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Aug 16, 2012 03:53 PM

Best substitute for Thai curry chilies?

Does anyone have any experience substituting more readily available Latin American chiles for the Thai long red chilies used in curry pastes (prik chee fa in Thai, also called sky-pointing or heaven-pointing chili). Not the small spicy mouseshit ones, the long, dried, not so spicy ones used in red curry, etc...

Was thinking a New Mexico might be close, but wanted to see if anyone had any actual experience... It looks like a cayenne, but I imagine that might be too spicy for this application...

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  1. For dried applications, arbol comes to mind; for fresh, serrano.
    50,000 and 100,000 Scoville units.
    Thai chile = bird pepper = Thai bird chile = prik chi fa = Thai jalapeno Substitutes: chile de Arbol OR fresh cayenne pepper OR jalapeno peppers (not as hot) OR Serrano peppers (not as hot)

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      I don't think The Cook's Thesaurus is correct that "Thai chile = Thai bird chile = prik chi fa." I think Thai chile = Thai bird chile = prik kee noo, and Sky pointing chile = prik chi fa.

    2. Indian and Asian grocers sell long green and red chilis, which might be the same. I think of them as comparable to cayennes. Not sure about Mexi grocers, though.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bada Bing

        Actually, what is pictured there on foodsubs is not prik chee fa, it's a prik kee nu (the former means "sky pointing", the latter "mouseshit"...) Arbol and serrano are more similar to the latter... A red jalapeno might be the closest I can think of as far as fresh peppers in the West, I'm just thinking of dried... Guajillo is too particular in flavor, but similar looking...

        This is what I'm talking about:

        1. re: cheftwo

          I did some research because I was curious. The peppers below, though not quite as hot as what you're looking for, may be your best bet.

          See also ("This mild large Dried Anaheim Chili Pepper has a slightly sweet aroma with a sweet and very mild flavor and can be used for Thai dishes calling for a less spicy type of chili pepper.").

          Additionally, I wonder whether your "sky pointing" peppers are related to Chinese "facing heaven" peppers. (See ) Facing heaven peppers are hard to find in the U.S., but they are available (for example, at big grocery stores in the San Gabriel Valley, outside LA). They have excellent flavor and are much less spicy than bird chiles. This is one of the few non-perishable food items I've been able to find in physical stores but not online.

          1. re: AlkieGourmand

            Thanks.. I like those Californias, use them in chili powder quite often, but you're right, not quite spicy enough... Think guajillo is closer to correct spice, but has too much unique character... Perhaps a blend of California/New Mexico & guajillo might work best...

          2. re: cheftwo

            Thanks for pointing this out. I usually grow a pot of Thai chiles each year, and after getting the small bird type (mouseshit, really?) a couple of years, a farmer's market guy gave me a plant that ended up growing the chiles upward and longer, but I never really thought closely about them being dramatically different. True enough, though, they were not so hot as the bird chiles. They dry great.

            The s

        2. I usually subsitute serrano when I can't get thai. Now if anyone k nows what kind of mint is used in thai cooking? I l ove a marinade of basil and mint and usually grow it in the summer.

          1. When I don't have fresh bird chiles I use jarred Sambal Oelek. Total blasphemy. :-)

            1. Kitazawa Seeds (near San Francisco) have a website and have seeds (for next year in non-semitropical climates).