We are faced with so many food choices nowadays, it's bewildering shopping for your daily meals. So we decided to pit them against one another. In the ring today, our essential cili padi. Afterall, we consume 80 tonnes of the stuff daily...
Truth be told, we do not have a great variety of chillies native to our little country. We’ve managed to discern three, all under the species of capsicum frutescens. Chillies of this variety are actually only midway on the Scoville scale, scoring only 50,000 to 100,000 on the scale used to measure the heat or piquancy of chillies. Compare this to the hottest chilli in the world, the Naga Jolokia pepper (ghost chilli), which scores 1,359,000 on the scale, and it actually seems pretty tame. But back to the matter at hand: our first ever proper Food Fight!
The three fools picked to perform this test are:
Test subject #1: myself, The Charlie
Qualifications: When I was a kid, my mother wouldn’t allow me to eat things like sambals and asam pedas because I was “too young”. I started to have secret second dinners to train my palate. Now the perfect midnight snack is hot white rice and sambal belacan. Only.
Test subject #2: Dizzy McFly
Qualifications: When we growing up, my sister and I became so immune to chillies that my mother decided to pull a sneak move on us and replace all the regular chillies with chilli padi. We didn’t notice the difference. There were only chilli padis in the house from then on.
Test subject #3: SmblBlcn
Qualifications: When I was about 6 months old, my late father ‘coletkan’ some sambal belacan onto my mouth. I’ve been taking it with every meal since.
The chillies we’ve picked as our contenders are:
Chilli padi biasa. Longish and dark green, these are the ones most readily available at your friendly local hypermarket.
Chili bangla. Shiny, red, and tajam. These are the most beautiful and are thought as very spicy, thanks to its color.
Chili kampung/burung. The smallest local variety, mostly green with occasional red and shades in between. Mostly available at pasar tani or pasar malam.
The factors chosen to judge our chillies are its pedas factor, its flavour factor, and its application in sambal belacan, cut up in kicap and raw. These are the results we have procured.
Pedas vs. Flavour
Chilli padi biasa is a winner when both factors of pedas and flavor are taken into account. It tastes pleasant in most applications, with a medium heat that builds as the meal goes on. Chilli bangla was actually not as spicy as its red color suggests; in fact it was quite sweet. Chilli padi kampung, however, was by far the spiciest, thus masking any flavor that it may possess.
In the sambal belacan, we tested it with hot white rice. Dizzy McFly and SmblBlcn agreed that chilli padi biasa and chilli bangla fare much better as there is a relative balance of heat and flavor. Chilli padi biasa here was also found to go best with other dishes, e.g. ayam goreng in a nasi campur mix. I myself much preferred chilli padi kampung in sambal belacan as when I eat chillies I usually eat it for heat and not for flavor, and boy does it have heat!
For cut chilli padi in soy sauce, we ate it with chicken-flavored instant noodles in soup. This is where the chilli bangla shined as it was the one to impart flavour best into soups or noodles that were a little more bland. Chilli padi biasa also was good, but chilli padi kampung lost as it was too small and crunchy for this type of application.
And now, raw on its own. I must profess that I eat chillies raw with my food plenty of times but this is the first time we are all really trying out raw chillies on their own. Chilli padi biasa lost terrifically as it was described as extremely grassy by all of us. Chilli padi kampung did not do much better. Chilli bangla was the tastiest of the lot, though that was not saying much. The general consensus was that raw chillies on their own = not so nice.
The decision is clear: Hurrah for chilli padi biasa! Not only is it generally tastier and has the right amount of heat, its longer and bigger size means you get more bang for your buck (less work preparing chillies for eating!) Chilli padi bangla still has its uses – we’d probably use this chilli to help ease an unitiated person into the world of heat before moving on to the more pedas varieties. As for chilli padi kampung, well… Let’s just say that if you love heat and don’t love your bowels, go right on ahead!