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.