Extensively popular for its hot flesh and minimal seeds

Thai Chili Pepper

Can you imagine that there was a time, almost before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in Asia, when chilies did not even exist in Thailand, and the people there were used to adding peppercorns to their food for adding heat to it? Now, you can observe that almost every dish of Thailand comprises chilies. Thai people extensively use dried, fried, or pickled Thai pepper chili, and there is a common saying, “Mai Phet, mai arroy,” that says if it is not spicy, then it is not tasty. So, they have developed the heat content of the food as a standard to measure the taste.

What is Thai chili pepper?

You might be thinking that Thai chili is marked by containing a heavy heat content, and the hottest chilies the Thai pepper chili. This is not actually true. It is, in fact, popular for its tasty flesh, minimal seeds, and a lot of heat content. There is a myth that Thai chilies a pure form. Contrary to it, Thai chili powder comprises almost 79 different types of chilies, which grows in red and green color and comes from three different Thailand species.


Thai Chilies


The origin of Thai chili

Thai chili has its origin in Central and South America. It is considered to arrive in Thailand in the 15th century, but its history is not documented well. During the Ayutthaya period, chili was not a part of Thai dishes. However, the writings (by a famous poet, Sunthorn Phu) of King Rama II's time show that salt and chili pepper had been a component of Thai dishes as a seasoning component. This is the earliest reference of the use of Thai chili pepper in Thailand. It is not clear yet and needs a debate whether Portuguese, Indians, or Spanish explorers brought this in Thailand. However, it is adopted as the staple spice in Thailand. Before its introduction, chefs were used to using peppercorn for adding flavor to the cuisines.

Measure the heat content

You must be eager to know about Thai chili pepper's heat content as its hotness is recurringly being discussed. To figure out the chilies' heat content, you first need to learn about the scale on which hotness is analyzed. An American researcher, Wilbur Scoville, developed the scale to measure the heat content of chilies in 1912. This scale is known as Scoville units.

Scoville Units

Scoville Unit measures the heat content through the organoleptic test. This is done by adding the sugar water extract to the chili under observation, unless and until the chili's spicy element does not taste any more. The more sugar water solution is needed to overcome chili's hotness, the more spicy chili will be.

The heat content of thai chili pepper

On the Scoville scale, common bell pepper is considered to be at zero levels as it does not contain any capsaicin, which is the actual heat content of the pepper. Compared to it, the heat content is analyzed. It has been observed that the heat content of Thai chili pepper ranges from 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville units. These are not the hottest chilies, as some chilies even measure the heat content up to 300,000 units.
If compared with jalapeno pepper (heat content ranges from 2500 to 8000 units), Thai chili shows that these are almost 15 times hotter than the Jalapeno pepper.


Scoville Scale of Chilli Peppers


How to get over chili burns?

Everyone has a different capacity for bearing the heat content of chili. In case you have consumed more capsaicin than your ability, you don’t need to get panic, as the following tips can provide you with considerable assistance on controlling chili flame.

  • You can consume some sweets.
  • You can have some yogurt.
  • You can have fatty foods or can drink milk.
  • For controlling chili burns, you need to absorb chill oil. You can do this by rolling a rice ball around your mouth.

Drinking water will not help you as capsaicin does not water-soluble water consumption; it only relocated it, providing a mild, temporary relief.

Varieties of Thai Chili

As already discussed, there exist almost 79 different varieties of Thai pepper. Among those, more than a dozen are used for cooking different Thai recipes. Let’s discuss some commonly used types of Thai pepper chili and their heat content. The heat content discussed below may vary from that discussed below.

Prik Kee Noo

The chilies round and almost 2 inches long, and green, orange, or red are known as “mouse dropping chill” or “birds eye chill,” referred to as prik kee noo in Thailand. The orange prik kee no chili is considered to be the hottest. Its heat content measured on the Scoville scale is 80,000 to 100,000 SHU. It is normally used in dishes like sauces, soups, pounded relishes, and stir-fry dishes. It can also be deep-fried and used as a topping for many dishes. It is also used to make chili powder after drying and grinding the mouse dropping chili.


Prik Kee Noo Chili


Prik Chee Fah

Sky pointing chili, also known as prik chee faa in Thailand, is known to have a heat content ranging between 5,000-30,000 SHU as measured on the Scoville scale. Their size ranges from 3 to 4 inches and is found in green and red color. These are known as sky-pointing chili because of their upright position, which grows while pointing towards the sky. These are used in the preparation of a chili paste known as Kaeng. It is prepared by drying, deseeding, and softening in water.

Prik Yuak

A green chili about 4 to 7 inches long and has a sweet taste is known as banana stalk chili and is also known as prik yuak in Thailand. Unlike other Thai chilies, it is not spicy, and its heat content measured on the Scoville scale is 0. It is dark green and does not change color on further ripening. It is also used as a condiment for adding in dishes like soup often pickled in vinegar.


Banana Stalk Chili


Prik Jinda

Prik jinda is a long chili, however, milder in size than Bird’s eye chili. It has a high heat content of approximately 75,000 SHU as measured on the Scoville scale. However, it is still mild hot as compared to many other hotter Thai chilies.

Prik Ban Chang

A Thai pepper found either in green or red color with smooth skin and normally grown in Ban Chang's southern district is known as Prik Ban Chang, named due to its occurrence in that region. It is known for being spicy but, its heat content has not yet been identified. It is a recommendable choice for soups and curries because of its low seed content.

Prik Kaleang

Prik Kaleange is considered one of the hottest chilies in Thailand and is found in its northern areas of Thailand. It is used in the making of many dishes and curries. They change their color from green to yellow and then orange and turning up red. The hotness gradually builds up, and the Scoville heat units of Prik Kaleang are 50,000 to 100,000 SHU.


Prik Kaleang Chili


Prik Mun

Prik Mun is dark green or red and has glossy skin. It has an oily appearance and is considered best for pickling. It is used as a major condiment in Thailand. Its heat content is not identified yet.

Prik Leung

Prik leung is orange in color. It is not very often used in Thai dishes the way red and green chili is used. However, it is still used in salad varieties. Its heat content is moderate and has 30,000 SHU as measured on the scale. Their availability period is from late summers to autumns.


Prik Leung Chili


The secret of hotness of Thai food

You might be curious to know why Thai people use too spicy chili or why Thai food is so spicy. There is no valid reason, but we can make some guesses.

  • A good combination of Thai spice with the components of Thai cuisine. The spice of chili adds to more flavor in dishes like the salty fish sauce and shrimp paste, the sweet taste of palm sugar or coconut cream, and the tangy lime and tamarind.
  • Thai chili adds to the flavor of rice, fish, and vegetable, which is commonly consumed in Thailand.
  • In Thai folk wisdom, there exists a concept that eating chili gives strength, and hence chilies are a component of syrups for curing stomach ailments.
  • Chilies are comparatively economical in Thailand. It grows wildly there due to the spread of its seeds by birds’ feathers who carry them while feasting on the chilies. The pain receptors of birds are different from humans, and hence they don’t feel the hotness of chili.    


Thai Chili Dish