consumed with pain for a few minutes. One whiff of the open bottle was enough. I was a chicken and didn't even try it. Now we use it only to make deer and rabbit repellent by adding a few drops to a gallon of water and some detergent.

We like peppers so much, even our jellys have pepper in them. We made a lovely colored pepper jelly with some of the Cayenne peppers we grew this year, which turned out quite well. Next time we'll use apple cider vinegar though to cut some of the harsh acetic acid taste of regular distilled white vinegar. Maybe a mild rice vinegar would be an even better substitute.


Blogger Entangled said...

Now here's a subject I can warm up to. It's great to see that the Bhut Jolokia seeds arrived - I wondered if they'd have any left from this year.

It's interesting you mentioned the Death sauces. I think the same company makes (or used to make) a powdered habanero product called Death Rain. Rt. 11 Potato Chips used to sell a Death Rain flavored potato chip, but some years ago they changed the name (and the recipe?) to Mama Zuma's Revenge. Those are very hot potato chips.

There's a profile of Marie Sharp (her real name?) in the current issue of Chile Pepper magazine. It seems her hobby got out of hand and she started a business.

We have a few of the same items as you - Maesri brand curry pastes, La Morena chipotles in adobo, and we used to have El Yucateco habanero sauce, but I haven't bought any recently.

I'll keep an eye out for the Sonia sauce. We visit a lot of international grocery stores, although I don't think I've been to a specifically African one.

This could be a fun meme - want to see my chile condiments? ;-)

10:07 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

You managed to impress us with your collection, Ki - we only have a few favorite kinds of hot sauce, Louisiana red, plus green, chipotle and Asian types, and a Thai kind of green curry paste.

Philo has some dried peppers and he pickles some others. There's a pepper in the garden right now that was just labeled 'Indian Hot' - although I doubt that your wife would think it was hot!

Can Entangled top your collection?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

1:58 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I am very impressed by all the hot sauces you have. And I'll admit I would be darn right SCARED to grow that Bhut Jolokia pepper. I'm looking forward to reading more about it next summer. Will you be putting up a fence around the plants with "danger" signs to keep everyone away from it?

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

3:11 PM  
Anonymous mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

That's quite a collection. Are you sure you aren't a Texan? (No insult intended.) Are your "bird peppers" what we call chili pequin? I have a nice little bush of them. I don't know any recipes that use them, so it is strictly ornamental. It is frost-resistant and I've had the bush for years.

I thought my jalapenos turned out hot this year. When I was slicing them I could feel the heat rising up off them and it took days for me to get the juice off my hands. I can't imagine eating a pepper that was 65 times hotter than that. Whew!

Pepper jellies are a favorite here, too, especially on a bagel with cream cheese.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Entangled,
When I called the Pepper Inst. the woman who answered immediately said "you want to buy the Bhut Jolokia" as in a statement not a question. I was surprised they still had some seeds too. I will try to isolate the plants so the seeds will breed true and if I get some seeds I'll share them with whomever wants some.

Interesting info about the Death sauces. You certainly are up on the lore of hot peppers. Living in a state where some people think onions and garlic are spicy makes it very difficult to find really good hot stuff. Never have seen Death Rain potato chips nor Mama Zuma's Revenge to my detriment I'm sure. It would be cool if you found a source for the Sonia sauce.

Sure, we could turn this into a meme though the ones I've seen have not turned out to be too successful.

Tag. Whatcha got? Show us your condiments.


A whole world of hot sauces awaits you Annie. You have to try something other than Louisiana Red for no other reason than you're a Texan now. ;) Here's a site that has a number of different sauces. I've never tried to pickle peppers but I've seen homemade sauces that were nothing more than water, vinegar salt and small peppers thrown in whole and bottled. I guess you were just supposed to use the liquid to spice up whatever you were eating. Maybe Philo can share his pickling recipe? If that pepper truly comes from India, it make be very hot. You certainly have better sun and climate to grow them than we do.


Hi Carol,
I guess if the pepper is that hot I may have to make up some signs to warn people. I just hope the neighbor's kids don't get into it. Or maybe I can plant a perimeter of Bhut Jolokias to keep them from trampling our plants trying to retrieve their ball...just kidding. I'll send you some seeds for your huge garden if I get some. Apparently they don't produce very many seeds so I can't promise anything but we'll see if it's true next summer.

Mmmmm! Hot pepper jelly on toasted bagels with cream cheese is our favorite too. Carbs, fat and sugar, what more can you want?

I can't remember if the bird peppers were Piquin/Pequin or Tepin/Chiltepin peppers. I read somewhere that every Mexican family had their bird pepper bush near their kitchen so they would have some close at hand. Apparently like yours the plant did not go dormant so it produced peppers all year long. You should try the peppers. It has a different taste than most peppers. I don't know how to describe it. Different peppers seem to affect different parts of my mouth. Some are hot right at the tip of the tongue some on the sides and others at the back. If I remember correctly the bird peppers were the back of the mouth type. Sort of a slow burn. When I first started eating peppers, some friends and I cooked a Chinese dish that called for 6 hot peppers. We put in 6 Jalapenos and almost passed out because it was so hot. We literally had to wash the food and redo the spices using only one pepper. What whimps. What would we have done with a Bhut Jolokia? I've chopped peppers, washed my hands thoroughly and mistakenly rubbed my eyes with dire results. Amazing how persistent the capsaicin can be.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

What an impressively hot post! I'll give the Goya chipotle peppers in sauce a try.Some wonderfully tasty hot Caribbean pepper sauce brands are: Matoucks, Chatak, ( Trinidad) Bello ( Dominica), Baron ( St Lucia) Susie's hot sauce ( Antigua), Lotties (Barbados). De la grenade pepper jelly is lovely-more sweet hot,but with a very sophisticated taste, perfect for many delicate foods.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Nicole,
We had some delicious hot sauce from the Caribbean in a restaurant in Asheville, NC. It was GraceFoods scoth bonnet sauce. I looked up their website but there was a ban on some of their products because they used ackee which is not approved by the FDA. I don't know how the restaurant was able to get the sauce. I think the cost of shipping and their minimun order also pushed the cost above what we were willing to pay.

I bet you have access to wonderful hot sauces there. I am envious.

4:39 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Ki, I checked and you can get the range of Matouk's pepper sauces
(which I think tastes better than Grace's) on They also have Walkerswood Hot Jamaican Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce. Its a pity may people know the more novelty/gimmicky sauces like Death and Dave better than the "real thing" but that's marketing for you! Of course even the sauces I mentioned cant compare with the best homemade sauces done by true talented makers. Those are harder to get-you have to know the person and put in an order weeks in advance.
You know I could understand what you said about the Sonia sauce it is so striking how Africa produces some of the best produce I have ever tasted-Mali onions, Cote D'Ivoire potatoes etc. I don't think those countries appreciate their export potential.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anthony said...

Awesome display of hot sauces. I'm sure most about definitely too hot for me but I'm still impressed by the collection.

I love the names that these people come up with for their sauces. You couldn't really market any other product besides hot sauce with a name like Death. :)

7:38 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Thanks for finding a source for Walkerswood and Matouk's sauces. Of course I'll have to order some esp. if they're better than the Grace's. Now you have me slavering thinking about homemade hot sauces. Makes me wish we lived in a place that appreciated piquant sauces. It is a shame that our agricultural system grows food for uniformity, harvestability and long shelf life. At least we are making inroads to this blandness by planting heirloom veggies but you have to do it yourself or buy locally from the more adventurous growers a the farmer's market. I wonder too if those African onions and potatoes were so good because they were so fresh?

Hi Anthony,
Not bad for NJ eh? The kicker is that they even throw in a skull keychain. I'm ashamed to admit that bauble was the thing that made me try the Death sauce. ;)

"You couldn't really market any other product besides hot sauce with a name like Death. :)" ...and t-shirts with grinning skulls for skate boarders.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Digital Flower Pictures said...

I happened to try some Insanity sauce the other night on some chicken (it was the bottle in the middle). Much hotter than the raw Habanero I ate at work this year. Not sure where it came from but I found it in the fridge and that stuff was hot.

Let me know if you are going to Santa Fe anytime soon there is a store there that had a huge rack of Hot Sauces probably 100+ types. I am going to see if I can dig out the picture I took of it.

:lol: on your Indian dinner, sounds like a hot time.

5:22 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Chris,
You must have a cast iron stomach if you can eat the Insanity sauce. Just the smell was almost too much for me. I should try it once though, just to say I did it.

Actually we may visit the Albuquerque Santa Fe area next year so I'll let you know. The Indian meal was a good way to clean out your system. I sweated profusely :)

4:13 AM  
Blogger lisa said...

I can't get over that name, "Bhut Jolokia"...Like, "Once you eat this your bhutt will be no jolokia"!

11:24 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hey Lisa,
They sure pronounce things differently on that side of the world. "Once you eat this your bhutt will be no jolokia"! Been there, done that! =:0 :((

6:24 AM  

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