Our Grandma used to prepare sumptuous stew for the family, a healthy broth of vegetables, with pieces of meat thrown in. That done, she would ladle away half the stew to another vessel (for us children), leaving the other half on the boil. She would then dip into it a mean-looking chilli, what we called ‘sohmynkenbeb’ or 'sohmynkennaka’ (sohmynken means chilli in Khasi), with shrivelled skin and bright red hue, for no more than a minute.
Now, this one-minute dip of a chilli for the grown-ups turned into a potent concoction, with the pungency to fire taste-buds to the extreme salivation to produce enough of the digestive enzyme amylase to deconstruct hard starch into easily digestible maltose! We are talking about Capsicum chinense Jacq, or ‘Bhut Jolokia’, more like bhoot jolokia, the Ghost Chilli or ‘Naga Chilli’. Widely cultivated in the North-eastern states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, this King of Chillies or “Raja Mircha” is also a close relative of the Naga Morich of Bangladesh.
Bhut Jolokia had a Guinness Book Record as the Planet’s hottest ever chilli from 2007 to 2010, and a GI Tag to boot. Pungency in a chilli is measured by calculating the content of the chemical capsaicin, a proto-alkaloid responsible for a chilli’s heat, and expressed in what is known as Scoville Heat Unit (SHU).
With over a million scovilles, Bhut Jolokia beats the erstwhile champion Red Savina hands down with twice the heat! In another experiment conducted to determine anti-microbial activity of Bhut Jolokia, the extracts showed high capsaicin levels, one of which recorded 4,694,074SHU!
What Do You Do With the Bhut Jolokia?
In kitchens, it can be used in sauces, chutneys and condiments to give a dish the pointed spiciness. Despite its extreme pungency, Bhut Jolokia has a sweetish, fruity taste too. It is sweet and super hot. You definitely use only a minute portion of this chilli unlike with other variety. This might also save costs, considering the high price of these chillies (Bhut Jolokia is more expensive than other chillies; the raw ones sell for Rs.5 a piece in the Shillong market).
Chutneys are a fixture in most households, and spicy ones at that, to convert otherwise bland sauces into virtually a potent dynamite. To flavour up, add Bhut Jolokia to meats or to a variety of vegetables, pickle it, make a paste of it, make chilli flakes of it…the list go on.
In Naga and Manipuri households, Bhut Jolokia is a must with every meal. In Nagaland (and in Assam) they even have a Bhut Jolokia eating competition every year, during festivals like the Hornbill Festival, where contestants consume raw chillies by the dozen!
Extreme care is required when handling this dynamite of a chilli. Better use kitchen gloves, or handle with knives and forks while cutting and deseeding them. Hands must be thoroughly washed after handling. If the sting gets to the eyes, the burn can stay for hours on end.
Bhut Jolokia in Pain Relief and Defence
Capsaicin is the main ingredient that is commercially extracted in good quantities, to be used in the preparation of capsicum oleoresin for use in muscle relaxant and pain relieving creams (Volini, Muscodac, Sloan’s Liniment etc). The high concentration of capsaicin in Bhut Jolokia makes it quite a commercially viable raw material for extraction.
Indian research organisations like the ‘Defense Research Laboratory (DRL)’ and ‘Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO)’ have taken up the development of a highly effective, though non-lethal, use of extracts from Bhut Jolokia. Hand grenades, tear gas and smoke bombs spiced with capsaicin are used as effective weaponry.
The Indian Security Forces is now being provided with Bhut Jolokia grenades to combat, non-lethally, insurgents and terrorists. Reportedly, plans are afoot for civil variants of the grenades for mob-control.
Self-defense Weapon for Women
Once available, Bhut Jolokia sprays can be used by women as a self-protection weapon from would-be molesters! Those who have consumed Bhut Jolokia will know what havoc even a tiny morsel can play to one’s gut throughout. Imagine the sting in the eyes of the enemy, and the mayhem it can create! - Do you know how the BhutJolokia compares with some other hottest chillies?
Scoville Heat Units
Jalapeno or Italian Peperoncino
Savina Habanero (Red Savina)
855,000 to 1,041,427
Defense Research Laboratory, Tezpur; HPLC (High-Performance Liquid Chromatography) test method and New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute
Animal-repelling Bhut Jolokia
Elephant herds often create havoc to farmers by rampaging through their fields. Farmers often smear fences with Bhut Jolokia juice as a way of repelling the wild animals and saving crops from destruction.
Zizira and the Future of Bhut Jolokia…
Interest in Bhut Jolokia is ever growing, but the chilli is not easy to grow. It requires well-drained soil and an ambient temperature of 25 to 30 degree Celsius to ripen well. The harvested fruits spoil easily too. Extreme care needs to be taken during drying, so as to allow retention of colour, and thus, capsaicin content. Sun-drying is therefore no option. Smoke-drying or heat-drying is.
We at Zizira are always on an exploratory trail, to trace out and bring to our customers through our eStore, exotic products based on naturally grown produce of Northeast India. We salute the farmers by making their efforts known through the stories we bring from the fields that talk of their efforts and struggles. Want to know more of Zizira’s Bhut Jolokia, and what we are and do, or to comment? Do Contact us