About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, December 16, 2005
Chile Theory
My son N. recently returned from a trip to Korea. N. is twenty-one and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which was the reason for his trip; he was entered in the world championship for his sport and traveled to Korea for two weeks. Unfortunately in the first minute of his first bout a stray kick to his hand badly dislocated a finger and N. was unable to continue.

We were chatting about his trip, when out of the blue N. asked me what is the taste of chile. It transpired that pretty much all the food he had eaten on his trip was out of his comfort zone for chile heat, with kimchi (spiced, fermented cabbage) a principal offender. Kimchi is to Korea what sauerkraut is to Germany, it's found everywhere there.

I asked N. did he mean the taste of the chile pod or the taste of the heat itself and he replied the heat. Everybody reading this knows what he meant.

The first time I overdosed on chilies was at some Pakistani friends' dinner. Everything was going well until I noticed my friends were munching on long green chilies in between mouthfuls of food. In a when in Rome kind of thing, I picked up a chile ~ my friends chorused it was HOT. Yes it was! My mouth went into meltdown, but there is nothing you can do except wait for the moment to pass. They must have smuggled the seeds for this chile into the country, because there are similar chilies available here that are nowhere near as hot.

To answer N's. question, I told him that chile heat doesn't have a flavour only a sensation, interestingly different chilies seem able to produce different heat sensations. Of course the chile pepper has a taste of its own, ranging from herbaceous to fruity. The mighty habanero is the hottest chile in the world and has a lovely fruity flavour, at least until the heat catches up with you. But I discovered a way to harness the habanero in one dish so that the character of the chile shines through without the bite of the snake. Simply make up your favourite marinade for fish and add one ot two chopped habaneros, marinate for two hours, discard the marinade, unless you like it real hot and cook the fish anyway you like. Fish is perfect for this as you will get good chile heat, layered with fruitiness, permeating the flesh.

Ever been to a Chile Festival and witnessed the chile eating competition? Inevitably it involves men who should know better, mixed with those who have a supernatural ability to ingest super hot chilies with no apparent side effects. I've always wondered at how they can do something that would cause the average person paroxysms of agony, until one day it struck me.

Boronia is an Australian plant that flowers in spring; people tell me it has the most heavenly perfume and they tell me because I cannot smell it at all, everything else I can smell fine, just not boronia. Just as some people are colour blind perhaps some people lack receptors for capsaicin ~ the chemical responsible for the heat of chilies ~ and can tolerate the intolerable. I'm sure there is an element of building up tolerance over time, but I witnessed someone eating habaneros, chewing on them, one after the other as if they were lollies. I can just imagine Robin saying, "Holy habaneros Batman, there goes the burning ring of fire!"
  posted at 7:51 am


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