Bird's eye chili
|This article's factual accuracy is disputed. (November 2009)|
|Bird's eye chili|
Several bird's eye chilis on a shrub
Bird's eye chili, bird's chili or Thai chili (Vietnamese: Ớt hiểm, Thai: พริกขี้หนู, RTGS: phrik khi nu, IPA: [pʰrík kʰîː nǔː], literal: Mouse/rat dropping chili; Indonesian: Cabai rawit; Malay: Cili api or Cili padi) is a chili pepper, a cultivar from the species Capsicum annuum, commonly found in Southeast Asia. It is often confused with a similar-looking chili derived from the species Capsicum frutescens, the cultivar 'siling labuyo'. Bird's eye chili can also be found in India, in Meghalaya and Kerala; it is used in traditional dishes of the Kerala cuisine (in Malayalam as kanthari mulagu Malayalam: കാന്താരി മുളക്). The Garos of Meghalaya called it jal·ik meseki (where jal·ik = chili; meseki = mouse dropping). This cultivar (known as කොච්චි (kochchi) in Sinhalese) is also found in rural areas of Sri Lanka, where it is used as a substitute for green chilis. It is also a main ingredient in kochchi sambal, a salad made using freshly scraped coconut ground with bird's eye chilis and seasoned with salt and lime juice. It is used extensively in Thai, Lao, Khmer, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisine.
The bird's eye chili plant is a perennial with small, tapering fruits, often two or three, at a node. The fruits are very pungent. The flowers are greenish-white or yellowish-white.
Characteristics of the bird's eye chili plant
- Plant height: up to 2 m
- Stem colour: green
- Leaf colour: green
- Leaf size: 3–8 cm by 2–4 cm
- Fruit colour at maturity: green, orange, or red
- Fruit shape: conical
- Fruit length: 2–3 cm
- Fruit width at shoulder: 0.5 cm
- Fruit weight: 2–3 g
- Fruit surface: smooth
- Seed colour: light tan
- Seeds per fruit: 10–20
All chilis found around the world today have their origins in Mexico, Central America, and South America. They were spread by the Spanish and the Portuguese in their quest to build a global empire, and are still grown in their former colonies in Africa and Asia. The chili varieties found in Southeast Asia today were imported and cultivated by Spanish and Portuguese colonists and traders.
The chilis may also be referred to as cili padi (cili pronounced as "chili") in parts of Malaysia because their small size reminds people of the small-grained rice eaten as a staple in the region. In the northern parts of Malaysia, this chili is known as cabai burung or bird chili, as birds eat this variety of chili. In the Philippines, it is mistakenly called labuyo, but Siling labuyo is hotter and has a paler colour.
Bird's eye chilis can also be referred to as cabai rawit (Indonesian), lombok rawit (Javanese), cengis (Banyumasan language), céngék (Sundanese), phrik khi nu (Thai: พริกขี้หนู), Thai hot, Thai dragon (due to its resemblance to claws), ladâ, and boonie pepper (the Anglicized name).
In Vietnamese cuisine, these chilis are used in soups, salads, and stir-fried dishes. They are also put in fish sauce as a condiment or eaten raw.
In Thai cuisine, these chilis are highly valued for their fruity taste and extreme spiciness. They are extensively used in many Thai dishes, such as in Thai curries and in Thai salads, green as well as the ripe red chilis; or they can just be eaten raw on the side, with for instance, khao kha mu (stewed pork trotter served with rice).
The more decorative, but slightly less pungent chili, sometimes known as 'Thai ornamental', has peppers that point upward on the plant, and range from green to yellow, orange, and then red. It is the basis for the hybrid cultivar 'Numex twilight', essentially the same, but less pungent, and starting with purple fruit, creating a rainbow effect. These peppers can grow wild in places such as Saipan and Guam.
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