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Jessica Mifsud

The Magic of Thai Chilli

Thai chilli  

The Magic of Thai Chillies

Although Thai cuisine offers a wide variety of taste sensations, there is one thing that many people associate with food from this region; heat! It's no secret that Thai curries, in particular, make liberal use of Thai chillies. What you may not be aware of is just how many varieties of chilli there are.

The most common spicy ingredient found in Thai cuisine is the Thai bird's eye chilli (aka prik kee noo in the original Thai), which is distinct due to its deep red or green colouring, pungent aroma and extremely hot taste. If you've ever sampled a Thai curry or salad and felt it necessary to reach for a glass of water straight afterwards, it will be the bird's eye chilli doing its work!

These ingredients are significantly hotter than a jalapeno pepper, and also make up the famously spicy piri-piri hot sauce. Perhaps it’s important to note that these chillies are very small, hence their alternative, less flattering, direct Thai translation of Prik Kee noo, meaning mouse (noo) dropping (kee) chillies (prik). Don’t underestimate the kick you’ll get from these small but potent ingredients, which are now available in most supermarkets.

For the hardiest of souls, however, even the bird’s eye chilli will not be hot enough. For these adventurous types with iron stomachs and flameproof tongues, prik kariang – sometimes simply called the bird chilli – is the way forward.

This Thai chilli, which starts life green in shade but eventually ripens to bright yellow or orange, and then settles upon a deep shade of red. These chillies are tricky to track down outside of a specialist Asian supermarket and they are not for the faint of heart, but any enthusiast of genuinely spicy food will find plenty to enjoy. The heat of this chilli does not impact upon the palate immediately, but within a few seconds it will be searing enough to make the eyes water!


Thankfully, there are also options for people looking for something a little lighter and easier on the digestion. Prik Jinda, for example, is considered to be merely medium on the spice scale in Thailand – though bear in mind that such cuisine has a much more liberal idea of what is considered 'medium' than traditional western tastebuds! Available in red and green, these chillies have a grassy and organic taste full of flavour and is the variety of Thai Chilli used in Mae Jum Thai Curry Pastes.

Anybody looking for something a little sweeter, however, should keep an eye open for prik yuak. These light green chillies pack very little punch but plenty of flavour, and make a great addition to salads or side dishes. If you are new to Thai food, these chillies are a great way of gaining an insight into the taste sensations available without scorching your tongue.

There is more to the world of chillies than just taste, too – they can actually be beneficial to your health if consumed regularly. Obviously chillies need to be used sparingly when cooking lest they overpower other ingredients, but they contain sufficient quantities of Vitamin C to boost the immune system, potassium and copper to maintain heart health and strengthen the bones, and Vitamin B6 to speed up the metabolism. That’s right – coupled with the low-carb nature of chilli peppers, these ingredients can aid a weight loss diet. You can read more about the health characteristics of Thai chilli in our 'Get to Know: Red and Green Chilli' blog post here!

Thai Chillies are an essential part of Thai cuisine and play a major role in making the dishes that we all enjoy so tasty. These ingredients need to be treated with respect however, so ensure that you are educated before adding them to your dish. A little goes a long way when it comes to chillies so always follow a golden rule of less is more!

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