WHAT IS IT?
Every part of the world has their spicy fastball, where you bring on the heat in what you eat.
Used most commonly in stir-fry, soups, salads and sauces, Bird’s Eye is a chili pepper from the species capsicum annuum. A cousin of the chile arbol, they are small and powerful. Asian varieties grow with a heat index of 100,000 scoville units, a medium-high heat, but African variants can measure nearly 175,000 scoville units. They are scoville-tastic sources of pungent pop in your foods, and can provide a bit of red color flecks in some sauces, sambals, like sweet Thai chile sauce where they impart fruity pungence.
Bird’s eye chilis are generally small, red at maturity, but may also be long or short, or could be yellow, purple or black, depending on where they are grown. Like all chilis, Not only regions of the world where they are grown, but specific land, valleys, etc. can affect their look and flavor. Dry and wet years.
This African variant, from Uganda, featured at Spice Jungle, runs to the hotter, more pungent, and more savory side than the fruit-heat of a Thai or other Southeast Asian bird’s eye.
This chili is the fruity medium-high heat, go-to chili in most Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, adding a nice kick of heat to any savory recipe.
If added at the beginning of cooking, or allowed to steep in oil, the pepper’s capiscum, the stuff that makes it hot, infuses capiscum, the natural chemical that makes chiles hot, into the oils.
A bright, hot, somewhat more earthy chile than it’s Thai cousin, they are small enough to be used in all kinds of applications because their taste doesn’t convey until you use a whole bunch of them, and, a little here can go a long way.
Bird’s eye chili is a cousin of the Latin chile de arbol, and goes by many names (See below). This pepper comes from Uganda, in Africa, but variations are grown in dozens of other countries. A bird’s eye chile grown in Vietnam or India will have markedly different heat and variations in flavor. They’re used extensively in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, and in African, and Latin American cuisines.
- Thai sweet chile sauce, curry sauces and pastes
- Vietnamese salt and pepper shrimp
- Piri-Piri chicken, a dish from Mozambique carried by Portuguese traders around the world
- kochchi sambal, a salad made using freshly scraped coconut ground with bird’s eye chilis and seasoned with salt and lime juice
- Chongqing Chicken
- Rik nam pla – A popular Thai condiment
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Add to pan fried bacon to give breakfast meat a little heat!
- One pod boiled in a serving of bacon broth ramen for a bit of kick
- A crushed pod or two in my Cajun pot pie is more subtle than cayenne
- Crush a couple and add to spaghetti with a quality olive oil, parmesan, sage, onion powder and salt
- A simple dish of steamed chicken and onions, whole coconut milk, ground bird’s eye chili, cilantro and lime
The bird’s eye chiles found around the world today have their origins in Mexico, Central America, and South America. They were spread by the Spanish and the Portuguese, together with many other now common crops such as corn, tomatoes and pineapples. Over the last 400 years, many have evolved, through soil, climate and weather, into their own sub-species. For more on
- Piri Piri
- Peri Peri
- African Devil
- Thai chile
- Thai hot
- Thai dragon
- Boonie pepper
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