Cooking without Indian Chillies in India is like cooking without fire. We are the kings of spice. The substance that gives chillies their heat and intensity when eaten is called capsaicin. Its mainly found in the seeds of the chillies. So if you want the flavor but less heat, then take out the seeds and use the skin alone. The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the chilli, higher the heat. When you eat a chilli, the capsaicin chemicals sends a message to the brain that something hot has been eaten. The pain receptors sends this message from the tongue and the throat. The brain in turn responds to the heat in the mouth by raising the heart rate and brings in the sweat / perspiration.
There are numerous varieties of chillies available in India. India is the worlds largest producer and consumer of chillies. We eat a lot of chillies. I have just compiled the most popular ones that I have used and come across.
Kashmiri Red Chilli – Its an intensely colored chilli. It does not have much heat to it but its the most sought after chilli for its color. When ground, the seeds are removed and the skin is ground to a fine powder. The chillies as such are not widely used. Its more known for the powder that’s made out of it. Its called as Kashmiri mirch.
Guntur – Guntur chilli has to be the most popular chilli in South India. Its spicy and a hot variety of chilli. It comes from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Guntur sannam is a sub-variety that’s very popular and has high demand.
Salem Gundu – Its the most popular chilli used in Tamilnadu and its medium hot. Gundu in Tamil means fat. Its a small round fat chilli with lots of seeds in it. Its widely used in making chutney and sambar and for tempering / tadka purposes.
Byadagi – Byadagi Chillies come from the Haveri district in Karnataka. The chilli is long and wrinkled and deeply red. Its not very hot but imparts a dark colour and aroma. This is my favorite chilli. Its widely used in udipi and mangalore cuisine.
Dhani – Its the dried form of birds eye chilli. Its really spicy and hot and pungent.
Here is a picture of the other popular chillies around the world.
Image courtesy for this picture above Food52