Spectacular Sili / Chillies


I use some bird’s eye chillies in the mix of spices that I rub into the cavity of our lechons. The last time I made a lechon, it was quite spicy near the ribs. This time around, it was much less spicy, despite using a similar number of chillies. The reason is that the spiciness of store-bought chillies is incredibly unpredictable. For some reason, the scoville units, or measure of spiciness, varies dramatically even within a closely related group of chillies. In this case, the uniformly orange and orange red chillies in the pile at the rear of the photo above were used for the spice rub… and they didn’t have much heat. I realized a few minutes after the pig was sewn up and placed on the hot coals that we actually had our own home grown chillies on the property…


Several hardy plants were just chock-full with chillies and a freshly harvested hand full of these are in the photo above. They were fresher looking, a bit firmer, in a wider range of colors from cream to green, red-green and bright red. These are actually not the most “native” variety of sili labuyo, see this earlier post here, but they were pretty darn hot and spicy. We used these totally organic and hand-picked beauties in the sawsawan instead.


Could it be possible that the store-bought chillies were too ripe? Do they lose potency if they are allowed to mature too much? Hmmm, I wonder.


At any rate, I was thrilled to have these home grown gems and really want to plant more edible fruits and vegetables on this piece of property that is located near the heart of Cebu City. It’s just so nice to do a relatively impromptu or casual barbecue/lechon and cut the banana leaves from nearby trees, use lemongrass or tanglad harvested just minutes before stuffing the pig, chillies picked a few meters away, young tamarind leaves, chicos, etc. Now if only I didn’t have a black thumb…


21 Responses

  1. beautiful picture, mm! these chilis are like the ones i have in my garden. i like to use them when i make sawsawan or when i want some dishes to get so spicy.they’re the thai chilis…that’s what’s written from the packet i got the seeds from. i also have the hottest pepper in the world…the habanero! they’re still green so i can’t pick them yet. it’s really fun because i don’t need to go to the store everytime just to buy chilis. i feel like they’re god-given because they’re just right there in the backyard! oh, mm, i also have lemongrass which i use in so many ways…

  2. I love the pile of mixed color chillis on the leaf, that would make a lovely table setting, maybe some colored salt ringing them in front of a guest to sort of inspire them during a meal.
    Thelma, there’s a hotter chilli than the habanero, it’s from India, but I can’t remember the name, the scoville units of that chilli are in the millions or something extreme. Crazy hot and can be considered a weapon of mass destruction! lol
    MM, maybe one of your crew can help you with the planting and maintenance of your herb garden. It would be a great addition near the lechonan; maybe you could eventually set up your own city farm like those in Tagaytay!

  3. I agree with you Market Man, the chillies at the upper part of the picture was not as hot as the ones below. I am not a fan of this kind of chillies as oppose to the long ones, which is really hot=)

    Does the chillies you put at the cavity of the lechon affects the meat near it or just the ribs? I’m curious coz I haven’t heard of putting chillies inside the lechon for flavor.=)

  4. Did you hear about the horticulturist who crossed red hot chili with forget-me-not and got a painful reminder?

  5. How about the Dutch and Filipino couple who begot Hollapinos? (That’s how they say jalapeños here.)

  6. I always loved the way chili perks up food! I can imagine the lechon taste with a bit of bite.

  7. Chilies are definitely the spice of life. I love them in almost everything. I agree with your previous blogs that Filipino cuisine has not taken on to spicing up our food like our neighbors in Southeast Asia. Instead, many of our food hve gone the sweet way. I grew up in the province not knowing what sweet food was except for desserts or sweets that are really supposed to be sweet. Now I go to many Pinoy restaurants here in Manila that add sugar to barbecues, sizzling dishes and even to the vinegar and Soy sauces for sawsawan. I am truly aghast and turned off. This has become an unexplainable phenomena which has struck so many of our local dishes.

    I admire a few remaining Pinoy restaurants that have stuck to the tradition of maintaining authentic flavors of the country. I wish there would be more of them. I am afraid most of these grill places are lost for good. I guess they are catering to what most pinoys like? I don’t know, but certainly not for this one.

  8. Apicio…hahahaha…now, I wonder if Sili is also a favorite of Silly Lolo.

  9. I once smuggled a big Zip-Loc of sili in my suitcase. These just have no adequate equivalent in Europe, in my opinion. Could it be the refrigeration in stores that makes the chillies lose some of their heat?

  10. vanessa- i think there are varieties or maybe newly-breed of chillies that are not really spicy at all. and i don’t think ts the refrigeration. i was able to buy a not spicy (labuyo) at the market not too long ago, as well as the green sili used for sinigang, no flavor at all.. from taiwan or china yata, just like the garlic na walang flavor compared to our garlic from ilocos

  11. mila, yes you’re right! i just went by what it was written on the packet of habanero seeds that i bought. according to mm’s 2005 post on chilis, one comment was that the supposedly hottest
    pepper in the world is the naga jolokia. that must be some kind of pepper from hell if it’s even hotter that the habanero. i just wonder how naga jolokia pepper looks like. i would love to plant that in my garden if could buy the seeds…

  12. MM, I have a question about the long chilies. I have a pepper plant just like the picture of your sili mahaba in your previous post, which I tried to use in sinigang. It was SOOO hot I could not eat it! I usually buy a sili mahaba from the veg. stand that is long, dark green, and narrow which is quite mild. Is the sili mahaba in your 2005 post the peppers used for Bicol Express? I’m thinking of harvesting all the peppers and making that dish but don’t know if I’d be able to consume it if it’s too hot. Can I somehow add an ingredient to downgrade the hotness? By the way, I feel silly now thinking those little black things on the lechon were hairs left on the skin…I should have known better that MM would not do that on purpose.

  13. Susan, yes, the long light green chillies are the preferred sili for the Bicol Express (I actually asked Ms. Kalaw, the person who popularized Bicol Express this precise question), but if you want to modulate the heat, start by removing the pith and seeds of HALF of the peppers and using the other half as is. In other words, you can manage the spiciness by adding as many or as little seeds and pit of the chilli, this is where most of the heat resides. Do not add other ingredients like sugar, etc to downgrade heat, just adjust amount of seeds. Susan, don’t feel silly at all, single photos can give the wrong impression, and on this blog, you just NEVER know what might be posted next… it could just as easily have been a post on how to shave a pig skin properly…hahaha. thelma, the naga jolokia is WICKED WICKED HOT, according to a documentary I recently saw on television…frankly, I have no need to go there if my head is already exploding with a single green siling labuyo popped into my mouth raw… edel, maybe they are greenhouse grown? I find greenhouse veggies often lack character and zing! Lex, I agree completely on the “sweet” views. I think a lot of restos do it to mask poor underlying ingredients. Sweet tends to overwhelm the tastebuds… but the sad part is the public is falling for it, in my opinion. Alexena, the meat nearest the cavity or the ribs are what get a little spiced up. Not too spicy, just enough for you to notice there is something a little different about it. Mila, will try… though it will be a slow and painful process, I think! thelma, I agree, anything you grow yourself taste 3x better than store bought!

  14. Mr. MM, i remember my daughter’s yaya telling me that her mother has a siling labuyo plant that she planted from seeds.. unfortunately (she has a green thumb, btw), the chillies are sweet and kids from the neighborhood eats it freshly picked from the shrub.. RE: “fake” chilies, yeah maybe they are greenhouse grown =)

  15. Houston being close to Mexico and other Latin countries has a huge population of Latinos, and they sure love their dishes spicy.. and so at most markets and groceires, one will find huge varieties of fresh and dried chiles. But not until Thai restaurant and vietnamese stores sprung in the city, that thai chiles and ur own siling labuyo was known. Edel, the plant of your yaya’s mother might have cross polinated with banana pepper (sweet & mild), which is also elongated like our labuyo, but bigger in size. Diffrent family of sili plants should not be planted close to each other, side by side, for it will sure result in a crossbred variety.

  16. Rose5, while generally speaking, I tend to find the smaller locally grown chillies hotter than the bigger ones, globally, the hottest chillies are NOT the smallest ones…



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