Monday, March 02, 2009

Good, Hot Stuff

These days, I feel that I'm addicted to chillies. If I'm eating noodles, I'll always need fresh cut chillies especially small red fiery hot, bird’s eyes chillies in soy sauce to go with it. When I eat out at my restaurant, SPICE QUEEN, my staff ensure that a small sauce plate of chillies or sambal comes along with my food.
But I was not like this when I was younger. My father used to cane me because I refuse to eat certain dishes because that would be the only dishes my mum would have cooked for the day. I used to be such that I rather go to bed hungry than eat something spicy hot.
Now it is different. It is chillies and more chillies in my life. Since most of my friends are non-Indians, many have the notion that chillies are bad for health. Some of my Chinese friends told me that eating chillies causes pimples to surface on the face and trust me I never had pimples when I was young or now. Then my German friend, Kristie Buss, told me that chillies can cause diarhoea and stomach upsets. Another Indian friend said “chillies can cause loss of memory and also promotes blindness or eyesight problems”.
I think chillies are great. They are beautiful to look, to touch, to smell and to cook. Not only that, they are great fresh, dried, ground, crumbled, pounded, cut into strips, pickled, and the list goes on.
Today, a friend said that his doctor said chillies can cause ulcer. And so I did further research on my favourite subject – SPICE. Do you know that some people classify chillies as a ‘fruit’.
Chillie became extremely popular in India after it was first brought to India by Vasco-da-Gama. Chillie found its way in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medical system. According to Ayurveda, chillie has many medicinal properties such as stimulating good digestion and endorphins, a natural pain killer to relieve pains. A survey conducted in Singapore in 1994 shows that the incidence of gastric ulcers is more common among the Chinese than among Indians and Malays who eat far more chillies. In another study on animals, it was found that the active ingredient capsaicin in chillies, increases gastric blood flow and protects the stomach from damage. It also encourages the healing of experimental gastric ulcer. It seems taking a dose of chilli actually protects the stomach from subsequent damage by aspirin or alcohol.
By the way, if you want to relieve yourself off a fiery mouthful of chillie, do not reach for ice water!! Drink milk or yoghurt as capsaicin dissolves very well in the presence of fats. Hence, the Indians always serve raita, a light salad with yoghurt dressing as an accompaniment with all their fiery hot dishes.
Chillie has also been used to help relieve arthritic pain. And ironically, that burning sensation stimulates the release of endorphins, which make us feel good - which explains why some people like me just can't get enough of the stuff!!!