Bhut Jolokia literally means “Ghost Pepper”, and my, what a fright it can give you! This chilli pepper which grows in the North Eastern region of India is one of the hottest chillies in the world. Let us take a close look at some intriguing facts about this world-famous chilli.
History & Origin of the King of Chillies
Bhut Jolokia is native to Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, but it is most well known in Nagaland. Hence, it is also often called the Naga Jolokia. Its exact history is unknown, but is thought to have been brought to India via Portuguese trade routes. Interestingly, the Bih Jolokia loses its special brand of spiciness when it is grown outside of Nagaland. Apparently, environmental factors, climate and local farming techniques all play a part in this chilli’s flavour.
Related: The Enthralling Cuisine of Nagaland
This chilli has been commonly used in the cuisine of North East India for years. However, it was not well known until a few decades ago, when The Indian Defence Test Laboratory found that this particular species of hybrid chilli was one of the spiciest ever.
The sensation that a chilli creates of your tongue being on fire is due to a particular compound called capsaicin. As a part of evolution, in order to grow prosperously, capsaicin was developed by chillies to ward off animals other than birds. Birds are immune to the spice of capsaicin, and therefore can carry the chilli far and wide, like a farmer sowing seeds.
How do you measure the spice in a chilli?
The Scoville Scale is the standard for measuring the heat in a chilli. This scale calculates the capsaicin concentration in the chilli by using a method known as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). A particular value is found by weighing capsaicin, and evaluating its ability to create “heat”. This value is then multiplied by 15 to obtain the Scoville Score. The Scoville score ranges from less than hundred for sweeter chillies to over a million.
The secret behind the heat in Nagaland cuisine
The food of the North East region is quite different from the other parts of India, be it the ingredients or the method of cooking.
As mentioned previously, the “Ghost Chilli” has been used for years by the locals in their dishes. The cuisine of Nagaland is mostly smoked, dried or fermented in order to preserve it. Nagas are quite adventurous when it comes to meat, and eat beef, pork, chicken, fish, snails, frog and much more.
The people of Nagaland love spicy and hot food. Most of the food of this region is incomplete without the Bhut Jolokia.
Related: 3 Sumptuous Naga Recipes Without Oil
A much cherished delicacy is the Kelhe, which is a pork dish, flavourfully spiced with Raja Mirchi (Bhut Jolokia) and fermented bamboo shoots. Naga Dal and rice are a perfect accompaniment for this dish. Different types of tasty meat or fish based chutneys called “tathus” are also made with a generous amount of Naga chilli.Caption-
The Raja Mircha has been bringing tears to our eyes for years. It has gained global popularity, after it was declared the hottest chilli in the world in 2007. Other spicier chillies have long overtaken the Bhut Jolokia. However, it still remains close to the heart of the people of Nagaland where it took its humble roots, and where it will always be most loved.