There’s a decided aroma of peppery heat that rises off the Thai Bird Chile Powder, mixed with the sweet, deep scent of ripe peppers. There’s nothing delicate about this chile powder, and it shows up ready to get to work and elevate the flavors of everything around it. There are about five seconds of lag time from the first taste of this chile powder’s nutty, fruity flavor profile, before the aggressive heat comes in and settles right in the middle of the tongue and lingers. At 40,000-100,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), it’s hotter than cayenne pepper but about half as hot as a habanero.
Chiles did not arrive in Thailand until the 16th century, but have become one of the most important vegetable crops in Thailand. Of the 79 types of chiles grown in that country, two varietals compromise the bulk of commercial production. One type, the prik khee fab pepper, basically means “chili”. The other, prik khee nu, is the Thai Bird Chile. The Bird Pepper variety is the more popular of the two; according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, there were over 175,000 acres devoted to chile production in the country, with almost 70% of this acreage devoted exclusively to bird peppers.