Of mouse turds and eyes of birds

I have a nice pile of Thai chilis awaiting processing. I’m thinking of making a huge batch of Nam Prik Pao with them tomorrow.

If anyone wants a couple of chilis before I start chopping them up, let me know… I’d be happy to pop some into a baggie and bubble wrap and send ’em off to you! Warning: these lil’ suckas are HOT… one to two will amply spice an entire batch of curry.

Here’s another blogger, Pim, writing about her aunt’s famous Nam Prik Pao. It doesn’t look like she gives up that recipe in later installments, however… I’ve looked!

According to Cook’s Illustrated (sorry, looks like a membership is required), most of a chili’s heat is not in the seeds but the pith: “Chiles get their ‘heat’ — or ‘pungency,’ as the experts like to say — from a group of chemical compounds called capsaicinoids, the best known of which is capsaicin. To figure out where most of these compounds reside, we donned rubber gloves and separated the colored green flesh, whitish pith (also called membranes or ribs), and seeds from 40 jalapeños. We then sent the lot to our food lab. It turned out there were just 5 milligrams of capsaicin per kilogram of green jalapeño flesh (not enough to really make much impact on the human tongue), 73 mg per kg of seeds, and an impressive 512 mg per kg of pith. According to the Chile Pepper Institute, a research and education center housed at New Mexico State University, capsaicin is produced in the pith, not by the seeds. The reason why the seeds registered more heat than the flesh is simply because they are embedded in the pith.”

I’m thinking I’ll leave the seeds — and pith — all together in my Nam Prik Pao. It will cut down on time, that’s for certain, and make accidents a lot less likely. Because, as we all know, “if you get chili juice on your special places, no one can help you.”

I thought I was growing Prik Kee Nu chilis, which are also supposedly known as “mouse turd” chilis, but now I think those are these little guys. Now I believe I’ve probably got the birdseye version (some places call these Prik Kee Fa, or Long Chilis), but this is also confused depending who you read. It looks like even native Thai writers seem to have the two mixed up.

It appears, according to the photos in The Chile Man’s database, that there are indeed at least two different types of Thai chilis. My guess is that I have the birdseye chili, and that the mouse dropping chili is the tiny “berry” chili on this page.

And then again, I come to something like this, and despair of ever sorting it all out!

Hey, it looks like that Chili Institute has an expert on chilis who will answer emailed questions. Let’s see what they have to say!

To be continued…



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2 responses to “Of mouse turds and eyes of birds

  1. a. you impress me with your dedication to Thai food.

    b. I gotta few restaurants to recommend, whenever you make it back to the Left Coast.

    c. Alcohol will cut the heat from chilis. Also milk, I believe. (I’m not saying that you want to count on them to save you, mind.)

    • a. thanks! it’s purely selfish, i assure you.

      b. ooh, sounds promising!

      c. yes, milk proteins apparently are the best “cure,” but once you get chili burn on your skin, it’s gonna stick around for a couple of days no matter what. hence my gloves all day today… the first time i handled my little fireball chilis, my hands were stinging for two days solid!

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