Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Are you a wimp for not eating superhot chillies?

Well, that is a question I do hear other people ask at times.
And I would actually say it is not a bad one either.
Now sure, my friends that like the superhot chillies will think I am a bit of a sissy not to eat them, but who cares?
In fact I really feel ashamed at times if I say I like medium hot chillies if I am in a group that only eats the freaking hot ones. But then again I think I should not be feeling embarrassed.
So here I go, coming out of the closet; I like medium hot chillies!
Even worse, I like mild chillies !

That said, I feel comfortable to talk about the rest of the chillies too.
Really I got a comment on a recipe, if I could spice it up by 10 steps, sure I can. Not that I would eat it though, but I can. I really thought, take the same recipe and use a hotter chilli, one that you like yourself! I think I said so to, getting nothing in reply. Now that is, in my mind a bit of the problem, the issue so to say why people do not eat chillies. Really of all the people I know, if I ask them if they would like to try a certain chilli, the answer is?? No thanks, I do like a bit of spice but I don’t want to go overboard. So than I find myself in a place where I should be defending chillies and am telling about tasty juicy chillies that are not over the top.
I have about 400 plants here, 110 varieties, and only 35 varieties are what I call over the edge.
In other words, I have 75 sorts that are mild to hot, but not over the top. So the vast majority is what “normal” people can eat. Does that say enough?

I asked a rather big sauce maker how he felt about this article, and he said:
to be perfectly honest, I'm very much the same way. I like a few superhots for their flavour but prefer milder chillies overall for everyday use. I think a lot of it is just a big macho thing!
He would like his comment to be anonymous.

Another friend Karen Willmott, she makes lovely chutneys amongst other products, was unsuccessful at a contest, not on taste she was told but because her products were not hot enough.
She says: When you point out that there are mild chillies say like the jalapeño and a jalapeño popper is most delicious and not hot either, they are surprised and change their views on chillies as a whole. The 'hot heads' will always push for hotter and hotter sauces but I sincerely believe that there is also a great market for milder sauces too!

Does that say enough?
Well looking at some sauces that I have seen, it might not be enough. I have seen crazy sauces, with good taste really, that are over the top for most people. Not that this is bad, but not all sauce makers have a milder variant to their great sauces. Now that is odd don’t you think? Well as the majority reading this, are real hotheads, it might be seen as normal. I however doubt that it is, for several reasons.

If I ask 100 people to try one of my chillies, about 5 say that they would like to. Now that is excluding my hothead friends, so I mean the regular guy that I meet on the street or see at the school for my kids, or even my family. So most people do not want to try my chillies. If I ask people that come here and eat with us to try a hot sauce, most of them say no too.
So only 5 out of 100 people like to try and taste my chillies and my sauces or sambals, for one simple reason; it might be too hot !.
Now I have got both screaming hot sauces as well as mild ones, and I do use both without any hesitation, and people that eat with us never complain about food being too hot. They have no choice as to eat the food, or they will get a dry piece of bread with water.
I just try not to use too much, and serve food that is hot, but not over the hill. And believe me, people like to eat with us, and got no complaints.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I do like to spice things up, and sometimes food just could have been hotter. Then again I don’t want to spoil food, or my taste. I do use superhots, not for being superhot, but for taste. I have once asked a great group on facebook that has loads of hotheads to tell me what the best tasting chillies were, keeping the heat out of the equation. Or rather I asked what chilli would match taste for heat, and all of those I am growing now, hoping to taste them weather the have an SHU of 50.000 or 2.000.000. If I like one that is superhot, I will just use less.
I do have to tell I had to stop eating hot food for medical reasons, for over 7 years, to be able to cope with spicy food again. This medical problem was caused by eating too hot every day for too long, and drinking loads of tomato juice with Tabasco.

Getting back to crazy hot sauces, and extremely hot chillies, I don’t discard any of them, I only do if they taste bad. Same as for mild chillies or sauces, I was soo looking out for tasting the Satan's Kiss, a heirloom Italian cherry chilli, and it tasted like hot water only. Disappointed, I never grew it again. I tasted a Dilita sauce, Peri Peri Hot Sauce and it was great really. Then I had a milder version, really the same but milder, and the balance was soooo off I tossed it in the bin, the citrus was totally overpowering the whole of it.
Now that is weird ! Why would a sauce maker, not make a good milder sauce?
I don’t get that, I don’t get that at all!

There is more that I don’t get. Those bottles with devils and blood on it, or graves and blood are funny for the hardcore superhot chilli eater, sure. But the average Bob will only try that to show off how tough he is, so it is only a macho thing. Nothing to do with taste, just being macho, and only a few will buy it again for its taste, or use very little.
If I let these 5 people out of 100 I asked taste a superhot, not one will ever taste one of my chillies again. So is going overboard with superhots or superhot sauces killing the business? I think it is not, however it is cramping down the market. So do the bottles with devils and what not on it, that I’d rather not put on the table in front of my kids without explaining.

Ultimately I think, when I am yet again explaining to someone that there are great chillies that are not too hot, that superhots and crazy hot sauces keep the market small for people rather not have it too hot. The majority of people that is, so how to go about it?
Sure, now I might be seen as a wimp, but I do not dismiss any sauce or chilli, and would feel great if others don’t do that too. Plus, if the milder chillies and the milder sauces that are good, would get some attention too, one would create a bigger market for sure. Now are sauce makers in it for the money? Not only, but if they would love a bigger market, maybe they should try milder sauces too, and promote these for the average Bob. Sure, that will make the world just a tiny bit more hot, but if you take one step at the time. . . . .

So next time, I hope not to have to explain, that there are chillies with great taste, both mild and superhot!

Yours sincerely

Bart J. Meijer

Photos courtesy Matthieu Le Gal of Fire Chillies France


  1. Great article, well done Bart.

  2. As always a brilliant post and a fab subject. Keep up the good work Bart :)

  3. Thank you Kaz !
    And thanks for letting me quote you !