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Q&A -- Hot and Spicy

47 posts in this topic

Great work, Mark. A few comments.

They say chiles can do no harm to your body but....many years ago I grew some supposedly Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers from seedlings I picked up at a nursery. The first time I cut into one I could tell it was flaming hot. I touched the cut edge to my lip, and blisters rose on my lips! I never dared to eat them for fear of what they would do to my insides!

To counter that, I have not had time yet to write the Digest on the new Chile Pepper magazine but it has an interesting article. Apparently, for many years Drs. thought that frequent chile pepper consumption could be a cause of stomach ulcers. New research shows quite the opposite: that not only may chiles be a deterrent to ulcers, but maybe even a cure! Nothing definitive yet, but interesting.

I am glad you explained about how one's toleration for chiles can increase. In the last 20 years I have gone from being able to eat nothing hotter than a poblano (with the seeds removed) to enjoying Habanero salsa (in small quantities)!


Lobster.

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I have heard anecdotal accounts of this happening, but I've never heard an explanation as to why hot peppers might have this effect. My only thought is that some particularly sensitive parts of the body might react to the high concentration of alkaloids in super hot peppers.


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Nice work, Mark!

One thing I'd like to see, if you have the time, is a rundown of the most popular chile types, their distinctive flavors and their potential uses. This would be pretty helpful to those just getting into fiery foods.

I, for one, will never use jalapenos when serranos are available. I find jalapenos to be heat without flavor while the serrano has both heat and flavor, greatly enhancing dishes and salsas that usually call for jalapenos. Another example would be the pairing of Habaneros or Scotch Bonnets with tropical fruits because of their own fruity flavor.

By the way, I've always wondered, is it haban-air-o or haban-yer-o?

Chad


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Mark,

Interesting piece. Thanks. This year I grew cherry, Jalapeno, Thai Bird, and Habanaro peppers in containers in my driveway. They received moderate sunshine, regular watering, and experienced several hot days. However, as I use these peppers in the kitchen, I find that they are very mild (even the habanaro). The only pepper with any bite at all is the Thai bird, and even that doesn't have the kick I was hoping for. Any idea what happened?

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Nice work, Mark!

One thing I'd like to see, if you have the time, is a rundown of the most popular chile types, their distinctive flavors and their potential uses. This would be pretty helpful to those just getting into fiery foods.

I, for one, will never use jalapenos when serranos are available. I find jalapenos to be heat without flavor while the serrano has both heat and flavor, greatly enhancing dishes and salsas that usually call for jalapenos. Another example would be the pairing of Habaneros or Scotch Bonnets with tropical fruits because of their own fruity flavor.

By the way, I've always wondered, is it haban-air-o or haban-yer-o?

Chad

I also prefer not to use green jalepenos, as I find they have a grassy flavor remeniscent of green bell peppers. Like the bell peppers, however, jalepenos when ripened to red have a pleasant sweet flavor.

I agree that habaneros and Scotch Bonnet peppers have a nice citrus flavor (This is when that resistance to capsaicin comes in handy) that goes well with many tropical fruits. Several years ago at a gathering of chileheads (a Hotluck) one of the participants made a batch of Habanero Mango ice cream that was awesome! It was also instantly physically addicting; as long as you kept spooning the cold stuff into your mouth the heat was tolerable, once you stopped it would start raging until you quelled it with another spoonful...

As to pronunciation it is hab-an-air-o. It refers to something or someone from Havana. As such there is no tilde (~) over the "N." If you do see the word Habanero with a tilde in the spelling, it is incorrect (There are a lot of products out there with that spelling).


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Mark, do you have any views on the proper use of the word "spicy"? For example, do you think it would be correct to refer to foods containing no hot peppers but, say, a lot of cumin, as "spicy"? What about dishes with lots of garlic?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Mark,

Interesting piece. Thanks. This year I grew cherry, Jalapeno, Thai Bird, and Habanaro peppers in containers in my driveway. They received moderate sunshine, regular watering, and experienced several hot days. However, as I use these peppers in the kitchen, I find that they are very mild (even the habanaro). The only pepper with any bite at all is the Thai bird, and even that doesn't have the kick I was hoping for. Any idea what happened?

It's possible you were too kind to your plants! It is theorized that the heat in chile peppers is a method to prevent predation of the chiles by mammals. The extensive digestive tracts of mammals destroys the chile seeds. Birds, however, have a much shorter, simpler digestive system and are also not sensitive to capsaicin. Not only will birds pass the seeds unharmed, but they will widely disperse them complete with their own little blob of fertilizer!

Now, to your wimpy chiles... As theorized, the chiles use heat as a defense against being eaten by mammals. It has been noted that anything that causes stress on the chile plant will result in an increase in the capsaicin content. It seems that in stressful times the investment into the seedpod makes it even more imperitive that they not be destroyed by being eaten by mammals. Many plants use chemical means to avoid predation, and they all will react to stress by increasing the amounts of these chemicals.

By dutifully watering and feeding your plants you provided the perfect environment to encourage lazy, wimpy chile plants. If you have plants that have not been picked yet, stop watering them for a week or 2 until they appear to be uncomfortably wilted (Of course unless you are using containers this will be dependant ot rainfall), give a watering to just perk up a bit, then another dry spell. This should piss them off enough to get some flames going!


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Fascinating. I'll give it a try, although it being September in Iowa, we are past the "hard" months of the growing season. Meanwhile, eating bright orange habernaros has proven to be a pretty good party trick when my foodie friends come over. Thanks.

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Mark, do you have any views on the proper use of the word "spicy"? For example, do you think it would be correct to refer to foods containing no hot peppers but, say, a lot of cumin, as "spicy"? What about dishes with lots of garlic?

This is really just my opinion, but I generally separate the "heat" of chile peppers from the "spicy" flavors of... well... spices.

This harkens back to the fact that capsaicin does not stimulate the taste buds, but instead activates the heat receptors in not only the mouth but in any other sensitive part of the body. :shock:

Spices on the other hand do directly stimulate the taste buds, so are to me a different animal. You can have foods that are very hot, but not particularly spicy. You can also have foods that are overly spicy with little or no heat.

Of course when you get to other foods that have their own combination of flavors and heat like raw garlic, onions, ginger and horseradish all bets are off!


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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I have to confess to being absolutely and totally baffled by all this. The notion of eating something that is painful to ingest, is to my mind one that belongs in the pages of the Marquis de Sade. In a pot on my stove? On a plate at my table? No, no and NO.

Please, Mark, can you explain the appeal of hot foods?


Edited by gsquared (log)

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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The interesting thing is that a dozen or so years ago I could not tolerate hot foods, then I lost a lot of weight and had a major reduction in gastric problems as a result. I started eating chiles as a snack because such a little goes a long way.

Eating chiles has sometimes been referred to as "culinary bungee jumping." Honestly, why on earth would somebody fling themselves off of a perfectly good bridge? There seems to be an entire range of human activity that defies logic, and much of it seems focused on food and eating. Some folks spend a huge slug of $$$ for a meal of Fugu, with the knowledge that if the chef was not up to his game that they would die as a result. Personally I'll more likely eat a nice spicy platter of Larb and risk a flaming bung hole before I'm gonna scarf down any poison puffer fish. :wink:


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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I have to confess to being absolutely and totally baffled by all this. The notion of eating something that is painful to ingest, is to my mind one that belongs in the pages of the Marquis de Sade. In a pot on my stove? On a plate at my table? No, no and NO.

Please, Mark, can you explain the appeal of hot foods?

/me approximate =Mark momentarily

One of the main reasons I eat hot, spicy foods is that the provide an amazing pick-me-up.

Here is something to try some time. Get some thai garlic and chile sauce. It's a little spicy, but it also is a little sweet and has a nice garlic flavor without being overpowering.

Take a hamburger and top it like you usually do. Cut it in half, and on one half, add some of the chile sauce. Try to add it so that it is a little challenging to your level of tolerance. It might not take much. Eat the untainted half and take stock of how you feel, especially energetic-wise.

Then, eat the "tainted" half. If you are like me, you will notice that you feel really quite rejuvenated, and for several hours afterward, actually.

Another thing you could do to test this is something simple like udon (or other oriental noodle). Put a simple non-spicy topping on it and try. Then add some chile paste of some sort and try it. Again, after eating, you will feel quite a lot better, if you are like me.

That's why I eat them: they make me feel good. And how!


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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As was mentioned in the article it is suspected that the stimulation of the pain receptors by capsaicin causes the brain to release endorphins which can result in feelings of euphoria similar to that expeienced by those who run long distances.

A couple years ago at a Hotluck in Red Lion, Pa. Doug Barnhart (3 Time winner of the Bowers Pa. Chile Fest Jalapeno Eating contest) and I were browsing through Chip Welch's chile garden and came across these tiny yellow chiles that looked like kernels of corn.

tinyblast.jpg

Well we popped a couple of these babies, which had a nice citrus flavor, but after there was minimal reaction we moved on to other things. Then, 30 to 45 seconds later the base beat of a major burn started making itself known. For the next 10 minutes or so we were usless. There was nothing to be done but stand, red faced and crying, sticking one ice cube after another into our mouths.

As soon as were were semi recovered we each exclaimed "We gotta get the others to try this!" Soon there were half a dozen of us passing these beauties around like junkies with a crack pipe... Logical? Hell no! A complete rush? You bet! I took a dozen of them home...

PS - The Bowers Chile Fest and Jalapeno contest is tomorrow.


Edited by =Mark (log)

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Great class and extremely informative Q & A!

Now I know why I grow the hottest chiles in the country, I am a lazy gardener and don't give them water until I think they are past the point of no return!

I am very interested in the red jalapenos, I have only seen them sold as green. Are there any parts of the world that prefer to eat them as red chiles? You say they are sweeter but does the heat level change at all? increase? decrease?

Can't wait to try some of your recipes!

I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a chile head, but I need chiles in some form everyday, that kick is like an energy burst for me. My current addiction is a Japanese product called yuzukoshou, that is a paste of pounded green chilies and yuzu (a Japanese citrus).


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

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Why do you have an "=" sign in front of your name?

(I've been waiting years to ask this.)

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I have to confess to being absolutely and totally baffled by all this. The notion of eating something that is painful to ingest, is to my mind one that belongs in the pages of the Marquis de Sade. In a pot on my stove? On a plate at my table? No, no and NO.

I think the idea that

pleasure + a little pain = more pleasure

has been around for quite some time in various forms.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Great lesson. I looked for a link to the Houston Chronicle archives and couldn't find it so I will paraphrase...

A few years ago, one of the medical schools here, Baylor I think, did a study. They had folks come in and eat chiles. Before the chile consumption they stuck this fiber optic thing down into the stomach to look at the stomach lining. Some folks had great linings, some not so great. Then, after the chile consumption, they looked again. They found no effect on the stomach lining from the chiles, either from visual evidence or from symptomatic descriptions from the test subjects. (I wonder how much they had to pay these folks? :wacko: )

I think that the thing about chiles being actually helpful for stomach ailments has to do with the fact that we now know that almost all ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection and peppers do have some anti-bacterial properties.


Edited by fifi (log)

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I have to confess to being absolutely and totally baffled by all this. The notion of eating something that is painful to ingest, is to my mind one that belongs in the pages of the Marquis de Sade. In a pot on my stove? On a plate at my table? No, no and NO.

I think the idea that

pleasure + a little pain = more pleasure

has been around for quite some time in various forms.

Frankly, over the years, the more tolerance I get for capsaicin, the more I find it actually enhances the other flavors. Capsaicin and ginger, for example, work together better than alone. Whether this is due to endorphins or pure adaptation, I don't know. I've at least convinced myself that its not just that I'm getting better at tasting through the "heat", but that the other tastes actually ARE stronger. I could be fooling myself.

I don't know. There's also an element beyond that which is even harder to explain. Sitting down to a nice bowl of TOM YUM GAI and just breathing it in... who can explain that?


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Great class and extremely informative Q & A!

Now I know why I grow the hottest chiles in the  country, I am a lazy gardener and don't give them water until I think they are past the point of no return!

I am very interested in the red jalapenos, I have only seen them sold as green. Are there any parts of the world that prefer to eat them as red chiles? You say they are sweeter but does the heat level change at all? increase? decrease?

Can't wait to try some of your recipes!

I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a chile head, but I need chiles in some form everyday, that kick is like an energy burst for me.  My current addiction is a Japanese product called yuzukoshou, that is a paste of pounded green chilies and yuzu (a Japanese citrus).

The heat level will vary due to the growing conditions, but the red pods will retain as much heat as the green.


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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Why do you have an "=" sign in front of your name?

(I've been waiting years to ask this.)

I've given extended BS stories on this depending on how much I wanted to string someone along, but there's a rather simple explanation.

Back in the mid to late 80's I hung out on local electronic bullletin board systems (BBS). They acted much as the forums on the web do today. I found that putting special symbols in front of your user name helped to make it easier to find your posts, and would sometimes even bump them to the top of the queue with some software. I started with a hyphen, then when other folks started using that I switched to the equal sign. After a few years it just started to become a "handle," and so it remains...


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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I have to confess to being absolutely and totally baffled by all this. The notion of eating something that is painful to ingest, is to my mind one that belongs in the pages of the Marquis de Sade. In a pot on my stove? On a plate at my table? No, no and NO.

I think the idea that

pleasure + a little pain = more pleasure

has been around for quite some time in various forms.

Frankly, over the years, the more tolerance I get for capsaicin, the more I find it actually enhances the other flavors. Capsaicin and ginger, for example, work together better than alone. Whether this is due to endorphins or pure adaptation, I don't know. I've at least convinced myself that its not just that I'm getting better at tasting through the "heat", but that the other tastes actually ARE stronger. I could be fooling myself.

I don't know. There's also an element beyond that which is even harder to explain. Sitting down to a nice bowl of TOM YUM GAI and just breathing it in... who can explain that?

I've found that lime juice also enhances the heat of chiles. This is brought home whenever I sit down to a nice platter of Larb...


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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From all the previous posts, I am now convinced - lovers of hot peppers are in essence all masochists. Endorfins indeed! I will remain content to stimulate my taste buds with gentler foodstuff, get my endorfins going by reading Tolstoy, and combat my intestinal bacteria by listening to political debates.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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Mark, I like Tabasco and Lousiana Hot Sauce for a quick schplutz on grilled cheese sandwiches. The shop was out of Lousiana and so I bought Frank's Red Hot.

What do you think of Frank's?


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Mark, I like Tabasco and Lousiana Hot Sauce for a quick schplutz on grilled cheese sandwiches. The shop was out of Lousiana and so I bought Frank's Red Hot.

What do you think of Frank's?

Franks is a good Louisiana style hot sauce, but my favorite of the cayenne style sauces is Tapatio. I know it is a Mexican sauce, not a Louisiana sauce, but it is a cayenne style sauce which I feel has better heat and spices with less of a vinegar aftertaste than Tabasco. At 79 cents for a 5 oz bottle it's a great deal too (Though I did see the same size bottle for sale in a New Orleans hotsauce shop for $6.95)!

The Crystal "Double Hot" sauce is also good if you can find it.


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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