China has an interesting relationship with pepper, and it would appear that some of the fieriest types of pepper are from China.
One of the things that stands out about China and Chili peppers is the words by the infamous Mao Zedong quoted for the famous words – No Chilies, No Revolution. Mao, a Hunan native, wasn’t a stranger to any of the effect that fiery chilies would have on people, and per his thoughts, despite the uncertainty, we may hold about the spice’s power in fuelling his fight and his unwavering spirit, it would be assumed that the fiery chilies played a role and boosted his fighting spirit.
In this article, we’ll share details of the most common types of chili peppers. But first, let’s talk about capsaicin, the component behind the mysterious powers and bowing effects of chilies. The captain is the active compound in the spicy chili peppers. It is the molecule that binds easily to pain receptors present in your airways and mouth, creating (mimicking) that heat sensation. Now, the amount or level of heat from chili peppers will depend on the amount of capsaicin in the chilies/ pepper. Traditionally, the amount of capsaicin is determined on the Scoville scale. This scale was created in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville, an American pharmacist. There is also the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) which is the unit used to describe the pungency of chili peppers.
Today, there are at least 2,000 varieties of chilies grown throughout China, but some of these peppers are more popular than others. Below, we share details of the common types of Chinese chili peppers.
Chinese Chili Peppers
- Yunnan Wrinkled Skin Pepper
Boasting a heat level of 55,000SHU, the Yunnan wrinkled skin pepper looks different from most of the peppers on the market today. Featuring moderate heat, these green peppers are rather wrinkly, but they aren’t unbearable in terms of their heat level. Some people note that you only feel a slight feverish feeling after taking a few mouthfuls of this pepper, but you will have some layers of sweat breaking out after some time. So, for some people, it will be a bit comfortable, but this isn’t always the case for everyone.
- Facing Heaven Pepper
With a heat level of about 40,000 SHU, this chili is cone-shaped and is known as facing heaven pepper, offers a fragrant to medium-hot chili feel. It is one of the easily recognized peppers by the lovers of the world-famous Sichuan cuisine.
The interesting thing about this kind of pepper is that it grows upwards, facing heaven rather than in a downward manner, as would be expected and as is seen in other kinds of pepper. Despite the high degree of heat, cooking this chili reduces its spiciness significantly, leaving you with a nice, easy burn.
- Sichuan Seven-Star Pepper
The Sichuan seven-star chili pepper has a hotness level of about 60,000 SHU. It is another variety of pepper that faces heaven as it grows. There are many varieties of this pepper, but the variety that grows in Sichuan is purple-ish and is known as one of the hottest and the spiciest kinds of chili peppers throughout the South of China. As the name suggests, this pepper comes in 7 distinct heat levels, which makes this all-encompassing spice one of the spices listed on the Guinness Book of World Records.
- Hainan Yellow Lantern Chili
Now, if you think that the Sichuan Seven-Star Pepper was hot, you haven’t come across the 170,000 SHU heat level Hainan Chili. It doesn’t look hot, not really, but this chili pepper that is local to the Hainan region of China and one of the Capsicum Chinese Family, also called the bonnet chili pepper, is one of the hotter Chinese chili peppers. It is quite notorious for its exceptional level of heat and the very unique flavors. Often, this pepper is enjoyed in hot sauces, and it’s recommended for use in very small amounts.
- Yunnan Shuan Shuan Chili
Also high on the chili peppers’ hotness level is the Yunnan Shuan Shuan Chili pepper. This chili variety grows well and wild specifically around Southwest China on the Myanmar border, and it boasts a very high hotness level of about 1,000,000 SHU. As a result, this pepper must be held and pluck using the most robust gloves. The name given to this variety of this chili pepper has to do with how the chili is picked and processed – shuan can be defined as the process in which the peppers are dipped in hot boiling water.
- Chinese Red Peppers
Also known as Tien Tsin peppers, the Chinese red peppers have a level of hotness averaging 62,500SHU. Despite the name and their appearance, these chili peppers are surprisingly hot. The dried chilies are often used in most Hunan and Szechuan dishes, including the Kung Pao Chicken. They are often used as spice flavorings, but they have to be removed from the served dish before serving, well, unless you are going for an extra-hot meal.
The Chinese red peppers are easily identifiable from their long-form, small body and high heat content. The heat level of the peppers is also the reason for the use of the chilies as infusions for vodkas, oils, and many other beverages. In comparison to a jalapeno, the Chinese red peppers are between 6 and 30 times hotter than the jalapeno – of course, it’s nothing close to the hotness of the habaneros.
So, then, what’s the hottest chili pepper in the world?
- 7-Pot Barrackapore Chili Pepper
This is the other hot chili pepper from China, and it has a high Scoville heat unit level of above 1 million. It’s hot but also fruity, and it’s regarded as one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. There is also the Indian ghost pepper which is very caustic and not ideal for human consumption.
China offers a wide variety of products and an unmatched culinary prowess made possible by the use of home-grown spices. The chili peppers above are some of the best options that China has to offer. Just make sure that before you try one of them, you can actually handle the SHU level of the pepper.