Jalapeños vs. Thai Chili Peppers
A few of my family and friends are cautiously wandering into the world of Asian food, interested in trying new things. Two of the biggest hindrances for most Americans when thinking about trying new foods are: 1) all the unfamiliar ingredients (and usually a lot of them!), and 2) hot peppers.
The first issue can be solved by choosing a boxed spice mix (I wrote about this a few days ago). That way, you don’t have to muddle through the list of 20 spices and commit to a cost when you’re not sure if you even like the new type of food. Most of these spices are in the market at Asian stores, or if you don’t have one nearby, you can order them on Amazon.com. We use the brand National for things like Tikka or Masala, or Tandoori, when we don’t feel like making our own. Convenience, sometimes, overrules “home made”.
On peppers? As you’ll see, we mostly use what’s called a Thai chili (they’re the most common in our Asian market, incredibly versatile and cheap). They’re hotter than the common chilis sold in the market in Pakistan, but for the most part, they convert well. We do take care to use less of them because of the heat. There are several dishes that call for peppers as a garnish/eating peppers that lay on top of the dish, and when that occurs, we go to the Pakistani market and get the Pakistani peppers, but it’s neither convenient nor economical most of the time, so we just use the Thai peppers 99% of the time. (On a side note, did you know that you can get 100% of your daily B vitamin amounts from a tiny little section of a hot pepper? Yay!)
“Ok, so what’s the difference and how do I make your dishes Christine? I don’t want to roast my insides!” you say?
Most people are pretty familiar with jalapeno peppers. They are sold in almost every market in the U.S. But would you know a Thai chili if you saw it? And if you have to substitute a pepper in a recipe because you can’t find it at your home market, which chili do you pick?
You can see from the picture just how different in size alone jalapenos are from Thai chilis. They are anywhere from 6-20 times the size! Keep in mind, however, that Thai chilis are much hotter. If you can’t find Thai chilis, that’s ok, you can still use jalapenos, just remember that size difference when you’re reading the recipe or you’ll kill yourself. (LOL) If you’re not used to eating hot food, you might want to use, say, 1/4 of a jalapeno when the recipe states 1 Thai chili (or less). Be cautious at first, find your level of heat, and then increase when you’re ready. I eat hot food regularly and I’m still not willing to eat more than 2 chilis in my dishes (that have 4 servings).
And I want yogurt around “just in case”.
Remember, we would love for you to try our yummy foods, but we also want you to enjoy it and keep asking for more. 🙂