My mom proudly gloated about her garden-grown red savina habaneros, claiming the chiles were the world's hottest. I hated to break her heart, but I had to set the record straight--the poor red savina has been demoted ever since the Guinness World Records crowned the bhut jolokia as the world's spiciest chile in 2007. This mighty chile has a million units on the Scoville scale, compared to 400,000 for the red savina. Also known as the ghost chile, in India its paste is not only used for hot sauce but also for tear gas. And while the chiles are known there for treating stomach ailments, we're sure they've also caused quite a few.
Last week came the incredulous news that a 28-year-old woman in India, Anandita Dutta Tamuly, first smeared the chile's seeds on her eyes (is she crazy?) before downing 51 of the chiles in two minutes, earning her an entry into the Guinness World Records. We've hosted chile-eating contests where contestants chomped and slurped their way through 20 jalapeños. One winner's trick was to swallow the peppers whole while another's was to numb his taste buds with vodka prior to the competition. But chowing down on the jolokia is a whole other story.
We've had our own experiences with the powerful ghost chile. A former Chile Pepper editorial assistant, Maggie DeMenna, created a blazing salsa recipe using a dried version of the chiles from Kalustyan's. She wore gloves and tied a bandana around her nose and mouth as to not breathe in the fumes once she started blending the salsa in the food processor. And there was the matter of her cat, Sancho. "Once I started blending, Sancho began meowing constantly until he ran into my room and hid out under my bed," Maggie said. "I closed the door to spare him for the next couple of hours that the chile fumes took to fade away."
We found bhut jolokia is best when it's used to spike a chunky tomato salsa, or as a chile oil to drizzle on stews or made into a spice-filled mayonnaise. If you think you're a match for the smoldering power of the bhut jolokia, we urge you to try them in the recipes below and not swallowing them whole. Save that madness by watching others, including the Food Network's Sunny Anderson, do it on YouTube.
Bhut Jolokia Fire Salsa
Photo by Bill Milne
Dried, whole bhut jolokia chiles are available from Kalustyan's (under the name naga jolokia) or seeds through the Chile Pepper Institute. Use gloves and proceed with extreme caution when working with these fiery peppers--just the scent is enough to knock you off your feet. Remember, a little goes a long way. Mix it into rice and beans or gloss over a crunchy taco.
- 1/2 ounce stemmed, dried bhut jolokia chiles
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
- In a bowl, add dried chiles, and cover with hot water. Rehydrate for 15 minutes. In a blender, combine chiles and 1/3 cup soaking water, and then add garlic and vinegar; purée. In a bowl, add chile purée to tomatoes, and combine.
- Ghost Chile Oil
- - makes 3 cups -
- Recipe by Jon Wipfli.
- Zest Factor: Hot
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 1/4 cups canola oil
- 1 dried bhut jolokia chile, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat the oven to 250°F. In an oven-safe dish, add oils and chile. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 3 hours. Remove from oven, transfer to airtight container, and place in refrigerator to cool. For added heat, leave pepper in the oil. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 month.