[Assam] A letter to the Editor
Rajen & Ajanta Barua
barua25 at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 1 11:11:21 EDT 2007
Dear Kamal Bhaiti:
Nice to see your letter and the question.
The following facts may be noted for the the test of Capsican content of Chilli and the position of the Assamese Bhut jolokia which is not only the hotest but seems to be 3 times hotter compared to its next competitor, the Jamaican Habanero. If this is the case, I am not too much worried about the correct Assamese spelling of the name but I have the serious question regarding whether Chilli Pepper is really not indegenious to Asia and whether it was in fact originally brought to India, China and all these Asian countries only four hundred years ago as cliamed by the food historians. We should ask the world food scientists to explain how a daughter plant can produce stronger capsican than the mother plant? I think, we Assamese should go a one step further and set up our own research to find out the thruth.
Scoville Heat Unit content of:
Assamese bhut jolokia: 1,001,000
Jamaican "Scotch bonnet" habanero: 300,000
Thai prik: 100,000
Ethiopian ber-beri: 50,000
Mexican jalapeno: 10,000
New Mexican green pepper: 1,000
What They Mean:
The 95-year-old measurement of chile pepper heat, known as the Scoville Heat Unit for its inventor Parke Davis chemist Wilbur Scoville, measures a pepper's content of capsaicin, the substance which gives peppers their fire. One molecule of capsaicin in about 16 million molecules of water gets a rating of one: thus an apple or a glass of water has zero Scoville Units, pure capsaicin registers 16 million, and the pepper sprays commercially sold to repel muggers and bears come in at 2 million.
Ratings for edible chile peppers vary, since soil and rain can affect capsaicin contents. But most authorities place the green and red peppers which give spice and tang to New Mexican cooking in a range from 800 to 1,500 Scoville Heat Units. Mexico's jalapenos are a bit hotter at 5,000 to 10,000; Ethiopia's ber-beri come in at 50,000; and Thailand's thin little prik peppers 50,000 to 100,000. Until recently, Jamaica's Scotch Bonnet version of the habanero held the record, with a range of 80,000 to 300,000 units. Last September, however, the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University -- the universally acknowledged arbiter of pepper heat -- dethroned the habanero in favor of Assam's bhut jolokia, whose 1 million Scoville Units compare pretty well to the two-million unit pepper spray sold as a repellent for muggers and bears.
The geographical and chemical variety of peppers, in botanical terms, is new. Until the 1500s, chiles grew nowhere but Latin America. Bred from a wild source by Mexican farmers about 8,000 years ago, they arrived in Europe and then Africa after Columbus' second expedition in 1493, and crossed the Pacific 20 years later in the other direction. (From Mexico by Spanish and Portuguese boats to the Philippines, then mainland Southeast Asia, India, and China.) Thus the traditional cuisines of Sichuan, Goa, Addis, and Laos are much hotter than they used to be; earlier Asian and African admirers of fiery foods made do with Indian-grown black pepper, ginger, mustard, and so on. Worldwide production totals 25 million tons, with China the largest grower by weight. Mexico, the original homeland, is in second place, followed by Turkey, Indonesia, Spain, the United States and Nigeria. No list of production by capsaicin content seems available, but presumably India and Thailand would be near the top, and Jamaica might lead on a per capita basis. If there is a lesson here, it might be as follows: "globalization" is older than many believe, and as time passes it gets adapted to local taste.
----- Original Message -----
From: kamal deka
To: assam at assamnet.org
Sent: Saturday, June 30, 2007 5:50 PM
Subject: [Assam] A letter to the Editor
The following letter got published in today's edition of The Sentinel.Any comments?
Of Asomiya Chilli Pepper
It is said that chilli pepper is not indigenous to India. Although domesticated in Mexico in 7000 BC and introduced to India by the Portuguese only about 400 years ago, an Asomiya chilli pepper is the new champion in the world of heat. The ultra-hot bih jolokia or bhut jolokia of Asom has recently made headlines for its deadliest punch, and the Guinness World Records Ltd has certified them as the hottest of all species, displacing Red Savina of California. The bhut jolokia is now officially the world's hottest pepper, rated at an inferno of 1,001,304 Scioville heat units, which are used to rate the pungency level of pepper. In fact, these blistering hot Asomiya chillies have recently figured in the prestigious Time magazine for being the world's hottest chillies.
I am nonplussed by the multitude of names of this pepper, used by the local people differently at different places. They bear monikers such as bhut jolokia, bih jolokia, borbih jolokia, Naga jolokia and kordoi-siria jolokia. Moreover, bhut jolokia is also spelt as bhwt or bhot jolokia. What is the deal with these different names that one can read in print and on the Internet these days for supposedly the very same chilli variety? Are these chillies the same but named differently at different places? Are the names bhut jolokia and bhot jolokia interchangeable?
It is possible that bhut jolokia is so named owing to its ghostly bite or introduction by the Bhutias from Bhutan. Can any reader of your esteemed daily enlighten us as to why bhut jolokia is also known as bhwt or bhot jolokia? A few members of the Asomiya diaspora here in the US are of the opinion that the moniker ''bhot'' stemmed from an Asomiya tribe and find the name bhut jolokia very derogatory.
It will not be out of order to mention here that if one happens to bite into a particular hot specimen, he or she should not gulp a glass of water to douse the fire — it will make matters worse as the capsaicin oil in the chillies and water do not mix. Yogurt or milk will give one the needed relief.
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