Field Notes

Pepper of the Week: Raja Mirchi

#POW

Pepper of the Week

Raja Mirchi/Ghost Pepper

We're used to going bold each #POW, but this week we just went bolder. It's the ghost pepper, Raja Mirchi.

This pepper commands respect from foodies...and their taste buds. Once dubbed the "hottest chili pepper in the world," people keep coming back for more.

Why are they hooked on the ghost? Let's dive a bit deeper in the Raja Mirchi, ghost pepper. 

What is a Raja Mirchi Pepper?

This beautiful pepper means a lot to many cultures. The Raja Mirchi brings a delicate heat to so many Asian delicacies. From curries to chutneys, the Raja Mirchi's spice is slightly offset by the fruit's sweet flavor. That complexity is the charm that keeps the locals hooked on this ghost pepper! 

Raja Mirchi

Image via Down to Earth

The popularity of this chili pepper has earned this fruit many monikers. Therefore, you might see these peppers in specialty produce stores...and might not even realize you're looking at them!

The long list of names for the Raja Mirchi Pepper includes:

🌶 Naga Jolokia (Serpent Chili)

🌶 Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Chili)

🌶 Bih Jolokia (Poison Chili in Assamese)

🌶 Raja Mirchi (King Pepper in Hindi)

🌶 Pasa Kala (Chief Chili in Mishmi)

With such revered names, you can see this scorcher is well-respected. So, why does the Raja Mirchi command such respect? Let's look a little closer this week's #POW.

Characteristics of a Raja Mirchi Pepper:

🌶 Heat intensity: Hot

🌶 Size: 2 -3 inches 

🌶 Scoville Units: 800,000 to 900,000 SHU

🌶 Flavor Profiles: Subtly Sweet, Grassy Nodes

As you can see, despite the heat, the Raja Mirchi has quite a nuanced flavor. Its subtle sweetness makes for a burn you can long for. 

History of the Raja Mirchi Pepper

This pepper's history is far entwined with Indian culture and cuisine. While natives have long heralded the heat that comes from the ghost pepper, the Raja Mirchi didn't rise to foodie prominence until the early 2000s.

Raja Mirchi Pepper

Image via The Better India

A London, England-based restaurant called the Cinnamon Club carried a dish known as the world's hottest curry. This meal is brandished the Bollywood Burner.

The lamb-based dish contained seven of the deadly hot peppers in its creamy gravy. Those who chose the dish have to sign a waiver before being served!

Since its debut in the mainstream, the heat behind the Raja Mirchi has come to light. In fact, Indian military is tinkering with using this pepper in their weapon arsenal! In the meantime, this aromatic fruit is also used as a deterrent to protect elephants and crops in Asia. 

Raja Mirchi Pepper Recipes

Think you can stand the heat? Then get in the kitchen. There are so many ways to use King Pepper in your everyday life. Here are a few!

King Chili Chutney

Chutney is such a versatile tool in the kitchen. You can use it as a glaze for your meats. However, it's also a great accompaniment to toast in the morning. What's fun about chutney is you can add a little spice to the sweetness. To make it even easier, we just happen to have this recipe courtesy of Roots and Leisure here

King Chili Chutney

Image via Roots and Leisure

Ingredients:

🌶 1 King Chili Pepper (Raja Mirchi)
🌶 1 Large Tomato
🌶 1 Clove of Garlic
🌶 Salt to Taste

Look simple enough? Get the recipe courtesy of Roots and Leisure here. 

Naga Style Pork Raja Mirchi

Perhaps no other meat complements the complexity of Raja Mircho more than pork. It's flavored get lost within the pork's fibers, bringing out more nuances with each bite. Your mouth-watering yet? Then check out the recipe courtesy of First Post here

Pork Chili

Image via First Post

Ingredients:

🌶 1 T Salt
🌶 Pork
🌶 1 Raja Mirchi Pepper
🌶 4 Dried Red Kashmiri Chillies

🌶 8 Cloves Garlic
🌶 1 tsp Salt

To get the complete recipe, check out First Post here.

Celebrate Pepper of the Week

Don't ghost us all week long on the ghost pepper. Follow us on Instagram @TheChiliLab as we celebrate all things Raja Mirchi Pepper.

These recipes get your mind turning? Try making some sauce at home. It's now easier than ever with our Homemade Hot Sauce Kit. 

 

Pepper of the Week: Bulgarian Carrot Pepper

#POW
Pepper of the Week:
Bulgarian Carrot Pepper

This week's #POW brings the pow as Bug Bunny does to Elmer Fudd. We're talking a carrot pepper. Our Pepper of the Week is the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper. Also known as shipka, the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper can be used a variety of ways. From salsa recipes to hot sauce...heck, even bread, we've got you covered. Let's get to know a bit about the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper. 

What is a Bulgarian Carrot Pepper?

This heirloom pepper has a unique flavor profile. It's a tad bit sweet with the bite of spice we know and love from jalapeño. As the name implies, at its full maturity, the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper resembles a carrot. 

Bulgarian Carrot Pepper

Image via Mad Meat Genius

Characteristics of a Bulgarian Carrot Pepper:

🌶 Heat intensity: Medium to Hot

🌶 Size: 2 -5 inches 

🌶 Scoville Units: 5,000 to 30,000 SHU

🌶 Flavor Profiles: Sweet, Tangy, Bit of Heat

This pepper brings a nice pop to your plate. Its versatility allows you to spice up a breakfast omelet, bring some crunch to a lunchtime salad, or a savory bread perfect to dip into your soup!

History of the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper

The modern-day Bulgarian Pepper is believed to be cross-between habanero pepper commonly found in the Caribbean and an old-school Bulgarian pepper. This pepper was known as the Shipka. 

Shipka is a term to describe a range of prickly shrubs. In particular, Bulgarians have dubbed wild roses as shipkas. Based on the color of the original Bulgarian Carrot Pepper resembling rose hips, it earned the shipka name. Although, others also say the name came from the small town of Shipka that lies in the center of Bulgaria. That's the mystery that comes along with history!

The pepper stayed around the Black Sea and Greece until the 1980s. This orange-hued pepper found its way to the Caribbean region when the pepper was smuggled out of the Iron Curtain.

Winston Churchill came up with the term, "Iron Curtain" to describe the divide of a post-World War II Europe.

Winston Churchill, Iron Curtain Speech

Winston Churchill "Iron Curtain Speech

Image via Missouri State Archives

One side was aligned with the States, while the other was under Soviet rule. Sometime during the 1980s, the peppers crossed the sea. While they still thrive in colder areas, Bulgarian Carrot Peppers can be found in the States today!

Bulgarian Carrot Pepper Recipes

Now that you know a thing or two about this unique pepper, let's give you some Bulgarian Carrot Pepper recipes!

Bulgarian Carrot Pepper Bread

Nothing compliments a hot soup, makes better use of spaghetti sauce, or hold together a sandwich like a delicious bread. This savory recipe courtesy of PermaCulture News will have your mouth watering and your belly satisfied!

Ingredients:

🌶 1- 8oz Package Cream Cheese (Softened) 
🌶 2 Large Farm Fresh Eggs
🌶 4 cups Mozzarella Cheese
🌶 2-3 Bulgarian Carrot Peppers 
🌶 2 cups Almond Flour
🌶 2 tsp. Aluminum-free Baking Powder

Get the full recipe at PermaCulture News. 

Bulgarian Carrot Pepper Salsa

Salsas are great because you dip chips, dress up your eggs, or add a kick to your baked chicken breast. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to tag us on Instagram @TheChiliLab! Here is the recipe courtesy of Feed Your Skull

The Salsa Recipe

Image via Feed Your Skull

Ingredients:

🌶 2 - 14.5 oz cans of Muir Glen Diced Tomatoes (No Salt)
🌶 1 cup Lightly Packed Cilantro, Chopped
🌶 1 cup Diced Onion
🌶  4 Cloves Garlic, Minced

🌶 1 Bulgarian Carrot Pepper
🌶 1/2 Lime
🌶 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Sea Salt

For an extra kick, add a little citrus burst with The Chili Lab Grove Blend Chili Flakes. Get the recipe via Feed Your Skull here.

Bulgarian Carrot Chile Sauce Recipe

Seeing as we have our own At-Home Homemade Hot Sauce Kit, we can't help but share a hot sauce recipe for this week's Pepper of the Week! Let's take a look at this recipe courtesy of the Mad Meat Genius.

Bulgarian Chile Hot Sauce

Image via Mad Meat Genius

Ingredients:

🌶 ½ pound of Bulgarian Carrot Pepper 
🌶 ½ Small Onion, Chopped
🌶 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
🌶¼ cup of Vinegar
🌶 ½ cup of Water
🌶 1 Tablespoon Sugar (Honey)

 Get the complete recipe at Mad Meat Genius.

Celebrate Pepper of the Week

Now that you know the 4-1-1 on the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper, join in on the fun. Follow us @TheChiliLab on Instagram and celebrate all things Bulgarian Carrot Pepper all week long!

Pepper of the Week: Fish Pepper

Welcome to The Chili Lab Pepper of the Week Breakdown. This week, we go beyond the heat...and into the waters with fish pepper.

Fish PeppersImage via Jocelyn Dale

Okay, the only thing fishy about this pepper is what you serve it with. In fact, this pepper doesn't taste like it was plucked out of the water at all. So, why is the fish pepper...the fish pepper? Let's take a look!

What is a Fish Pepper?

The fish pepper rose to prominence in the Caribbean. Contrary to what we call it, the fish pepper earned its name not for having an aquatic flavor. Rather, fish peppers garnered their moniker in thanks to the foods they were often paired with. Popular in oyster bars and crab houses, these peppers became the company they kept, earning them their fishy name.

History of the Fish Pepper

While the fish pepper gained notoriety in North American islands, these colorful fruits slowly made its way to the mainland. Unfortunately, this was due to the fish pepper's popularity with slaves.

Africans brought fish pepper over to the Americas. They enjoyed the kick this chili pepper gave other foods. In the Chesapeake Bay area, many Africans would puree the pepper. From there, they would spread the creamy concoction over their shellfish. 

Thankfully, slavery became abolished. An unexpected result saw the decline of fish pepper. However, one African folk artist, Horace Pippin, kept the seeds of fish peppers alive since the 1940s.

Over time, Pippin passed the seeds onto future generations. Due to Mr. Pippin's green thumb, the fish pepper is now seeing a resurgence in the 21st century among foodies of all cultures!

How to Use Fish Pepper?

Although not confirmed, many say the fish pepper is a cross between the serrano pepper and cayenne pepper. Its flavor profile can be described as:

  • Crunchy
  • Fresh
  • Bitter

When fish peppers are picked at different points in their life cycle, they bring on different levels of heat. At green, they exhibit low levels of fire. As fish peppers mature into red pods, they bring on a serious kick.

Fish Pepper Scoville

Due to such a variant degree of heat, the Scoville level of fish pepper can range anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 SHU.

While you can puree fish pepper or add it to a sauce, the best way to enjoy fish pepper is through pickling. That way you can toss these flavorful peppers into any salad or on top of a burger for a sweet-and-sour experience. 

How to Pickle Fish Peppers

Pickling is a fun, easy, cost-effective, and healthy way to get your fish pepper on! What is so great about pickling is that you can pick and choose what you want to throw into your batch. It's an ever-evolving process. However, if you don't know where to start, let us help you.

Pickled Fresh Peppers

"Pickled
Image via Coconut & Lime
Ingredients:
  • 3 cups whole ripe fish peppers 
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon pickling salt

To learn more, read the recipe @ Coconut & Lime

Fresh Pepper Piccalilli


Ingredients: 

  • 5 green tomatoes
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 fish peppers
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (toasted and smashed)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Read more by checking out This Must Be The Taste.

Get Social with Fish Pepper

Feel like a fish pepper aficionado now? Well, join us on Instagram for even more fish pepper fun. Also, be sure to check in for next week's #POW...PRIK CHI FAA

Hot Sauce Field Guide: Nam Prik

There is no better example of the balance between sweet, salty, sour and spicy than this Thai condiment. To make this chili jam, dried chilies, shallots and garlic are fried to bring out their flavors, then blended with a mix of brown sugar and dried shrimp paste, and finished with fish sauce. If the idea of shrimp paste freaks you out, you can omit it—the jam will still be delicious.

Yield: 2 cups

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 1/2 ounces dried chilies
  • 25 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 5 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons shrimp paste
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce

Add the oil to a skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chilies and fry, stirring , for half a minute, taking care not to burn them. Transfer them to a paper-towel lined plate. Add the garlic to the skillet and fry for about 15 seconds, until barely brown, then transfer to the plate with the chilies. Add the shallots and fry until crispy, about 1 minute. Transfer to the plate with the chilies. Remove the skillet from heat, leaving the oil in the pan.

Place the chilies, garlic and shallots in a food processor and process until a paste forms. Set aside.

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the shrimp paste, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves. Then stir in the reserved chili paste, 2 tablespoons water and the fish sauce. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture is combined and slightly thickened. Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.