In the five hundred years since Europeans discovered chilies in the New World, these spicy pods have become one of the defining ingredient categories of Southeast Asia. They are bold and diverse in flavor, and they’re amenable to lending their flavor, color, and heat to nearly limitless incarnations. Pounded into pastes, sliced and floated in fish sauce, crushed into salads, or minced and added to soy sauce to punctuate foods with that fiery bite, they have become indispensable throughout the region. Each variety has its own flavor, level of capsaicin (the compound that determines heat), and implicit function. To reduce the heat of a chili, cut out the seeds and inner white membrane (also called the ribs), since these components contain the majority of the capsaicin.
© 2008 Robert Danhi. All rights reserved.