Burning Ring of Fire: Guide to Thai Chilis
Straight off, here’s a fact for you. Chilis aren’t native to Thailand, even if they are in almost all of their dishes. Before Columbus turned up in Asia, Thai people used pepper to add heat to their food. Nowadays, chilis are in all Thai cuisine. What follows is our fully packed, heat filled guide to Thai chilis.
Prik is the word you’ll want to learn in Thai if you’re keen on talking chili. If you can’t take the heat, it helps a ton to learn some basic Thai phrases before venturing out to try new food. Anyway, there are a great variety of chilis, ranging from taste-adding low heat chilis to tongue-destroying heat packed volcano chilis. Spend time in Thailand and you’ll begin to eat them raw, as a garnish, in curries, for breakfast, pickled and dried.
The mildest of the chilis. These are fairly meaty in texture and actually fairly sweet in taste. You might not want to start chomping on them raw as a snack, but they won’t bring too much of a sweat. They are often used whole and stuffed with a filling. In Thailand this tends to be meat, veg or a mixture with spices. In the West you might come across these stuffed with soft cheese and they’re offered raw, pickled or deep fried.
These chilis you’ll see almost every day in Thailand but won’t necessarily notice it straight away. They are fairly oily and are used in the pickles that you see gracing the table of almost every restaurant with the rest of the Thai condiments. You’ll find dark green ones and red ones. They’re cut into tiny pieces and marinated into vinegar.
Prik Chee Fah
Short, well-formed and found in a bright red color usually, as well as sometimes vibrant green. They are often dried and then crushed into an intense paste which gives Thai red curry its trademark color. Thanks to their bright hue they are regularly used as garnishes on top of dishes to add a splash of drama.
Prik Kee Noo Suan
These are the most popular chilis used in Thai cuisine. They’re incredibly popular thanks to their high levels of spice, in fact they are widely known as some of the spiciest found in Thailand. They’re used in some of the most famous Thai dishes. Tom Yum soup, green papaya salad and green curry all feature Prik Kee Noo Suan. The paste for green curry is made from the greenest unripe chilis and naturally this makes for the signature green color for a Thai green curry.
These are the kings of heat in Thailand. They are the strongest of the chili family in Thailand. The varied colors from light green to bright red/orange all feature in the fiery jungle curries of northern Thai food. This is a heat that builds. You might think that you’ve got away with it after a few bites and then the heats kicks you in the mouth with a pair of hot sauce coated boots! Enjoy with caution.
Tips for Fully Experiencing Thai Chilis
Take it easy initially. If you’re not a heat fan or accustomed to these chilis, they can take you by surprise. You might want to learn the Thai phrase mai phet meaning not spicy initially until you get accustomed to the heat!
Thai Chili Photos by Asian Oasis Blog