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The Bird´s Eye Chili – Small but punchy

The Bird’s eye chili or Capsicum annuum is one of the most commonly found chilies in the world. The name remains somewhat of a mystery, as the appearance of the chili is similar to a birds beak, not a birds eye (unless the bird in question was reared in Chernobyl).

birds eye chili

What does it taste like? How spicy is it?

They are a perennial fruit (meaning they grown all year round), measuring around 4-6cm in length and are most commonly used when green or red. They have a fruity, peppery taste and pack a pretty powerful punch, measuring between 50k-100k on the Scoville scale, with the African version considerably hotter, reaching up to 175k. When they are green on the vine they tend to be a little more sour and bitter, great for providing a contrast in your dishes, while the red version is hotter with more pronounced fruity overtones. These chilies are popular all over the world, but are particularly common in South East Asia, and are a staple ingredient of many Indian, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian dishes. They are also omnipresent in many parts of Southern Africa and form the base of the famous Peri Peri dishes.

Where do they come from?

As with all chilies their origins lie in Central and South America (principally Mexico) and were then spread all over the globe by Spanish and Portuguese explorers. The Portuguese were obviously the better salesmen and they spread their botanical seed far and wide throughout their (then) colonies, most noticeably Africa (hello Peri Peri) and the South of India (hello Vindaloo). The Portuguese cottoned on to the value of chilies due to their similarity to black pepper (a highly valued commodity at the time), and they ease at which they grow in tropical Africa and South East Asia which provided the ideal growing conditions of fertile land, high humidity and clement temperatures. The Portuguese certainly left their mark and the unstoppable march of these piquant peppers began from the early 15th century.

Chile Ojo de Pájaro

Health benefits of Bird Eye Chilies

If you’re already a vociferous bird’s eye chili consumer, then you can rest assured you’re enjoying a whole host of benefits that chili peppers can provide such as regulating your metabolism, banishing migraines, clearing a blocked nose and reducing joint inflammation.

Peri Peri Chicken Recipe

If you’re not yet a convert of this little devil then here’s a simple and delicious recipe for Peri Peri Chicken, similar to one you might get delivered from Nandos. Let’s call it a fakeway. Take eight chicken thighs (drumsticks will work too) and score them with a knife. In a bowl blend two or three chopped Bird Eye Chilies, a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, two teaspoons of smoked paprika, two teaspoons of oregano, some salt and pepper to taste and the juice of two limes. Mix the concoction together, and lather over the chicken, making sure to get all the way into those nooks and crannies. Cover the chicken and leave to marinade in the fridge for up to 24hrs. Preheat your oven to 180 ° and put in the chicken for 40 minutes. Serve with coconut rice and a slaw.

Fun fact – the African Bird’s Eye chili grows with the fruit pointing upwards, while its Asian brother’s fruit grows pointing down.