HOW IS PEPPER USED IN COOKING AROUND THE WORLD?
Fragrant black, burning red, delicate pink, green and white — pepper from different countries has such a palette of color and taste that you can make a profound gastromap of the whole world.
There is hardly a country where pepper isn't used in national cuisine. Take, for example, Spain, which seems to be indifferent to spicy food. In its Northern part, Galicia, there is Padron village, the surrounding fields of which is planted with the green pepper of the same name. Completely harmless at the first sight, but fried in a hot pan and lavishly flavored with flakes of salt, it is served in every local tavern. With an obligatory warning: there are several "hot" peppers in the plate. Strong pods don't differ from non-strong ones. It turns out to be a strange gastroroulette game. In neighboring Extremadura, there is their own "hero" - a fiery-red pimenton from the town of Vera. Sweet or pungent pimenton powder is indispensable in chorizo sausages, the head of goat cheese are rolled off in it and Spanish lentil soup is also flavoured with it.
Moving to the East, to the French-Basque village of Espelette. The local cuisine has been run by its namesake pepper for the last couple of centuries. Red garlands of fresh and dried espelette adorn the front gardens, balconies and Basque markets. The locals cook piperade with espelette, it is the national dish cooked of tomatoes, onions, garlic and green pepper. They add in piperade scrambled eggs, bake the fish on it and in the end flavor with ground espelette. Every year, about 1,500 tons of pepper are collected, so there is enough for flavorful jams, marinades, and desserts. By the way, dark chocolate with chili has long been made by Swiss chocolatiers Lindt factories and by private confectioners around the world.
The espeleta ancestor is the Mexican chili, delivered to Europe by Christopher Columbus in the XVI century. He also gave Hungary paprika, which is now literally in the blood of the Magyars. They say: if you want to get to know us better, try Papar, especially in rich goulash. But it is not limited by goulash: Zeller Bistro in Budapest offers a whole menu with national spices, including excellent desserts. You can study the issue more thoroughly and go to the festival in the town of Szeged, where the paprika museum is located. Here you will be told that at first it grew exclusively in the Balkan aristocracy gardens, and it was not always sweet, as it is today: at the beginning of the last century, paprika was so strong that only unmarried girls were allowed to collect it. Young mothers risked burning their babies' skin with a burning ingredient after work. Papar owes its pleasant taste to the Hungarian botanists’ efforts.
What about our favorite black pepper? Unlike Chile, it has more ancient history. As many centuries ago, sweet peas are collected for us in the southern provinces of India. White, green, pink and black, they all are the same type of pepper but at different stages of ripening. And the most ripe of all is white. Its subtle flavor is good for fish dishes, but without pink it is impossible to prepare the right gin and tonic. It is also used by perfumers in women's perfumes. We love black one in the Italian pasta and in pork and in fuet sausages, where it must be put as the whole peas. But you should not mix the varieties of piper nigrum as delicate pink and white in such mixes lose all their aromatic power.
India supplies the whole world not only with allspice, but also with chili. For five centuries, it has become a key ingredient in all Asian dishes. And it all started with medicinal lotions and preserving meat, which is vital in a hot, humid climate. Gradually, Chile has had a hundred subspecies of different flavours and strongness. There is even a burning scale developed by the American chemist Wilbur Scoville. According to it the strongest variety in the world is the Indian Naga (800 000— 1 359 000 Scoville), the next follows strong habanero (350,000). For comparison, the strongness of Thai and Cayenne pepper is estimated at 50,000 scovilles, and the famous Tabasco is at 8000 Scovilles.
The most burning pepper is cut in gloves, cooked without seeds and tail, and must be removed from the dish before serving. No Thai soup, curry or Mexican quesadilla can be cooked without chilli.
In the Chili homeland, in Mexico, peppers are the basis of all dishes. Green jalapeno is good as its strongness gently warms, and does not burn. Mexicans stuff this pepper with cheese, wrap it in cornmeal burritos, crumble it in guacamole, and make Tabasco chipotle out of overripe smoked jalapeno. What to say if even tequila is not tequila when there is no fire in it, i.e. the omnipresent burning chili!