As I started to write about why Indian food is so hot and what could be done about it, I thought I would do some digging around on the internet to learn about the heat of various chilies.
 

Green chiles

Green chiles


 

Did you know that back in 1912, a chemist named Wilbur Scoville measured and recorded the amount of spicy heat in chilies? Through his Scoville Organoleptic Test, he measured the amount of capsaicin they contained. Common green bell peppers have a score of zero while, at the other end of the spectrum, the naga jolokia chilies from northeast India score 1,000,000 heat units. Below is an extract from his table of results for your reference:


 

Scoville Heat Units Chillies
15,000,000 – 16,000,000 Pure capsaicin
855,000 – 1,075,000 Naga Jolokia
100,000 – 350,000 Habanero
50,000 – 100,000 Thai/Indian
30,000 – 50,000 Cayenne
10,000 – 23,000 Serrano
2,500 – 8,000 Jalapeño
500 – 2,500 Anaheim, Poblano
100 – 500 Pimento, Peperoncini
0  Bell Pepper

 


 Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoville_scale



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Throughout the Indian recipes in my cookbook, Kachi’s Kitchen, the chilies are either sliced in half lengthwise, cut into small rings or chopped based on the traditional method of preparing the dish. I have found that if I want to reduce the heat in a dish without altering the flavor, I just slice them in half.  That way less of the surface area of the chili is exposed to let out its heat and it is easy for me to remove after the dish is cooked. 

 

green chiles

Green Chiles used in Indian recipes.

 

Don’t feel that you have to use the two or three chilies that are specified in a recipe when you are trying it out for the first time or you know you don’t want to run to the refrigerator for a tall glass of cold buttermilk to sooth your burning mouth. There are many different ways to reduce the heat when cooking with chilies. Here are some easy ways that you can incorporate into your cooking:
 

  • Select a chili that has less capsaicin (e.g., substitute a jalapeno for a habanero)
  • Use a smaller amount of the chili (e.g., use only half)
  • Just cut it in half rather than slicing or mincing it (this way it can easily be pulled out before serving
  • Remove the seeds (this is where most of the capsaicin is found)
  • Remove the white ribs where the seeds are attached (more capsaicin is found here)

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

 

All text and photographic content are property of KachisKitchen.com and are not to be used without permission of the author.