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Feb 16, 2012 12:22 PM

What Are the World's Chilehead Pilgrimage Sites?

I'm fantasizing that my portfolio has shot through the roof and that I sell off a chunk of it to finance a tour of the globe's hot pepper hot spots. But where do I go?

I know of certain places:

New Mexico
French Pyranees
Guntur, India
Sichuan Province, China

But where else?

Is there a particular province or city in Thailand that is particularly famous for its peppers and its spicy cuisine?

What about Africa? I know that peppers are well loved on that continent, but I don't know where Africa's epicenter of heat is.

The same goes for South America. I suspect Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia offer that continent's biggest capsicum bang, but I'm not sure.

And what about Korea? Is North Korea a more torrid zone than South? Do the coastal folk take more to the heat than those on the interior?

I'm eyeing the ticker as we speak...

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  1. Apparently the hottest pepper was recently found in Trinidad... the moruga scorpion:

    2 Replies
    1. re: Manybears

      Having grown up there I would cautiously recommend a visit .TnT has a very rich and vibrant food history and scene but other than during Carnival offers little for dedicated tourist compared to other Islands.
      The mix of Chinese,Indian,African,European,Portuguese,Latin and Middle Eastern influences are not only tasted in the food but also seen in it's people but times have changed and the old recipes and traditional foods are rapidly giving ground to Americanized fast food.
      Street food is still very popular and Port of Spain and Saint James has a vibrant scene selling Roti,Doubles,Souce,Boiled corn,Seeow Chicken,Cow heel soup,Water Coconut,raw Oysters and not to forget the Bake and Shark on Maracas beach. and in case you're wondering, Trinis use pepper in everything so If you're into hot? TnT is the place. Everyone has at least one pepper bush in the yard and harvest from it daily.

      1. re: Duppie

        Yes, I meant to propose Trinidad as well as Jamaica.

    2. Ever considered Calabria, Italy? Renound for their peperoncino. Every year (1st week of September) there's a celebration in Diamante, where they have the L’Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino (The Italian Chili Pepper Academy). Tons of vendors selling trinkets and cooking up ridiculous dishes, honoring the chile (gelato, drinks, other various foods).

      1 Reply
      1. I'm not a chilihead myself, but I'd imagine basically almost anywhere in Thailand. The English speaking Caribbean is good too. All the Trinidadians I've ever known like hot and spicy food. Though, my feeling is that nothing really beats a true American chilihead for heat addiction. So, maybe no place will be hot enough.
        Definitely take South America of your list. Even Peru, which is famous for "spicy and hot" food, would not be hot enough for a chilihead. What they would call spicy there is probably way too tame for you. Central America is also pretty much the opposite of hot. Pretty much stay away from Spanish speaking countries, except Mexico (which is probably not as hot as Thailand or Szechuan). I don't think any place in Europe would be hot enough either. Africa, I don't know, but food in Madagascar (Africa, but just sort of) is definitely not spicy.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Wawsanham

          I'm primarily interested in places where peppers (of whatever type, other than the very mildest) constitute an essential cash crop and are therefore revered and celebrated. Those peppers will then usually form an essential part of the local cuisine, although it still might not be excruciatingly hot. This is why I included the French Pyrenees in my original post. That region is the home of the pimente d'espellette, and a small city there has a major pepper festival during harvest season.

          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            First stop, Dave DeWitt's The Chile Pepper Enyclopedia.

            For South America, Peru is better than Ecuador (I don't know about Bolivia). In Ecuador, every restaurant will have a bowl of aji, house made chile sauce, at the table, but few prepared dishes are picante. Even with the salsa they take more delight in developing the tart base (e.g. tomate de arbol), as opposed to highlighting the aji. All the ajis imported to the USA are Peruvian - panca, amarillo, and rocoto. There are more in Peru, but most are used locally where grown, as opposed to sold nationally.

            If you are Europe to see the pimente d'espellette, you probably also want to see the parts of Spain known for their smoked paprika. Portugal may have a greater liking for hot chiles, derived I believe from their African colonies.

            I'm glad to see that you are interested in more than the hottest of the hottest, the one dimensional characteristic of many chileheads. Maybe you should have used a different name in the subject line.

            1. re: paulj

              Good call on Portugal. Piri piri (or peri peri) chicken, made from the African bird's beak pepper, is one of Portugal's great national dishes. And it is delicious, I might add.

              As an aside, does anybody know if there is a particular region or province in Hungary that is expecially noted for the excellence of its paprika?

        2. One word: Bhutan. The natives there eat hot peppers with almost everything, at every meal. They make the Thai look like wimps. Plus there are paintings and sculptures of phalluses everywhere. Related phenomena?

          1 Reply
          1. re: BobB

            I've heard tales of Bhutan. That place even scares me a little bit.