Too hot to handle

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 22 September 2017

Celebrity foodies Rocky and Mayur hunt for the hottest chilli in India on their new web series titled Bira 91 Hot Stuff.

Mayur and Rocky have set off on a new adventure. This time they are trying to find the hottest chilli in India. “I have always been extremely fond of chillies. When we had to do something with beer, we were thinking of pairing it with something to make a classic couple — like Laurel and Hardy — chillies and beer go together.

As Indians, not only is our food spicy, but we also like it hot. And the best thing to cool you down after a hot meal is a nice chilled beer,” says Rocky. The duo have already released two episodes so far and will be releasing a new one every Tuesday. The eight-part series is available on YouTube. 

Why do people like chillies?
Rocky suggests that eating chillies does a thing or two that might explain people’s love for having their mouths on fire. “Psychologically, I think eating chillies makes you thirstier and you tend to drink more water. Chillies cause a lot of heat and work up the sweat glands, which is why you see people sweating from their foreheads, and this cools the body down,” he says, pointing out that he has noticed that the spiciest cuisines in the world come from regions along the equator. “Chillies and heat is a match made in heaven,” he quips. 

Chillies of India
Being in the food business for quite some time now, the duo realised that Indians know very little about indigenous chillies. “The only conversation we have about chilli is whether we want our food tej or kam tej. But nobody knows the names of the chillies. India is the largest exporter of chillies in the world, chillies are fundamental to the cuisine, but the funny thing is that it isn’t originally an Indian ingredient. Chillies were brought from South America and plantations were laid out here. The production of chillies in India is at its zenith now, there have never been so many varieties, colours, and flavours of chillies being produced before,” says Rocky.

He talks about how Indian cuisine is an artistic, creative and evolved cuisine because Indian people seldom use just one chilli in their cooking. “We always tend to use two or more types of chilli - one for fire and one for the colour. Different chillies have different flavours. Probably because young people are not cooking as much as the generation before, they don’t know the names of the chillies, the background and the difference as much. From our perspective, this show gives us an opportunity to make people aware about what they are eating in their region,” says Rocky. 

The time his mouth was on fire
“The hottest naturally grown chilli in the world is the beautiful Bhut Jolokia from Assam. It is also called ghost chilli. Legend has it that people put one chilli in the kalash (prayer pot) with some water and leave it in their prayer room overnight. The next day, they sprinkle that water around their house to keep evil spirits away. That’s how powerful the chilli is,” says Rocky, adding, “Just one Bhut Jolokia is enough to make a spicy preparation of 15 kilos of meat.”

Rated at more than 1 million on the Scoville scale, the ghost chilli is about 400 times hotter than the Tabasco sauce. “Now that you know what the chilli is, let me tell you about one of the first shows Mayur and I shot together. The first time we were tasting this chilli, there were a couple of things on the table like a big bottle of milk, a bowl of yoghurt, rice, pineapple and a fire extinguisher, which you could use depending on how badly your mouth would burn. After I bit and ate half of the chilli, the first thing I reached for was the fire extinguisher,” he laughs. 

Beer and chilli
Rocky claims that beer is the best beverage to pair with a hot meal. “Beer has an inherent capacity to cleanse the palate. Hence it works as a wonderful palate cleanser. And to enjoy a beer, it needs to be chilled, so when you guzzle it down after a hot meal, it tends to cool you off,” says Rocky. 

ST Reader Service
Find out about the different varieties of chillies in India with Mayur and Rocky on their latest eight-part web series, Bira 91 Hot Stuff, available on YouTube

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