Bird’s eye chili

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Known in North America as bird’s eye chili, this chili pepper most commonly used in Southeast Asia may be tiny but it packs heat.

It can be found in Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Lao, Indonesian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan cuisine.  Filipino cuisine uses a similar-looking, but smaller (and some would say hotter) chili pepper called “siling labuyo.”

Mexican in origin, bird’s eye chili is said to have found its way to Asia via Portuguese and Spanish colonists and traders in the 1500s.

The easiest way to use bird’s eye chili: as a condiment for fried/grilled fish or meat, served with rice. The classic Vietnamese dipping sauce  Nước Chấm/Nước Mắm Chấm will not be complete without bird’s eye chili.

Vietnamese dipping sauce

  • ½ cup water
  • · 2 tbsp sugar
  • · Juice of 1 freshly-squeezed lime
  • · 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • · 2 bird’s eye chilies, seeded & thinly sliced (more if you like it hot)
  • · 2 tbsp fish sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. It can keep for a month in the refrigerator if stored in a jar.

Bird’s eye chili is available in most Asian supermarkets and in both Chinatown in Spadina and Chinatown Two, on Broadview.


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