Cauterized Culinary Treats

After six months and nearly 200 posts, it’s hard to believe I haven’t touched on all of my major weaknesses and eccentricities here at SB at least once. Yet much to my surprise, today I found a topic largely unmentioned.


Yes, much scarier than purported “real ghosts.”

My friends, the bhut jolokia is not to be trifled with.

Mom has always been into hot sauce. In the 80s she was known to use it on products ranging from pizza to beer. Of course, in those days when ketchup still outsold salsa, the only readily-available hot sauce worth mentioning was Tabasco. Consequently we always had some around. By high school I picked up the habit myself.

But as true hot sauce connoisseurs know, Tabasco is only the beginning. Today our supermarket shelves offer a much more enlightened variety, ranging from the blue-collar heat of Frank’s Red Hot to the truly sublime Cholula.


Which really, really needs to bring back their garlic flavor.
Image credit:

Then there’s the thrill-seeking element of it all. At a certain point things like Tabasco tend to taste more sweet than hot. You want more. Until a few years ago, most Western hot pepper aficionados such as myself thought the Scotch bonnet habanero was the hottest pepper on the planet. We all know better now.

Native to Assam and Nagaland in northeastern India, the bhut jolokia pepper blew the doors off of chiles most people were familiar with when they became widely known a few years ago. Also known as ghost peppers, these things can easily eclipse 800,000 units on the Scoville scale. To put that in perspective, on a good day original Tabasco sauce hovers around 5,000 units. Back in India, ghost peppers are used as an elephant repellent, for military issue stun grenades, and other novel applications.


A ghost pepper sauce can easily numb your taste buds for half an hour.
Source: personal experience

A while back a good friend was kind enough to give me a bottle of ghost pepper sauce. I’ve used it a grand total of three times. I have to be in a special kind of mood for it.

Now while it’s possible to make much hotter hot sauces by artificially concentrating the capsaicin contained in these and other peppers, as the makers of Dave’s Insanity Sauce and the infamous Blair’s Reserve line have done for some time now, the ghost pepper packs the world’s strongest heat.

Or at least it did.

Early last year the bhut jolokia lost the title of world’s hottest pepper to the diabolical Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which averages a ridiculous 1.2 million Scoville units. Wow. I’ll have to look out for that one.


Image credit: Vicary Archangel

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