Last fall we checked in with Jim Duffy, the San Diego man who grows some of the world's hottest chiles in his back yard. Recently, when we called him up again to see what he was growing, he agreed to give us a recipe that uses his chiles. This seemed liked like a good idea, given the fact that he's got a new crop of Bhut Jolokias, Trinidad 7 Pots, Malaysian Goronongs and Trinidad Scorpions, and that if you should find yourself in possession with some of these insanely hot chiles, you should probably know what to do with them. Sure, you can try eating them whole, videoing the experience and posting the results on YouTube, but there are other, more gastronomically satisfying (and saner) things you can do with them too.
Duffy, who runs the website Super Hot Chiles–where you can buy the fresh chiles if you're interested–told us a little about the Bhut Jolokia, or ghost chile, and gave us his recipe for Bhut Jolokia fish curry. Turn the page…
Duffy, who grows his chiles hydroponically, is using three locations this year: his yard, his greenhouse and a friend's property. He has about 1,500 plants already started–including over 2 dozen new chiles, including Black Habaneros, Chocolate Rocotos, Morouga Scorpions and Aji Chombos from Panama–the majority of which will be for seeds, about a third for fresh chiles. He sells seeds, plants and fresh chiles on his website: the plants will be ready next month, the ripe chiles in August and September.
The Bhut Jolokia chile, one of Duffy's mainstays and a chile he's grown for the last four years, currently holds the world record at over 1 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU's). Originating in northeastern India, the chile sometimes goes by the names Bih Jolokia, Naga Jolokia and Ghost Chile–so named because if you eat it you can look like you've seen a ghost. Or maybe are worried about becoming one.
Duffy says that the Bhut is not the easiest chile to grow, as it usually requires a soil temperature of over 85 degrees to germinate. It doesn't tolerate either over- or underwatering, and too much nitrogen can cause the flower to drop, which will result in no chiles. The Bhut matures from green to dark red and can be used both dried or fresh. Duffy says that the flavor of the Bhut is slightly robust, earthy and nutty, with a little fruit too. (Author's note: Mind-numbingly, couldn't-speak-for-20-minutes hot is how my tasting notes read.) A little, as you can imagine, goes a long, long way. One pepper pod can heat a large pot of stew; small amounts can be minced into BBQ sauces or salsas. In India, Duffy says that the chile is used mostly in fish curries (his recipe for which follows).
And finally, a public service announcement. Duffy cautions that you should use gloves when handling any hot chiles; also wash your hands (and any cutting areas) with cool, soapy water after handling, and be sure to keep the chiles away from children.
Bhut Jolokia fish curry
From: Jim Duffy of Super Hot Chiles.
2 pounds firm white skinless fish fillets, preferably Tilapia, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
a 2 inch-piece of fresh ginger
5 teaspoons of mustard seeds
4 dried bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon of coriander powder
5 large shallots or 2 medium onions, chopped
1 or ½ Bhut Jolokia chile
1 tablespoon cumin seed
3 teaspoons turmeric powder
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups of water
1. In a spice grinder, grind the ginger, 2 of the bay leaves, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds.
2. In a large bowl, place the fish, 2 teaspoon of salt, two teaspoons of turmeric powder and the garlic. Mix thoroughly and let sit for about 30 minutes.
3. Add the oil to a large wok or skillet. Heat the oil over high heat. In batches, fry the fish for 3-4 minutes, turning the fish and frying for 3-4 minutes more, or until the fish is flaky. Remove the fish and reserve on a paper towel.
4. Wipe out the wok or pot, add a pinch of cumin seed, a pinch of mustard seed, the remaining 2 bay leaves, a pinch of aniseed (all together is called panch-phoran) and heat over high heat until the mixture begins to splutter.
5. Add the onion, and cook, stirring constantly, until the onion begins to caramelize. Add the ground spice mixture, tomatoes, remaining turmeric powder and salt to taste. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste browns, about 10 minutes.
6. Add the water and bring the sauce to a boil. When the sauce comes to a boil, add the fried fish and the chile into the mixture, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
7. Allow to cool slightly and serve with steamed rice.