Food profile: the chili pepper

[1] Remember. The smaller the chili is, the hotter it is! 

Hello there! Hoo hoo! Hot, hot, hot! Get me some water! Yes, as the title evidently suggested, I am doing a similar task as before, and I am continuing with another food profile – the chili pepper itself. I will analyse the origin, nutritional properties and history of the ingredient. Then, I will incorporate a few recipes to finish off the article. Again, if there are any commentaries you like to add below, please do so. Good reading to you!


The chili pepper originated from Central and South America, and was introduced to South Asia by Portuguese and Spanish traders, together with Arab merchants during the early 16th century. Interestingly, India is now the largest producer of this! There are many different types of the chili pepper or the Capsicum family, ranging from sweet all the way to spicy. Nothing too new there. In fact, it has been noted that Mexico and Northern Central America is the birthplace of the Capsicum annum (ranging from bell peppers to hot chili peppers), whilst South America was that of the Capsicum frutescens (this is more of the spicier type)[2] However, it must be noted that there are many families that pop up depending on the geographical region you are using the chili pepper itself. For example, in India, 


Also, chilis are measured in Scoville heat units (SHU). For example, a normal bell pepper that you put in your salads are 0; a jalapeno one is 2,000 to 4,500 SHU units; and finally, the Mexican habaneros consists of 200,000 to 500,000 SHU units! [3] Here comes the toilet break any time soon…


Nutritional information 


Chili peppers have a substance called capsaicin, giving it that distinctively spicy flavour. By consuming it, capsaicin is known to be an anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic and cholesterol-reducing agent. Moreover, with a high level of minerals found in chilies – potassium and iron, for example, this can help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. [3] 


It also contains Vitamins A and C – both antioxidants which help the body in different ways. On the one hand, Vitamin A helps the body to prevent getting serious effects that can be a side-effect from stress. Conversely, Vitamin C contains collagen, helping the body structure to regulate better flow of blood throughout the body, giving it immunity to diseases and protection against scruvy (teeth problems). [3] 


Recipes 


1) Grilled Shrimp 

A very simple marinade that you can make beforehand. All you need is a grill and a brush with oil (remember, that that is a top secret to keep the shrimp meat nice and juicy inside). Again, I offer an Asian marinade that is versatile to many different seafood or meats. This can be served as a starter, on a barbecue day with some green salad dress with a simple vinaigrette. You could go creative and even make your own Thai red curry shrimp rice, topped with a fried egg and spring onion. Class. 

 

  • 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce 
  • 1 chili pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon of caster sugar 
  • 1 spring onion 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 small part of ginger 
  • Ideally for 3-5 prawns each (so that all the flavour can be properly macerated) 

 

2) Chili Con Carne

Another simple recipe that is house-pleaser and body-warmer during those cold winter nights. You could even have it during the summer days if you are really in the mood! 

 

  • Half an onion 
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 400g of minced beef
  • 400g of tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato purée 
  • 2 tablespoons of ketchup (if you like it sweeter rather than spicy) 
  • 2 teaspoons of chili sauce (again to your preference)
  • 1 can of kidney beans 
  • Salt and pepper (to taste) 
  • (If you are really feeling it, you can top it off with some grated mature Cheddar cheese) 
  • 75g-100g of Basmati/Thai rice for one person (use this as a measure for the number of people you are cooking for)  

Effectively, the chili pepper is a versatile and healthy ingredient that can be used in many Oriental and Meso-American dishes. This originates from the Iberian and Arab traders that brought the much-coveted spice to the shores of South Asia. Now, the chili pepper is incorporated in many different types of dishes, varying in levels of spiciness. Moreover, you get critical nutritional content, like Vitamin C and potassium, which are critical for regulating blood circulation and immunity to diseases. I once remember watching a television programme on Discovery channel, about curry making and the Indian chef would explain that spice brings colour and soul to the person eating it. With different colours that you can use with your ingredients, it is truly a delight to view and consume. Do try out my recipes or this could always be an inspiration for you to think about different types of dishes that incorporate the chili pepper itself – be it Vietnamese, Cantonese, Thai, Malaysian or Indian. Hope you liked your read again, till next time! 


References

[1] http://www.adobenido.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/2chilis.jpg

[2] http://www.kew.org/plant-cultures/plants/chilli_pepper_history.html

[3] http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/chili-peppers.html

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