Thai chillies
Chilli in Thailand

Raw, hot and dangerous

Mouse droppings or chilli peppers? What on earth can they have in common? Well, they actually share a name in Thailand or at least the meaning of one.

Introducing Prik Kee Noo, which means 'mouse poo peppers'! It's a bit of a tenuous link perhaps but for Thai people refers to how a mouse can easily hide itself and sometimes we only know it is there from scraps/droppings left behind. Like mice, this tiny but fiercely hot chilli leave unseen evidence in the food we cook but once you take a bite, your tongue will confirm without a doubt that it is there.

The intensity is enough to reduce a grown man to tears, hence the reason why the chilli pepper is king in Thai cooking. Though not originally from the continent, people quickly adopted the spice and use it to give Thai food its well-known kick. Used in almost every dish, from simple vegetarian to gourmet, it literally defines the food here: heart-pumping, mouth-burningly hot.

Every two minutes somebody somewhere in Thailand is eating or preparing a dish containing this tiny pepper, with many people even growing their own chilli bushes to have a readymade supply for their kitchen.

Red hot facts:
  • Chillies didn't even reach Thailand until the 16th century when they were brought over by the Portuguese. Before then, peppercorns had been used to spice food.
  • They are rich in Vitamin C, originally eaten by sailors to prevent scurvy long before oranges were discovered as the tastier alternative.
  • All original sources of the chilli pepper can be traced back to one lone plant in Bolivia.
Use them fresh or dried, just remember: the smaller the chilli, the hotter it will be. Prik Kee Noo Suan, smaller than a fingernail, packs the biggest punch, but the larger orange Prik leuang or dark green Prik Chee Fah can be welcome relief.

Why do Thai people have such spicy tastes? While nutritional value has been considered, one main theory is sweat. Spices stimulate sweating and via evaporation, it causes in increase in cooling the body down in hot climates.

'Phet', or fiery food is on every menu all over Thailand. But not every dish has a kick. 'Mai phet' is what to say if you don't want your food too chilli-infused and if your meal is too hot, don't down pints of water to flush out the taste. Try a yoghurt-based drink which will calm a burning tongue quicker.

It is a spice to be enjoyed and explored. See how the intensity changes from dish to dish or try it with chocolate! Embraced by a culture, the Thai chilli remains at the heart of Thai cooking.

Spice up your life and create some chilli-hot dishes on one of our holidays in Thailand. Have a look at our authentic cooking holidays although you can have an informal cooking lesson on any of our trips in Thailand.

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