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Red Spur Chile Peppers
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Red Spur chiles are elongated, slender, and slightly curved or straight pods, averaging 5 to 12 centimeters in length, and have a conical shape that tapers to a distinct point on the non-stem end. The pods may be twisted to curled, and the skin is smooth to slightly wrinkled, waxy, and taut, ripening from green to red when mature. Underneath the surface, the flesh is crisp, pale green to red depending on maturity, and aqueous, encasing a central cavity filled with round and flat, cream-colored seeds. Red Spur chile peppers have a strong, fruity aroma and are sweet and earthy with a mild to moderate heat.
Red Spur chile peppers are available year-round.
Red Spur chile peppers, botanically classified as Capsicum frutescens, are elongated, fleshy peppers that belong to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Also known as Prik Chee Fah, which translates from Thai to mean “chiles pointing to the sky,” Red Spur chile peppers grow in an upright fashion and are a popular ornamental variety in home gardens. The peppers are commonly harvested in their red, mature stage and have a mild to moderate heat, ranging 5,000-30,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. Red Spur chile peppers are also utilized in culinary applications and are primarily blended to make red curry paste to flavor curries, soups, and sauces.
Red Spur chiles are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can help boost the immune system and also contains some vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese.
Red Spur chile peppers are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as frying, sautéing, and roasting. When raw, the peppers can be chopped into sauces, blended into pastes, or sliced and tossed into salads. They are also frequently used as a garnish to add dimension and aesthetic appeal to dishes. Red Spur chile peppers have a moderate heat that can be reduced slightly if the seeds and membranes are removed within the pod before cooking. The peppers can be fried or roasted and stirred into soups, stews, and curries. In addition to using whole, Red Spur chiles can be dried, ground, and added to sauces, dips, and used as a seasoning. They can also be fried with sugar, garlic, and shallots to create a sweet chili sauce. Red Spur chiles pair well with pork, shrimp, tofu, pineapple, lemon, lime, garlic, onion, ginger, coconut milk, bell pepper, eggplant, and tomatoes. Fresh peppers will keep 1-2 weeks when stored whole and unwashed in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator. When dried, Red Spur chiles can last for a year when stored in an airtight container.
In Thailand, chile peppers are a staple ingredient used to flavor main dishes, dips, and pastes, and are often used more than black pepper. Of the many chile pepper varieties found in Thailand, Red Spur chile peppers are one of the most popular everyday peppers and are traditionally used to flavor Thai red curry paste. The peppers are blended with garlic, lemongrass, red bell peppers, and aromatics such as coriander, turmeric, and ginger to create a flavorful paste. This paste is a staple base flavoring for curries, soups, and rice dishes, and it can also be used as a condiment. Red curry paste is often mixed with coconut milk to create a thick, creamy sauce for curries with chunks of meat and vegetables. Thai cuisine favors a combination of spicy, acidic flavorings and sweet, creamy flavors to create a balanced, layered dish. In addition to curries and soups, Red Spur chile peppers are also used in the crying tiger beef dish, which incorporates grilled beef with a chile dipping sauce.
Red Spur chile peppers are descendants of peppers originally from Central and South America and have been cultivated since ancient times. The original peppers were then introduced to Europe and Asia via Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries and were spread throughout the continents through trade routes. Once established in Asia, pepper plants were highly cultivated for specific traits, and new varieties such as the Red Spur were created. Today, Red Spur chile peppers are primarily found fresh in local markets in Asia. Outside of Asia, the dried versions of the pepper are also available through online retailers in Europe and the United States.