The infamous naga chilli
Bordering the North Indian state of Myanmar, Nagaland is a mountainous state and home to the naga red chilli. Known locally as the Bhut Jolokia, and despite being exceptionally hot, this chilli carries a distinctive fruity aroma. The many indigenous tribes of Nagaland, who celebrate their culture and diversity with festivals and markets, incorporate the naga chilli into their everyday cooking. Depending on the type of plant, the chilli is as likely to have a rough skin as it is a thin, smooth one. The fruit can be red, yellow, orange, or chocolate coloured. They can also be harvested green. The fruit is conical in shape and can grow to 85mm long and 30mm wide.
Long recognised as one of the hottest chillies in the world, the degree of the spicy heat varies. Whilst hardly an accurate way of measuring the pungency of chilli peppers, on record is a measurement of 1,598,277 SHU (Scoville scale) where, for comparison, Tabasco sauce rates 500-10,000 SHU and pure capsaicin rates at 16,000,000 SHU.
Handling the naga chilli requires care and consideration. The oils in the fruits are incredibly spicy to say the least, and can remain on the skin even after scrupulous hand-washing. Wearing neoprene gloves will help to reduce the effects of these oils on the skin during handling and preparation. The need to avoid contact with eyes or other areas of sensitivity should go without saying!
Eating them is also more than a challenge, but if you happen to have a taste for hot chilli dishes and curries, try Abul’s naga chicken or lamb dish cooked with naga chillies from Bangladesh. Despite the spiciness of these dishes, they have a very fresh flavour and are decidedly aromatic. Try them with Abul’s basmati rice and naan bread to mop up the sauce.