Imagine a chilli so hot that you would need hand gloves to handle it! Well, this chilli is the second hottest pepper in the world and is termed as the ‘Bhut Jolokia’ (Bhut meaning Ghost & Jolokia meaning Chilli). Other names of this pepper are ‘Bih Jolokia’ (the poison chilli) and ‘Naga Jolokia’ (named after the ferocious Naga warrior tribe).
India’s North East has been home to the ‘Bhut Jolokia’ from times immemorial. But stories of this pepper have spread across the west and westerners too are aware of the hotness of the ‘Bhut Jolokia’. The pepper was inducted in the Guinness Book of World Records as the spiciest chilli in the world in 2006 and it was only ’til 2013 that the ‘Bhut Jolokia’ lost this coveted title.
Although there are many commercial uses of the ‘Bhut Jolokia’ but in North East this chilly is mostly used for pickle preparation, flavouring curries and for home remedies for ailments like gastritis, arthritis and chronic indigestion problems. Restaurants across North East take pride in offering this chilly on their menu cards. The famous fast food joint Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has included bhut jolokia as an ingredient for the new and unique Flaming Crunch Chicken, a signature crisp and juicy chicken dish of the company.
Although it is believed that ay normal person who dares to eat a whole ‘Bhut Jolokia’ would almost certainly need Medical treatment there is an interesting lady who begs to differ. Mrs. Anindita Dutta Tamuly is a respected lady in the region who hails from Titabor Town in Jorhat district of Assam. This lady can rip off a ‘Bhut Jolokia’ with her bare hands and smear the seeds of the pepper on her eyes without shedding a tear. Anandita had entered the Limca Book of Records by eating 60 ‘Bhut Jolokia’ in two minutes and smearing 12 chillies in her eyes in one minute flat. You might find this to be unbelievable but the fact is you need to see it to believe it !!
Jungleideas welcomes you to India’s North East to grab a bite of the flavorful ‘Bhut Jolokia’ – The Spice of North East India and the Second Hottest Pepper in the World at the State of Assam, Incredible India!
The Bhut Jolokia plant in full bloom with the Bhut Jolokia Pepper ~ Guwahati ~ Assam ~ India
Bhut Jolokia Pickle:
One of the very flavourful pickles across North East India especially in Assam is the Bhut Jolokia pickle (Naga King Chilly pickle). If the Bhut Jolokia is selected carefully and later used to prepare this pickle then after the pickle is ready only a bit of oil (used to spice the pickle) is enough to spice up you food. The oil generally used is mustard oil and it in itself had several medicinal properties to it and when mixed with the health goodness of the Bhut Jolokia, this pickle serves as a perfect ailment that may prevent many gastro intestinal diseases and to boost one’s immunity as well. Generally the health benefits of Bhut Jolokia can be reaped when you eat the fruit (in little quantity) raw and mixed with a little salt (this helps to reduce the fiery effect of the chilly on the tongue) but as the flowering season of the Bhut Jolokia plant is mostly during summers (this is nature’s way of cooling down your body on the high tropical humid climate of North East India) and so the Bhut Jolokia pickle can be used to taste the flavours of the chilly during the winter season as well. And as the price of the Bhut Jolokia is quite high as compared to normal green chillies and also this chilly gets spoilt once it is plucked from the Bhut Jolokia plant and left in the open for a few days so the best remedy is to chop the chillies into small pieces and mix it up with mustard oil and put in a jar and pour oil and vinegar in it to make it into a pickle to be had later and this helps to keep a longer shelf life of the Bhut Jolokia pickle as well.
Procedure to prepare Bhut Jolokia pickle:
Step 1: Visit the local market to procure some good quality Bhut Jolokia pods. To make the Bhut Jolokia (King Chilly) pickle one has to ensure to pick ripe pods and not the green ones so ensure to pick decent sized Bhut Jolokia pods that are bright red in colour. If you have Bhut Jolokia plant at your home then is careful while plucking then so as to not to damage the flowering Bhut Jolokia pods before you get them to the kitchen.
Step 2: Adequate sunlight is necessary to dry the Bhut Jolokia pods and as you will be mostly preparing the pickle during the summer time (as this is the flowering season of the Bhut Jolokia) so sunshine shouldn’t be a problem (but make sure you do pick a rainy day). Carefully clean the Bhut Jolokia pods under running water to remove any traces of mud from the pods and spread it out on a large plate or preferably a ‘Dola’ (bamboo made big tray). I use a pair of scissors to cut the Bhut Jolokia pods into smaller pieces (be careful to wash the scissors well with soap after this is done). I would recommend the use of gloves for the next step where you spread out the cut pieces of the Bhut Jolokia pods and mix it well with ground turmeric and allow to dry it out in the sun,. Carefully dispose the gloves and clean your hands thoroughly after this process. Allow the Bhut Jolokia to sun dry for a few hours.
Step 3: Take mustard seeds and allow it to soak in a bowl of water for some time and clean it properly and let it dry in the sun for some time. You will need to grind the mustard seeds to a dry paste and for this it is recommended to use a stone grinder (‘Potta’ in Assamese) as this will give a coarse ground texture to the mustard seeds. You can also use a blender but make sure no water is added to grind or else the pickle will go bad.
Step 4: Take a Kadhai (Wok) and heat it to the fullest and later add a decent amount of mustard oil to the Kadhai (wok). Once you see steam coming from the eating oil turn off the gas and sprinkle some Jeera (Cumin) seeds and Fenugreek seeds and let it pop. Be careful so that the seeds do not fall into your eyes. Allow the oil to cool for a while.
Step 5: Take a large glass bottle (preferably a Bounrvita or Milo) and clean it properly to remove any traces of water. Transfer the Bhut Jolokia that was out in the sun into the bottle and put in ground mustard seeds and later pour in the in mixture to the bottle. Take a dry spoon and mix the ingredients together and if you want to reduce the fiery flavour of the Bhut Jolokia then you can add some vinegar and mix the pickle again. Ensure the lid of the bottle is fastened tightly at all time and preferably keep it under the direct sun for a few days before consuming the Bhut Jolokia pickle. Or you can start savouring the flavour of this pickle from the very day you make it as well.
At my house no one eats this Bhut Jolokia pickle as they find it very spicy but I love to eat a few drops of the oil from the pickle with my meals. So the routine is that since I generally use the oil only rom the Bhut Jolokia pickle bottle, most of the chillies still remain inside the bottle and once I see that I am running out of the Bhut Jolokia pickle oil, I simply heat up some mustard oil and pour it back in the bottle again to replenish my quantity of the Bhut Jolokia pickle. The fiery red colour of the Bhut Jolokia gradually fades away with time however.
In case you think Bhut Jolokia would be very hot for you and you would better not eat it then to lower the heat you can replace the Bhut Jolokia pods with green chillies as well. Always ensure to dry the item before putting it into the bottle.
If you find this recipe to prepare the Bhut Jolokia pickle a little cumbersome with all the processes of smearing turmeric on the chillies and all there is another very simple way to prepare the Bhut Jolokia pickle as well and it doesn’t need sun drying of the chilly as well. Simply get the Bhut Jolokia pods from the market and properly clean them under running water. Pat the chillies dry properly using a towel and let them dry under the fan for a while. Cut the chillies into smaller pieces and put them into to glass bottle. Simply add mustard oil without heating it and mix some salt and also add slightly crushed mustard seeds and Jeera seeds and fill the bottle with the oil. This must be kept for at least four days in the hot sun to allow the process of the pickle formation and keep it out in the sun for these four days. After four days the pickle is ready for consumption and you are ready to reap the benefits of the Bhut Jolokia and the mustard as well. After you start savouring this pickle ensure to keep the bottle in sunlight for a few hours once a week so that the flavours keep oozing out of the Bhut Jolokia pods into the pickle oil.
Though many people love to savour the Bhut Jolokia in the form of a pickle, I have always loved to eat the chilly raw along with my meal mixed with little salt. It is said that the Bhut Jolokia has several active compounds that is good for stomach ailments. As the Bhut Jolokia buds grows during the summer season of North East India it is natural cure to beat the severe heat (tropical climate of North East India is very humid that leads to severe perspiration) and so consumption of the Bhut Jolokia pod raw improves the circulation and by speeding up metabolism it allows the body to perspire quickly and thereby bring down the body heat. Compounds in the Bhut Jolokia pod are also believed to cure flu symptoms, open clogged nasal passage, release endorphins to improve mood and even improve heart health. By increasing the metabolism of the body, the Bhut Jolokia also helps to keep a check on a person’s weight as well and no wonder when you travel across the countryside of Assam, you can see the village folks are very slim and fit. Even though I agree that they engage in a lot of physical activity working in the fields but there are some who perform regular job like people in day to day jobs and the amount of rice they consume in one meal is equivalent to what I have across three meals in a day and yet they are the size less than me and it is mostly due to the food habits and the ingredients they use in making the meal is what is the body is able to process properly and hence they do not accumulate the food as fats in their body.
For instance I had once been to an office at Majuli with one of my friends who works with the power distribution company and after the afternoon meal one of the employees had plucked some green mangoes from the tree in the compound and sliced it up and chopped a Bhut Jolokia into smaller pieces and mixed it with the mangoes along with black salt and this was their food after a meal rich and loaded with nutrient. Not only the mango but in the summer season it is a common practice across the villages of Assam to eat fruits mixed with Bhut Jolokia and black salt and all this helps a lot in the metabolism of the body. Another very common fruit eaten during the summers in Assam is the Robab Tenga (Pomelo) that is peeled and diced into smaller pieces and the fruit is mixed with Bhut Jolokia (King Chilly) and black salt/white slat and savoured by the family. Not only the Bhut Jolokia but there are various other green and red chilly species that grow across the villages of Assam and some of them are at par with the Bhut Jolokia when it comes to the spiciness. One such chilly is the Kon Jolokia (Bird’s eye chilly) and called locally as the Man Jolokia/Dhan Jolokia. When you see this chilly species of Assam it is very tiny in size and if you have not tasted this chilly earlier you will say that what could such a bit sized chilly do. But when you taste the Kon Jolokia you will at first feel a nice taste but once It touches the correct taste buds in your tongue you are sure to get an experience of the lifetime with the first expression being you start jumping due to the spiciness and later your eyes turn red and watery and you will surely promise never to eat it again. But as you get used to its hotness and start feeling the changes in your body function with its regular consumption you will surely want to include this chilly in your diet regularly. With the Bhut Jolokia that flowers in the summer season, the Kon Jolokia is mostly a winter chilly and it starts flowering after the monsoon season of Assam ends and so people also use it to make pickle of this chilly as well.
The Bhut Jolokia species is also grown in the states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. In Nagaland it is called as the Naga King Chilly (Naga Morich) and though it is very much similar to the Bhut Jolokia (as per scientific taxonomy it is of a different species) but at the end serves the same purpose of spicing up your culinary diet altogether. This version of the pepper is often to be seen as green in colour but it later ripens and thus the classic red orange colour once the pod ripens. The Naga people have since long known about the benefits of the Bhut Jolokia (Naga king chilly) and they have used it for other purposes as well especially to ward off wild elephants. As many of the earlier Naga tribes used to live in the remote forests because they primarily practiced hunting and also in search of new land for agriculture so they often used to have encounters with wild elephant herds inside these dense forests. These elephant herds used to create havoc in the village going on a rampage destroying houses and paddy fields. So in order to ward off these elephant herds the Naga warriors used to observe their path of entry and on the fences of this path they used to crush and rub the Naga King chilly pods and this would keep the elephants at bay.
The Naga warriors were adept hunters and they knew the art of meat and fish preservation quite well. Whenever they used to go out for hunting expeditions and return with the kill of an animal or catch a good quantity of fish from the nearby streams and rivers they had to ensure to preserve a portion of the meat/fish to be consumed later as going to hunt was not a daily practice and would happen once in a while. So they used to allow the meat/fish to dry in the sun and later keep in the kitchen to smoke by the fire. They used hang the meat/fish pieces on the kitchen shelves and as the fire smoke filled the room it would prepare the meat for a natural preservation process. Later the family will use this meat to roast it over the fire and serve it with rice beer mixed with Naga king chilly and naga coriander. But the most important use of the meat is to make a fiery hot chutney wherein the meat or fish pieces are put on a stone grinder and mixed with Naga king chillies, garlic, naga coriander, some herbs and salt and pounded on with a stone crusher and the result is a fiery hot meaty chutney that can be used to eat along with a meal of rice, dal and boiled vegetables. The Naga warriors knew about the benefits of the various herbs and fruits around them and they used to eat this along with their meal that made them brave the toughest conditions and give them the strength to continue on their explorations of head hunting (a practice wherein an army of Naga warriors used to invade other villages of other Naga clans and a fierce battle would be waged among both the sides. A Naga warrior used to chop off the head of the slain enemy and carry it back to his village as an act of his bravery and the more number of skulls on the porch of a Naga warrior’s home used to symbolize his power).
A simple recipe to make out of dried fish or meat along with the Naga King Chilly/Bhut Jolokia is mentioned below:
Step 1: This has use fish/meat that has been dried locally at someone’s home under the sun and so this will ensure this variety of meat/fish will not contain any mud or artificial chemical that has been used to dry the meat/fish.
Step 2: In a pan put very little mustard oil and fry the meat/fish pieces in the oil for a while. As the meat/fish is also sun dried and smoked so it is partially cooked. The frying on high heat will ensure to remove any bacteria from the meat/fish. Transfer the fried pieces to a stone/metal grinder. In the same oil fry some peeled garlic pods. The garlic pods can be added raw as well but if you do not like the smell of the raw garlic (though it is quite healthy it leaves a stench in your mouth) as well. After frying the garlic pieces add it to the grinder.
Step 3: If you want you can add a tomato as well. But if you add the tomato you will need to ensure that you finish the chutney in one day itself otherwise without refrigeration the chutney might go bad. Add a nice Bhut Jolokia/Naga King Chilly to the grinder and top it up with some salt and the Naga dhania or you can use regular coriander as well.
Step 4: Pound this mixture in the stone grinder for some time with your hands and ensure that you get a smooth mixture of the ingredients into a paste. Transfer the chutney into a serving bowl and you are ready to reap the benefits of the Bhut Jolokia/Naga King chilly. This will be very hot chutney and so you need to ensure to take a very small serving with your meal (maybe a small tea spoon). If you can’t digest hot food then take very little of it and ensure to wash your hands thoroughly after your meal.
To conclude, the Bhut Jolokia is a very versatile chilly and can be used in various ways to include in your diet to reap the health benefits of this chilly. You can not only eat it raw but also prepare a flavourful pickle out of it to be had later in your meals. Not only as a food, Bhut Jolokia has been researched to be used in various other defence mechanisms as well. The fiery properties of the Bhut Jolokia has been since long researched and included in several defence mechanisms and one of the most popular item that has resulted in this is the pepper spray that has served as a boon to many working ladies in today’s world. The scientists have found a unique way to blend the hot properties of the Bhut Jolokia into the form of a pepper spray that when sprayed into a miscreant’s eye almost blinds him temporarily and the miscreant feels paralyzed for a while until he washed his eyes thoroughly. This has come as a boon for many single women who fall prey to such miscreants with eve teasing. Indian scientists have also found a unique way to use the properties of the Bhut Jolokia in hand grenades that could be used to disperse large mobs and crowds as the gas that comes out of this grenade can cause severe burning sensation in the eyes of the rioters. The Indian army had also used the properties of the Bhut Jolokia to flush out terrorists who were hiding inside a cave.