Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Feb 28, 2013 11:06 PM

Chili - Overkill!

First let me say I LIKE chili - but especially the flavors from chili other than just the heat.

The aroma from a Habanero is intoxicating - similarly with an Ancho, Guajillo, etc.

But now the simple heat from chili has seemed to have taken over the world. It's everywhere and in quantities that absolutely STIFLE other tastes. And peppers are being used that are devoid of any other taste than HEAT.

It's a big game on YouTube - who can show the most self-inflicted agony.

Capsicum in all its varieties has the effect of ENHANCING all kinds of other flavors - but you go over the tipping point - the result is simply a torture test.

The now ubiquitous Sriracha is not doing much to help the situation.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 'chili' - are you talking about the beef stew (Texas bowl of red), or the peppers (Capsicums)? Many Americans try to distinguish between the two with spelling, chili v chile. Though there's also the British 'chilli'.

    3 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      Sorry - referring to the category of 'hot' peppers -

      I've noticed the spelling itself doesn't often help as it varies with region --

      eg: from Wiki -- "Chili pepper, the spicy fruit of plants in the genus Capsicum; sometimes spelled chilli in the UK and chile in the Southwestern US, including with reference to the derived products:"

      1. re: jounipesonen

        and 'capsicum', used in a non scientific sense, in the UK means the mild bell pepper.

        Sure there are threads on Chow reporting the latest 'hottest chile', and threads asking how to order authentically hot food. But there also threads how to use the milder Mexican peppers like ancho, in posole or chili. And questions on what to use in Europe when they can't find the Mexican ones.

        1. re: paulj

          The word "capsicum" is also used in Australia (like the UK) to mean a mild bell pepper. However, I have never heard it used that way in North America.

    2. It's all relative, though.

      Habaneros, to me, have zero heat. None. It wasn't until I had a ghost pepper - bhut jolokia - that I experienced real heat in a pepper. Of course, I've had a few spicy dishes, but they were only ever mildly spicy, even after the addition of several tablespoons of Sri Lankan chilli pepper.

      I have no problem tasting the flavour of the peppers, and it in no way stifles other flavours for me. I know many others, like my husband and probably most other people in Sri Lanka, south India, Thailand, and so on, for whom this is likely also the case.

      12 Replies
      1. re: LMAshton

        Where does the Scotch Bonnet fit in? Is it hotter than the ghost?

        1. re: mucho gordo

          It's much closer to a habanero - in flavor and heat.

          1. re: MGZ

            So, the ghost is hotter than the scotch bonnet which was supposed to be the hottest?

            1. re: mucho gordo

              We are well beyond both of those now when it comes to hottest chili in the world. With crossbreeding etc it seems there is a new "hottest pepper" every 6 months or so now.

              As far as I know the current reigning champion is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

              1. re: twyst

                Aside from the chili used in Thai food, habanero is as far as I go. I'll use it sparingly unless it is mixed with sweet.

            2. re: MGZ

              I thought scotch bonnets were the same thing as habaneros.

              1. re: EWSflash

                They're very similar, but there supposedly is a biological difference. I've never done a taste test to see how the biology translates to the palate.

          2. re: LMAshton

            I think you should try better, or fresher, habaneros. Like mass market jalapenos, many of them seem to have been dumbed down, but I have grown some that would be a three and a half or four heat to a bhut's five. Zero heat? I mean, most of the peppers used in Southern Asian cuisines are lower on the Scoville scale.

            Ultimately, I agree with you. I can't help, however, wondering about the quality of some of the peppers you have tried or the fact that you must be part deity.

            1. re: MGZ

              I don't find the peppers in South Asia to be hot either, by the way. Or the chilli powder, really. I prefer the Sri Lankan chilli powder because it has more heat than what I find elsewhere, but it's also that I like the flavour more. And the heat difference - well, other chilli powders, and for that matter cayenne and paprika, sit at a zero for me while the Sri Lankan chilli powder has at least some heat, although not a huge amount.

              I've tried a lot of habaneros. Some fresh, some dried, and in hot sauces and the like. I doubt it's the habaneros. I'm just a bit of a freak of nature. :)

              1. re: MGZ

                I agree with you that hot peppers normally available have been dumbed down, I've ruined a batch of jalapeno tequila because the jalapenos weren't hot and lent a weird watery flavor to the tequila. So I started growing my own. Problem solved. I hate it when something is so hot that you can't taste anything but the heat, I'm not a masochist, but I love hot chiles.

              2. re: LMAshton

                Genetic or aquired?
                For the vast majority, Habaneros have a LOT of heat

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  Genetic. I've always been this way, as have my sibs. My husband is like this as well, by the way.

              3. I'm a chilehead, but I have zero interest in that Youtube idiocy. Sadly, idiocy of all stripes is now the norm throughout society. But the consumption of extremely hot foods is not inherently idiotic. Make sense?

                4 Replies
                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  I would have guessed that chili + overkill are not consecutive words in PK's lexicon...:)

                  1. re: Veggo

                    You guess correctly, Veggo. That said, I recently made an Indian hot and sour soup containing a full tablespoon of Irazu Ghost Pepper hot sauce that came perilously close to overkill. The Khantessa took one dainty sip, gave me a Satanic glare, pushed the bowl aside, and grabbed a plate o' samosas!

                  2. re: Perilagu Khan

                    Well put, PK. I love hot dogs, but I see no reason to see how many I can choke down in three minutes. As to chiles, gimme heat, lots and lots of heat - sweat inducing, tongue tingling, endorphin producing heat, but remember that preparing great food, the world over, is predicated upon the notion of striking balance.

                  3. This isn't new.
                    Back in my restaurant days we had a subset of customers that were definitely into self punishment. Young military guys would come in and order spicy bulgogi or spicy pork and have me make it as spicy as possible.
                    I would watch them eating with tears running down their faces, sweat oozing from them and forming rivers, faces beet red, and drinking nearly a gallon of ice tea or water with their meal.

                    Then there were the one or two who truly enjoyed the high spice levels with no apparent effect.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: hannaone

                      Never been in the service, but I've certainly gone the hot route in restaurants.

                      Chuffed a plate of something called Dragon Chicken at a Thai restaurant many years ago and ordered it at spice level 10. The waiter cautioned me that white people don't order dishes at heat level 10. I said bring it on. He did. I finished it and got to sign my name in a book along with maybe 15 other people whose names had 20 syllables.

                      The chef at my favorite local Indian restaurant knows me by name because of my fedora and my love of the hot and spicy. He takes great delight in preparing dishes for me at the heat level he personally enjoys.

                      Sadly, I've been unable to find a local joint willing to make hot wings to my satisfaction. Nobody will make them hot enough.

                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                        I do the same thing regarding make it 15 on the 1 to 10 scale. It's a standing joke in the couple of places I frequent and the cooks will correct a new server when he/she tries to "Tone down" my request to "American" levels.

                        There is a difference though between those who enjoy the heat and flavor, and those who are showing their "Macho" by enduring pain instead of enjoying flavor.

                        1. re: hannaone

                          Well, I can't claim machismo is entirely absent from my antics. ;) But in addition to showing I can tough out the heat, the food also has to be delicious. It's the combination that matters.

                          No way in hell I'd film myself choking down a bih jolokia and then post it on Youtube. There's not gustatory glory in it.

                          1. re: Perilagu Khan


                            This reminded me of an incident at my most regular haunt. One of the cooks decided to see just how hot I could take a dish and really poured on the pepper. The entire restaurant was overcome by the fumes as they came off the stove top. People were coughing, sneezing, eyes were tearing.
                            The dish was brought to me and to show the cook I could not be "out hotted", I managed to get it down. Shows I'm not completely immune to the "Macho" thing - that was one hot dinner.

                            1. re: hannaone

                              Heh heh. I've experienced those toxic fumes, too, although, alas, never in a restaurant! Some of my own concoctions require a gas mask to prepare.

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                Years ago I tried to make chile oil - by adding chile flakes to too hot oil. The fumes were painful.

                        2. re: Perilagu Khan

                          I got that at restaurants in Sri Lanka all the time. I'd tell them I can handle the heat, the husband, who's Sri Lankan, would tell them I could handle the heat, they'd still bring out watered-down at spice levels for western white people. Could. Not. Win.

                          1. re: LMAshton

                            Yeah, what are you gonna do? Just grin and bear it, I spose. They mean well.

                        3. re: hannaone

                          In addition to the "macho factor", eating really hot foods leads to a release in endorphins. It's like a mild drug to some.

                          1. re: twyst

                            True, indeed. It's a perfectly legal and healthy buzz.

                        4. I agree. The hottest chiles contribute less flavor, because they are necessarily used in smaller quantities. Too much of the hottest chiles is just a macho thing, in my opinion.

                          As for sriracha, it's the new ketchup, and has about as much class.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: GH1618

                            I have found that to "get" the flavor from the "hotter" chiles, be they habanero, Scotch bonnet, bhut, Thai birds, etc. they need a proper compliment. Even just trying them with fresh, in season, melon chunks will permit a better appreciation of their nuances. It's kinda like the way the "right" glass of wine can help pronounce the subtleties of flavors in a dish.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              "As for sriracha, it's the new ketchup, and has about as much class."

                              Maybe less???