Different Types of Hot Peppers
There are lots of types of hot peppers used in ethnic dishes. Asia, India, the American southwest, and Mexico all have local hot peppers to complement their national dishes. Whether fresh, dried or frozen, chili peppers are the most popular ingredient in spicy dishes. Chili peppers have been used as a cooking ingredient for more than six thousand years and there are more than four hundred varieties grown around the world today.
What is the Scoville Heat Index?
The Scoville Heat Index is used to measure the hotness of different types of peppers. Cherry peppers and sweet bell peppers are at the bottom of the Scoville scale, moderately hot peppers such as red cayenne peppers, yellow hot wax peppers, and Serrano peppers are in the middle. The hottest peppers are habanero peppers, with the scotch bonnet and rocoto being equally hot.
If you are not used to eating spicy food, even a tiny piece of habanero would cause intense oral pain for up to an hour. The heat is the first thing people notice about this spicy chili pepper, followed by delicate apple, plum and tomato type flavors.
You might have heard of chipotle peppers and this is not the name of a type of chili pepper but rather the smoking process used to dry chili peppers. Mature jalapeņo peppers are usually smoke dried. Chipotle gives a delicious smoky taste.
Jalapeņo peppers are rich and hot. Red jalapeņos appear in the fall and green jalapeņos are best in late summer. You can buy canned jalapeņo peppers but these are not as fiery as fresh jalapeņos.
Chili peppers are rich in vitamins A and C. A two-ounce chili pepper actually contains more than twice the daily-recommended dose of vitamin A. Not many people are happy to eat that much hot chili pepper though!
Chili Pepper Tips
When choosing chilies, they should have a solid, firm, unblemished flesh with an even coloring. Chilies have a good shelf life and keep well in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If you are handling hot peppers, wear surgical gloves. Do not touch your eyes or anywhere sensitive on your body after handling hot peppers.
Whole dried chili peppers should be shiny, clean, and unbroken. You can store them in a cool, dark place with the rest of your Mexican spices, in a sealed bag or jar. To reconstitute dried chili peppers, cover them with hot water in a bowl until they are soft enough to work with.
Most of the heat in a chili pepper is in the seeds and veins. You can remove these before using the chili pepper to tone down the fieriness. If you are eating spicy food and you need to put out the fire in your mouth, forget about water because it makes the burning worse. Eat some bread or yogurt or drink some milk instead.
Chilies and Mexican Food
Chilies have been part of the Mexican diet since 7500 BC. The Mayans used to add them to water and boil their beans in it. They would also add chili peppers to their cacao and make simple chili sauce to dip their tortillas.
Mexican mole sauces blend a few different types of chilies. Chilies work as a thickening agent as well as adding heat to the recipe. Different kinds of chilies are used in Mexican recipes to create different dishes. Different types of chilies can be combined for different flavors. You might combine the fruity taste of habanero pepper with the smoke taste of chipotle for example when making your own home made chili powder.
Chilies are an intrinsic part of Mexican cuisine. They add a unique flavor and, when used in moderation, can add an exciting kick to a dish to liven it up.