24 Jun2012

Spicy Hot!!!

by Marketman

I often receive emails regarding chilies or peppers. Most of the time, they are readers or casual visitors to the blog searching for a specific type of chili at a specific time and location. Often, the emails border on obnoxious and demanding, like I have anything to do with the state of chili production in this country. Rarely, they are insulting, I won’t even go there. Sometimes, they are just seeking information, and I try to answer their queries if I have something useful to say. Let’s face it, most Filipinos do not seem to enjoy a hit of spicy heat in their food. If anything, the proclivity of a majority of diners is to search for something sweet or sweetened. Probably unbeknownst to most hungry citizens of the archipelago, much of what they buy in fast food outlets, restaurants and even groceries are likely sweetened with sugar or some similar form of sweetener. French fries, hamburgers, spaghetti, dipping sauces, instant mixes, marinades, etc. are FREQUENTLY laced with sucrose, glucose, fructose or sugar. Even the chili sauce at your ever-present neighborhood pizza joint isn’t so spicy, more likely it’s a bit sweet. :)

The most common hit of spice you might find is in a sawsawan, or personal dipping sauce, and there you may get a bird’s eye chili or siling labuyo crushed into some vinegar or soy sauce for a touch of heat. Or in a chinese restaurant you might add some chili paste to your soy sauce for some heat. But visitors from the West or our neighbors from say Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. would be shocked by the lack of “heat” in our food. The obvious exception would be some dishes from the Bicol region and perhaps those from up North in Ilocos… So what’s the point of this post and the rambling about chilies. It’s actually to point out that if you look hard enough, or keep your heat antennae on, there is actually a growing variety of chilies on offer in the local markets. If you are a fan of chilies, then BUY them when you see them at weekend markets or groceries, to encourage farmers to keep on growing them. I have lots of posts on various types of chilies in the blog, but here are three more, for all those readers who email and ask very similar questions… The photo above are some long thai chilies, both green and red. They are supposed to be quite mild, and are added into soups, dips, salads and other dishes. These were a tad on the spicy side, but it was really nice to find them. I like to use these when making a sambal, I find they are more authentic than say our own siling labuyo, or the imported cousin, the larger Taiwanese bird’s eye chilies.

Next up, a bowl of beautiful orange habaneros. Serious heat. I once made a sauce from these and there was smoke coming out of our ears… :) And seriously, do not head to the CR and touch your private parts after handling these chilies — even if you have washed your hands — it can still be a tingling experience. I have seen habaneros more and more often, so I hope that restaurant chefs and home cooks are finding uses for them so that they become more commonly available.

Finally, some padrón peppers… supposed to be very mild, with say a spicy one every 8-9 pieces or so. Maybe our tropical temperature has altered that statistic, as I found almost all of these to have a pleasant and appetizing sting. A post on how to use them is up next. Also in the markets, I have seen fresh jalapenos, different sized bird’s eye chilies, and if you are okay with dried, even the hottest chilies in the world are now available locally, dried, at Spices n Flavors in Market!Market! mall.

All of these fresh chilies were purchased at S&R in Fort Bonifacio, and if I am not mistaken, mostly grown in and around Tagaytay.



  1. scott says:

    thank you for this post MM..Yes I find Filipino food to sweet, but I am dealing with it, however that is why I am “trying” to grow some thai chili peppers in the garden right now, so I can make an Indonesian Sambal, ironic ha? and to answer your poll about a national dish I cannot because I am not Filipino but my wife votes Adobo.

    Jun 24, 2012 | 8:18 am


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  3. Isaac says:

    It’s good to have some latex or nitrile gloves when handling chilis.

    Jun 24, 2012 | 9:55 am

  4. Footloose says:

    Let’s just say, Filipinos living outside certain hot chili enclaves are not great on self-inflicted punishment, specially if it’s going to hurt twice nor do we see the point in measuring our masculinity against the Scoville scale either. However, we do enjoy popular dishes that are still predominantly flavored with chili such as fish paksew, dinuguan and our quotidian sour soup sinigang.

    Jun 24, 2012 | 10:29 am

  5. Danney says:

    I like spicy food and I like freshly picked jalapenos, habaneros and siling labuyo but sadly none of my family members like chillies except for my young nephews and nieces who part of this present generation. I also like pickled jalapenos from Subway. And yes I voted for adobo.

    Jun 24, 2012 | 10:30 am

  6. scott says:

    footloose, yes it is self inflicted punishment and does hurt twice!!! but I enjoy it, still learning the culture, and the food and trust me I am enjoying it all!

    Jun 24, 2012 | 11:00 am

  7. louinsanfran says:

    i voted for lechon as national dish. now i’m wondering what it might be like to have it spiced with habanera. makes my mouth water. yummmmm.

    Jun 24, 2012 | 1:28 pm

  8. friedneurons says:

    Those are some beautiful chilies! I myself am a wuss when it comes to spicy food. I do appreciate a hint of spiciness in some dishes, but on the whole my tolerance is quite low. Years ago, I lived with two roommates – one Filipino, and one Chinese-Malaysian. Whenever we would go to a Thai restaurant, my Pinoy roommate would order mild, I would order medium, one other friend would order spicy, and the Chinese-Malaysian would order Thai hot. :)

    I have another friend (white) who loves habaneros. He literally eats them like fruit. Looking at them is about as close as I like to get, though. haha

    Jun 24, 2012 | 1:40 pm

  9. JE says:

    I fancy spicy dishes whenever they present themselves, and whenever I even catch a whiff or maybe even an image of something said to be spicy, the hairs on my head seem to tingle and I suddenly have this tendency to sweat.

    As long as the food straddles the line between spicy and just enough to still allow your taste buds to feel and savor the dish, that’s the exact level of spice I want from it.

    Jun 24, 2012 | 5:35 pm

  10. ros says:

    Proof that some Filipinos are now embracing the extreme end of the Scoville scale. Or at least represents a significant demographic that Monde Nissin is introducing a new product
    …. and ask Sharon Cuneta to introduce it. :D


    Jun 24, 2012 | 6:34 pm

  11. EJ says:

    Love the smiling peppers in your last photo!

    Jun 25, 2012 | 3:28 am

  12. Noel Q says:

    Hi MM! If I’m not mistaken, Spices n Flavors already closed their market market shop last June 22… don’t know where they transferred, though.

    Jun 25, 2012 | 4:17 am

  13. kurzhaar says:

    That peculiar penchant for sweetness is something we’ve discussed in our household (Euro-American)–neither of us has much of a sweet tooth. When it comes to sweet-savoury combinations, something like a touch of honey or maple syrup in a glaze for grilled meat, or the sweet-sourness of something like pickled vegetables or pickled fish is OK. But the sweet spaghetti and sweet pizzas we’ve had with Filipino friends were…just not to our taste (sorry, no offense meant). On the other hand–chile flavour and heat is fabulous! The variety of flavours in different chiles is quite striking, although if you cannot tolerate heat, it’s probable that you won’t get to experience the other taste aspects.

    Jun 25, 2012 | 4:40 am

  14. PITS, MANILA says:

    It’s staple in our kitchen. We’re not from Bicol but we enjoy dangerously-spicy food. Even our paksiw na bangus now is done with pinakurat.

    Jun 25, 2012 | 7:28 am

  15. ami says:

    I’m very sensitive to spicy food and something as simple as V-Cut barbeque potato chips is enough to have me reaching out for water. I suspect that I’m a supertaster when it comes to spicy food. Probably the reason why I avoid Indian and Thai cuisine. :(

    Jun 25, 2012 | 9:18 am

  16. Marketman says:

    kurzhaar, no offense taken, I am Filipino, and find many recent recipes that have become way popular to be outrageously sweet… I wish the penchant for sugar is replaced with one for real flavor instead…

    Jun 25, 2012 | 12:04 pm

  17. Ed B. says:

    The average Pinoy’s penchant for sweet food is ruining our collective palate. One area I find this unacceptable is in ketchup. All locally/regionally made brands are now so sweet it’s absurd! I want my ketchup tasting of tomatoes with a good sour bite, thank you very much. What ketchup do you use in your household, Marketman?

    Also, I have to say, the serving tray you used in the photos above is quite interesting.

    Jun 25, 2012 | 2:11 pm

  18. Marketman says:

    Ed B, Heinz, whenever possible. The tray is silver, and etched. :)

    Jun 25, 2012 | 2:18 pm

  19. Ed B. says:

    Yes, the detailed etching is what caught my eye actually. Looks like an (priceless) heirloom piece. :)

    Jun 25, 2012 | 3:43 pm

  20. Alex says:

    I am definitely a fan of chili peppers and hot spicy food. Actually it is an acquired taste. People look at me funny when I add chili to my food.

    I am deeply saddened that our local cuisine has turned to sweet and sweeter. I had a conversation with Chef R. Goco of Cyma and he mentioned the same thing. When they were concocting the dressing for the famous “Roca Salad” of Cyma, their early taste tests with his staff kept on asking for more and more sugar. What a pity. While our Asian neighbors got into herbs and spices, we opted for more sugar. Even vinegar sawsawan for crispy pata is tainted with sugar. This is one of the reasons I think that our cusine has a hard time getting international acclaim, it is the penchant for the sweet.This is totally unacceptable to most westerners. Ughh. I totally agree.

    Jun 25, 2012 | 3:56 pm

  21. MP says:

    My hubby and I can’t stand sweet spaghetti or anything sweet (except desserts of course) and love all things spicy. I once attended a children’s party where they served Jolibee spaghetti and I almost puked (pardon the rudeness) it was so embarrassing. I am not being ma-arte but I don’t get sweet spaghetti! And like you Ed, I hate sweet ketchup!

    Jun 25, 2012 | 10:09 pm

  22. Mari of NY says:

    After living here for quite sometime, I have somehow lost the taste of the super sweet dishes I used to eat like the spaghetti sauce. As for chilies, I do love a kick on spicy dishes. It’s not the same when it’s not spicy enough…and to add to Footloose’s list, Kalderetta is also one dish that can be spicy. Sinigang with a little kick from the sili that is in the soup.

    I do have chilies planted in my garden and hope that I will get an abundance of it to last me till the next gardening.

    Jun 26, 2012 | 9:33 am

  23. pixienixie says:

    I loooove spicy food. My father grew up in Albay, and he used to pair food with a piece of siling labuyo – which he crushes on the plate and adds to every spoonful of rice and ulam. Ever since I got married and had a child, though, my forays into chile-laden food have become less and less frequent.

    Jun 26, 2012 | 1:48 pm

  24. Dragon says:


    First up – chilis freeze well. As expensive as they are here in Melbourne, I buy them when they’re abundant and in season (cheaper!) then just leave them in the freezer. Slice what I need then return to the freezer. Heat is not lost – trust you me. I do have a siling labuyo plant but the size of the chilis can be frustrating – so small! Depending on my mood for spice, I have the long fingers, taiwanese, jalapeno, bird’s eye. If I come across the scotch bonnet, I will get some (they are the hottest I’ve ever had!).

    Luv ’em!

    Jun 26, 2012 | 1:59 pm

  25. dhayL says:

    Me and husband both love spicy food, whether in our sinigang, bicol express, in our saute shrimps and specially in our sawsawan, i always make sure we have some sort of chilies available at home. One thing I did noticed is that, when you put chilies (siling haba or labuyo) in the freezer, they homehow loose their spiciness, they don’t seem to be as spicy compare to using a fresh one….

    That happened to my poor husband before, he was cutting up some habaneros or i think scotch bonnet , and next thing he knows he needed to go the boys room, and let’s leave at that shall we… :) i guess lesson learned after that bad experience! hehehe

    Jun 29, 2012 | 12:54 am

  26. cristyk says:

    I remember an embarrassing incident when my American hubby requested Spaghetti for dinner. Twas only few days I came to Baltimore from Phils., in other words, Bagong Salta, he he he. I was so confident my Pinoy style spaghetti will make him realize he’s lucky to have me, a good cook. But OMG.. when he tasted my sweet spaghetti, he was pissed and threatened to divorce me if I duplicate what I did…Talking mean things..like NO ONE in his family ever put sugar in Spaghetti and so on. First time I saw him pissed and wanted to throw his spaghetti plate to the trash. I was like.. I wanted to go back to Pinas :( That was 18 years ago and that was the last time I ate Pinoy sweet spaghetti ugh!! Hubby was right, it was disgusting (sorry) and it tastes like ketchup, he he he. From that day, I mastered the real Italian or American spaghetti with no sugar (sometimes I cheat, just a pinch of sugar to counter the acidity but no trace of sweetness in my spaghetti. Everything is from scratch, the pasta, the sauce and the meatballs.. no hotdog please, but spicy italian sausage is the “bomb”, yeahhh!!!

    And yes, I’ve learned to eat spicy food too. And right now, my backyard is filled with diff kinds of peppers you can never find in Manila, unfortunately Pinoys missed the good stuff!!

    Jul 1, 2012 | 3:19 pm

  27. aprilwilkie says:

    that orange one looks similar to a scotch bonnet?

    Jul 1, 2012 | 8:30 pm

  28. Marketman says:

    aprilwilkie and others who mentioned it… it seems scotch bonnet and habaneros are often confused to be one or the other. But it seems they are different. The scotch bonnet has a slightly sweeter flavor and a different level of heat. Habaneros are wickedly spicy as well. At any rate, they are recognized to be different…

    Jul 2, 2012 | 7:28 am

  29. Emz Pineda says:

    Hi! I was researching via google for stores that sells the hard-to-find habanero peppers and came about your site.. You mentioned that all of these peppers including habanero peppers are available at S&R Fort Bonifacio.. The only problem is, I’m not a member and my mom said you have to be a member in order to buy products from their store.. I really need to buy the habanero peppers ASAP.. Is there any other places/stores that I could find and buy fresh habanero peppers? Thanks in advance!

    Aug 8, 2012 | 1:07 pm

  30. Zita says:

    hi! I would like to ask where i can find spices like curry, thai, korean spices? Thank you.

    Jul 8, 2013 | 11:06 am

  31. steven says:

    can i ask the current store location of Spices N’ Flavors

    Jul 18, 2013 | 6:16 pm

  32. Marketman says:

    steven, I believe Spices n’ flavors has permanently closed their Market!Market! retail shop…

    Jul 18, 2013 | 9:02 pm

  33. Raffy says:

    Mr. Marketman,
    Where can I buy POWDERED Bay Leaves if Spices n Flavors is now closed? Thanks for the help!

    Dec 21, 2013 | 6:18 pm

  34. Marketman says:

    Raffy, I have never seen powdered bay leaves. But wouldn’t you just have to buy dried bay leaves, remove the stem or central rib of the leaf, through them into a coffee or spice grinder, or blender if you are doing this in bulk, and blitzing them until in powdered form? That’s what I would do.

    Dec 21, 2013 | 11:24 pm

  35. Dino says:

    Mr. Marketman,

    where can I find Coriander seeds? it is mostly Cilantro which is available.

    Jan 25, 2014 | 9:07 am

  36. Marketman says:

    Dino, I just bough coriander seeds at Eng Bee Tin grocery (in front of President Restaurant) on Ongpin Street grocery in Binondo last week… yes, they are difficult to find in Manila groceries…

    Jan 25, 2014 | 10:34 am


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