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Thursday, January 6, 2011

The crowning glory of Naga Viper - the hottest

Have you heard of -  Naga Viper (nay not the snake !).   Most of us are fond of eating – some are good in culinary skills – adding spice..  have you had teary eyes, burning throats, longing for water and some sugar to change the taste -  all by consuming  a small piece ??????

When you order your Pizza, do you relish or take out the jalapenos ?  On the Scoville scale, most common jalapeño peppers only score between 2,500 and 5,000.       When Richard Branson’s Virgin Media launched its new ‘Bollywood On Demand’ service by the flick of a button, it commissioned a lamb based curry by Chef Vivek Singh, which you would only dream to avoid – do you know why ?

Taste is the ability to respond to dissolved molecules and ions called tastants.  Humans detect taste with taste receptor cells. These are clustered in taste buds. They are located around the small structures on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus and epiglottis, which are called papillae.   Humans detect five perceived tastes of Salt, sour, bitter, sweet and savoury.  On average, the human tongue has 8,000–10,000 taste buds.

For many of us, fried food is tempting.  Deep frying is cooking food in oil or fat.  One South Indian delicacy is bajji (pakora) made by dipping vegetable such as potato, tomato, bringal, onion, bread, panneer, spinach, cauliflower or other in a batter of gram flour (besan)  and deep frying them. In Marina beaches, there are famous shops selling this bajji and there are make shift shops on vehicles at street corners doing roaring sales, especially in the evening and on rainy days.  In Andhra, people put chilly (milagai] inside and prepare ‘molaga bajji’ – something which is hot and might make tears drip out.

In markets of Chennai, people would buy vegetables in kgs and then the friendly trader might part with some green chilli free – but in Andhra, people would buy chillies in kgs to add to the food.  Even for the bajjis, here in Chennai, they use chillie (mirchi) of a different kind but the ones from Guntur are known to be very hot.  Guntur situtate closer to Vijayawada is the home of historifically famous Amaravati and Sitanagaram monuments and thrives on agricultural commodities especially, Chillies, cotton and tobacco.  All along I thought that Guntur chillies would rank amongst the hottest species of the World as it is exported to many countries worldwide.  Chillies have various colours and flavours because of the level of Capsanthin in it. There are many varieties such as Woner hot chilli, 334 chilli – a premium export quality, teja chilli, Guntur sannam S4, the wrinkled 273 chilli and more. 
the hot ones from Guntur and dried ones under

Chillie is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.  They reportedly originated in Americas and spread across the World, used in food and medicine !  Going by records, Christopher Columbus  was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean), and called them "peppers" because they, like black and white pepper of the Piper genus known in Europe, have a spicy hot taste unlike other foodstuffs. 

Naga Viper is the new record holder for the spiciest chili pepper in the world.  The hotness of the chilli comes  from the substance capsaicin which is concentrated primarily in the veins, membrane and flesh of the Chilli. Contrary to popular belief,  seeds are not the primary heat source, it is the membrane. However, the since the seeds are surrounded by membrane loaded with capsaicin, removing the seeds removes the surrounding membrane reducing the heat.

Naga Jolokia more commonly known as Naga Morich and Bhut Jolokia  had entered the Guinness World Records as the hottest in the World in 2007.  In Nagaland it is grown in districts of Kohima, Mon and Peren. Traditionally chilli is being grown for green fruits during summer months in the upland jhum paddy fields. Naga people have been eating this chilli for decades. Its fruits form an essential Ingredient of the Naga kitchen cuisine.

All its glory is a thing of the past as  recently in Dec 2010, it was dethroned by Naga Viper.   Far from Guntur and away from Nagaland, Naga Viper is not from India or from Mexico but is from a greenhouse in England.  Created b a farmer it has over run three extremely hot varieties of the Bhut Jolokia, the Naga Morich, and the Trinidad Scorpion.     The Naga Viper scored 1,359,000 on the Scoville scale, which measures the piquancy of a chili pepper by examining the presence of capsaicin. The scale is named after its creator, an American chemist named Wilbur Scoville.  In Scoville's method, as originally devised, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar water until the "heat" is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale. Thus a capsicum, sweet pepper or a bell pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero, meaning no heat detectable, even undiluted.

                              the dreaded naga viper

Well, not many would be inclined to pay a high price for enjoying that hot taste.  Vivek Singh, a London based Indian Chef created a dish claiming it to be the World’s hottest curry and before ordering the curry, diners reportedly were required to sign a disclaimer that they are aware of the nature and risks involved with tasting the curry.  A la statutory warning as contained on cigarettes and liquor

Hot news indeed !!

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

1 comment:

  1. The naga viper has been a fun pepper to grow. It is kind of sad that since it lost its title of hottest pepper in the world that people seemed to have moved on and almost forgotten this gem.