Thai birds-eye Chilli

Ready to fly

The Thai birds-eye Chilli is a small pungent red Chilli from Thailand that is extensively used in Thai and other Asian cuisines. It was introduced to Thailand by the Portuguese in the 16th century, and soon became its favourite Chilli. It is thought to have got its name from the fact that birds get attracted to its red colour and eat them. ( Birds are not affected by capsaicin, the compound in Chillies that makes them hot.) The birds spread the seeds by way of their migratory patterns. On these migratory journeys, seeds from the Chillies, which have passed through a bird’ digestive system, are distributed in its droppings. Now the seeds are set for successful growth, as they are provided with a healthy dose of fertilizer to get them on their way to germination.

While the African birds-eye and  Malaguetta , were also introduced to Africa and Brazil respectively (see note), Thai birds-eye are different species to these Chillies. Thai-birds-eyes are Capsicum annuum, whereas African Birds-eyes and Malguettas are Capsicum fructescence

They grow to about 2 to 3 centimetres, with a width of 5 mm at its shoulder. At maturity, they are red, orange and green in colour. The Thai bird’s eye plant grows between 80 cm and a meter in height.

Thai birds- eye Chillies are extensively used in Thailand, but also in other countries in South East Asia. They are used in stir-fries, salads, soups, curry pastes and red curries. It is already a pungent chill with a Scoville rating of between 50 000 and 150 000 SHU. However, it has been known that sometimes, when certain individual Chillies, heat levels can have a SHU as high as 250000 SHU.

Its fruity and pepper taste is well illustrated in dishes like Tom yum goong( a spicy Thai seafood soup), Som Tam (a green papaya salad) and chicken satay Other uses include drying the Chillies to make Chilli powders and flakes, and making fantastic hot sauces and Chilli oils.

This is really a wonderful Chilli, in line with the African Bird-eye. It is definitely one of my favourites as an everyday cooking Chilli.

It can be used as a substitute for African devils, Cayenne Chillies and Malaguetas. It is hot enough even to be used where Scotch bonnets are called for, but they should be substituted at a ratio of about two to one (two birds-eye for one Scotch bonnet).

Image Credit

Daniel Risacher, / CC BY-SA 3.0,/ via Wikimedia Commons