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Nov 29, 2011 12:18 PM

Are Ghost Peppers Actually Used in Indian Cooking?

I'm wondering if the people of Assam--the native region of the bhut jolokia--actually use these peppers in their cuisine. I know they are used as elephant repellent (seriously), but have not heard of them actually being used in the native cooking. I almost think that with the pepperhead craze in the US, you'd be more likely to encounter the ghost pepper in an Indian resto in the States than you would if you ate in India itself.

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  1. A friend of mine from a neighboring state in India told me about them long before they were popular here, he says that they often use them. They called it "The King".

    He brought me a bag of dried ones several years ago, I forgot why I had wanted them in the first place and threw a handful in a curry. Ouch! Now you can get them just about anywhere.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Perilagu Khan

        Naga/Ghost peppers figure in a novel published in 2003 called, Who Sleeps with Katz.

    1. I grew them this year (an ABUNDANT harvest), and the relatives in India had never ever heard of them! (They're in Balgalore.)

      1. Having worked in restaurants in Manhattan until a few years ago, I had the chance to work with a number of Bengali immigrants. They told of a pepper that was hot enough that a single chili was hot enough for a communal stew shared by about 50 people during festivals. It was before I had heard of a ghost chili and don't remember if it was called bhut jolokia. If my geography is correct Assam is quite near Bangladesh.

        5 Replies
        1. re: KilgoreTrout

          That is correct. Far northeast India. Rather remote, I expect, and that's probably why the bhut jolokia remained virtually unknown to the broader world until four or five years ago. Heck, pine time indicates they were not even widely known in Bangalore.

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            Perilagu Khan: thanks for noting that the relatives are really in Bangalore, not Balgalore--I need spell check! A few other relatives are in Hyderabad, known for hot foods, and they didn't know the pepper, either.

            1. re: pine time

              pine time: my favorite local (Lubbock, Texas) Indian restaurant is staffed entirely by natives of Hyderabad, and indeed, the food is extremely hot, just the way I love it. The chef, however, was unaware of the bhut jolokia when I asked him about it.

              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                Oh, I'm jealous. Do they make an authenic Moghlai Hyderabadi biryani?

                1. re: pine time

                  They do make what they call a Hyderabad biryani, with either chicken or lamb. Having never eaten in Hyderabad, I cannot attest to its authenticity, though.

                  Someday I'd like to travel to Guntur, just to eat. I understand it is the pepper capital of India, and I assume the local cuisine is correspondingly scorching.

        2. I saw not long ago a Gordon Ramsay special where he went to Assam and attended a ghost pepper eating contest.

          1 Reply
          1. Perilagu, I am not sure if they are used in India, but I've used them to marinate hot wings and can attest they make excellent hot wings that have a depth of flavor along with the heat. Also, Dave's Insanity Ghost Pepper sauce is an excellent product for putting the little beauties to use.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Leper

              Thanks, Leper. As a hardcore wing-man I may have to give this a shot.

              1. re: Leper

                Yup, I've used them in hot wings, too. Just used 1 pepper (seeds and membrane) for nearly 2 1/2 lbs of wings, and they were quite hot.