The chilii is such a hallmark of regional cuisines that it is surprising to reflect that it was introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th and early 17th centuries.
Prior to its availability, pepper was used to provide the pungency or “heat” of regional food.
The chilli is found in a bewildering veriety of colours, sizes and flavours in different parts of the world. There are more than two dozen varieties encountered in Southeast Asia, including finger-lenght chillies in red and green; medium-lenght plump chillies which can be yellow, pale creamy white, orange, green or red; tiny bird’s eye or, as the Thais call them in an accurate
description of their size, “rat droppings” chillies; and short bulbous chillies known as tabia Bali and found in that Indonesia island.
The most common chilli is perhaps the finger-lenght chilli ( C. annum var. longum ), of medium
intensity on the “heat” scale. This is sold green ( unripe ), red ( ripe ) and dried.
The flavour and fragrance of green and red chillies differs slightly, and where one particular
type is specified in a recipe, this should be used.
When dried, the chilli turns dark reddish brown.
Dried chillies are usually cut in 2 cm ( 3/4 inch ) lenghts and soaked in warm water until softened, then punded to a paste before being cooked.
Some ir all of the seeds may be removed according to the desired degree of heat.
Dried chillies are commonly used by Malaysian and Sumatran chefs, as they add deeeper red colour to a curry then fresh chillies, and lack the smell. Dried chillies are also dry fried or roasted gently until crisp then ground to a coarse powder and used as a condiment in Thailand.
The tiny fiery hot bird’a eye chilli ( C. frustescens ) is another regional favourite, pounded
and added to frash or raw sambals and side dishes in Thailand. In the Philippines, where lical
tastes do not run to really pungent foods, bird’s eye chillies are put in a bottle of coconut
vinegar which is used as a condiment.
Botanical Family : Solanaceae
Thai name : Prik kee fah; prik kee nu
Malaysian name : Lombok, lada, cili, cili padi
Indonesian name : Cabe, lombok, cabe rawit
Tagalog name : Sili, siling labuyo
source : Hutton, Wendy; (1997); Tropical Herbs & Spices of Indonesia; Periplus Editions