Hot & Spicy Food – 10 Interesting Facts

For many, any ingredient that bring out the hot and spicy in food, is heaven sent. And chili heads, heat-seekers and extreme eaters will tell you one cannot speak of hot and spicy unless it involves chilli peppers. The challenge is always on amongst lovers of hot and spicy food to determine what is the next level they can take. Building tolerance requires quite some effort, tears and sprints to a source of relief. So while you decide if you wish to join the challenge, or move to the next level of intensity, here are 10 interesting facts on the subject.

1. How long have humans been at this?
Archaeological evidence suggests that people have been using hot spices in their recipes for over 6.000 years.

2. The holy grail of hot and spicy – The Chilli pepper
Chilli peppers are perennial shrubs belonging to the Capsicum family and were completely unknown to most of the world until Christopher Columbus made his way to the New World in 1492. Chilli peppers are eaten by a quarter of the earth’s population every day, in countries all over the globe.

3. The hottest chilli around
Drum roll for the Carolina Reaper. This chilli is considered as the world’s hottest pepper according to the Guinness World Records. There is nothing normal about this pepper. It was bred for heat and that it is, with an average SHU (Scoville Heat Unit which measures spiciness) of over 1.5 million and peaks at 2.2 million. And this pepper loves deceit. It has a sweet and pleasant flavour, about the moment when hell breaks loose, and you are on fire.

4. Where the Caroline Reaper come from
The Carolina Reaper was created by Ed Currie from the Pucker Butt Pepper Company in South Carolina over ten years. He started growing chillies after learning that Capsaicin found in chillies had potential as a cancer-fighting drug and he donates half of his harvest to cancer research.

5. Come again, which is the hottest chilli around?
We are not willing to get involved in a contest between these two hot heads, but some claim that the hottest chilli around is the Dragon’s variety. It is said that, in preliminary tests the Dragon’s Breath pepper registered 2.4 million SHU. Whichever is hottest we can agree they all come with ominous scary names – other hot one are called Trinidad Moruga Scorpion 2.0 million SHU, 7 Pot Douglah 1.8 million SHU, Naga Viper 1.3 million SHU and Ghost Pepper 1.0 million SHU amongst others.

6. The milder relative – Peppercorns
Columbus was not travelling around the world to find chillies, but he was seeking a new trade route to Asia, particularly for black peppercorns. At that time, and for quite a while after, peppercorns were known as “black gold” because of their value as a commodity, often used to pay rent or salaries. Until well after the Middle Ages, all the world’s pepper travelled from the Malabar Coast, in India. Just in case you were wondering the hottest pepper corns would register and SHU of 50K.

7. Are there other hot ingredients?
There certainly are, however chilli peppers are the only thing that use Capsaicin for heat. Other popular sources for hot and spicy are Horseradish and Wasabi, which use a chemical called Allyl Isothiocyanate to generate heat. However, this feels quite different and creates different food textures.

8. Want to burn fat? Then you may need something hot and spicy
It is claimed that hot and spicy food will help in reducing weight. This is because chilli peppers boost metabolism and curb cravings for fatty and sugary foods.

9. What else is the pain 🙂 useful for?
Hot and spicy foods are also good for you as they are high in vitamins, a good source of beta-carotene, calcium, and potassium, and may help reduce cholesterol. They are also said to increase longevity, kill bacteria, keep cancer cells at bay and, to the amazement of non-chilli heads, they combat inflammation.

10. The spiciest countries
While globalisation has spread the love, for crying out loud, for hot food there are several countries commonly considered as synonymous with hot foods and their main dishes. These are China – Ma po tofu, Sichuan, Mexico – Mole , Thailand – Pad Prik, Korea – Buldak Chicken, Malaysia – Otak Otak, Jamaica – Jamaican Jerk Chicken and India – Pork Vindaloo.

And now, beyond being a valiant hero consuming hot and spicy food, we hope we have added to your arsenal of discussion reasons you do so.