I was carefully slicing chilis for our favorite Tofu with Spicy Lime Dip. After I finished preparing a few snacks, I went to get cleaned-up. I was putting in my contact lenses when suddenly I felt a blast of fire as the lens touched my eye. I cried out as my eye ejected the lens and tears furiously poured out of my burning eye. Frantically, I tried flushing my eye with cold water which did nothing to ease my pain. All I could do is writhe in agony until my (now very red) eye worked to naturally expel the spicy oils. The pain seemed to linger much too long but eventually, my eye cleared, feeling somewhat normal again.
Later, relaying this most unpleasant incident to Jack, he one-upped me with a story about making curry with his mom, Jai. He was only 7 years old and was using a large mortar and pestle to crush chili’s with various rhizomes and roots to make a fresh curry paste.
Things can get messy as it’s a challenge to keep all the ingredients in the mortar. Young Jack recklessly bashed at the ingredients, and every now and then bits of the soon-to-be paste were flung out of the mortar. Inevitably, with food splashing around, a hunk of curry paste was projected right into his eye! I’m thinking that this would have been significantly worse than the wee bit of oily residue I got in my eye, I mean, his eye has just made contact with chili pith and an array of powerful sensory stimulants. All he could do was flush the matter out with water and wait while his eye cried out the spicy oils.
Afterwards, Jack’s mom taught him the important skill of using one hand to part-cover the mortar while bashing with the pestle in the other hand. The new practice worked well to keep the majority of the curry paste in its place and it is one he continues to use today.
Still, there is a problem with this technique. While working the ingredients, the paste comes up the side of the mortar and touches the hand before it turns back down to the bottom of the mortar. After touching the same part of the hand repeatedly, it starts to burn. The hot sensation sticks around, builds, and becomes extremely uncomfortable, even painful. Thankfully, there is a remedy! This can be used anytime you have burning hands or fingers from handling fresh chili’s. Simply immerse your hand in a bag of uncooked rice and hold there until the pain subsides. Miraculous, right? Rice is not just for fixing a wet smart phone!
So what if it’s your mouth that’s on fire? We’ve all heard that a cold watery drink will not help. The spicy capsaicin found in the pith is oily. Water will spread the oil around your mouth, increasing the burning sensation. You’ll be better off drinking something like milk which will bind with the oils, helping to wash them down. Eating fresh Thai basil can also help to offer some relief. Personally I find a cold Coca Cola helps.
- Capsaicin is created in our bodies when we feel pain. Research is being done to figure out how to block the signals transmitted to the brain by capsaicin, in order stop pain. There is potential here for a non-addictive pain killer!
- Chili’s have more Vitamin C than oranges giving our immune systems a boost (just one chili has more then 100% RDI).
- Chili’s are high in Vitamin B6 (used in energy production, nerve function, and red blood cell production).
- Chili’s have an anti-microbial function, which is useful in the tropics, where heat-loving bacteria can cause food to spoil.
- Capsaicin stimulates metabolism and turns on thermogenesis (creating energy from burning fat).
In Southern Thailand the preference is Prik Ki Nu which translates to Rat Dropping Chili (because of its appearance only!). They are tinier and hotter than the Birds Eye Chili. We have rarely been able to find the Rat Dropping Chili in Calgary so we go for the Birds Eye Chili, which is easily found in almost any grocery store.