Bird's eye chili

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Bird's eye chili
Thai peppers.jpg
Several bird's eye chilis on a shrub
Species Capsicum annuum[1]
Cultivar Bird's Eye
Heat Very hot
Scoville scale 100,000–225,000 SHU

Bird's eye chili, bird eye chili, bird's chili, chile de árbol, piri piri or Thai chili is a chili pepper, a cultivar from the species Capsicum annuum, commonly found in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia. It is often confused with a similar-looking chili derived from the species Capsicum frutescens, the cultivar "siling labuyo". Capsicum frutescens fruits are generally smaller and characteristically point to the sky. Bird's eye chili can also be found in India, particularly in Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam, and Kerala. It is used in traditional dishes of the Kerala cuisine. This cultivar is also found in rural areas of Sri Lanka (known as kōcci, කොච්චි), where it is used as a substitute for green chilis. It is also a main ingredient in kochchi sambal, a salad made using freshly scraped coconut ground with bird's eye chilis and seasoned with salt and lime juice. It is used extensively in Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean, Lao, Khmer, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisine.


Bird's eye chilis of assorted colors

The bird's eye chili plant is a perennial with small, tapering fruits, often two or three, at a node. The fruits are very pungent.

The bird's eye chili is small, but is quite hot (piquant). It measures around 100,000–225,000 Scoville units, which is at the lower half of the range for the hotter habanero but still many times more spicy than a jalapeño.[2]

Commercial-scale drying of chilis in Vietnam.

Characteristics of the bird's eye chili plant[3]

  • Plant height: up to 2 m
  • Stem colour: green
  • Leaf colour: green
  • Leaf size: 3–8 cm by 2–4 cm
  • Fruit colour at maturity: green, orange, or red
  • Fruit shape: conical
  • Fruit length: 2–3 cm
  • Fruit width at shoulder: 0.5 cm
  • Fruit weight: 2–3 g
  • Fruit surface: smooth
  • Seed colour: light tan
  • Seeds per fruit: 10–20


All chilis found around the world today have their origins in Mexico, Central America, and South America.[4] They were spread by Spanish and Portuguese colonists, missionaries, and traders, together with many other now common crops such as maize, tomatoes and pineapples. This is now called the Columbian Exchange. The chili varieties found in Southeast Asia today were brought there in the 16th or 17th century.[5][6] African bird's eye chilis, particularly those grown in Kenya, are some of the most pungent chiles in the world. The African variant's strength can be compared with habaneros or scotch bonnets on the Scoville scale.[7]

Uses by humans

As food

Bird's eye chili with fish sauce and lime juice is served with a multitude of Thai dishes[8]

In Vietnamese cuisine, these chilis are used in soups, salads, and stir-fried dishes. They are also put in a wide variety of sauces, sambals, and marinades, used as a condiment or eaten raw, both fresh and dried.

In Thai cuisine, these chilis are highly valued for their fruity taste and extreme spiciness. They are extensively used in many Thai dishes, such as in Thai curries and in Thai salads, green as well as the ripe red chilis; or they can just be eaten raw on the side, with for instance, khao kha mu (stewed pork trotter served with rice).

As ornamentals

The more decorative, but slightly less pungent chili, sometimes known as "Thai ornamental", has peppers that point upward on the plant, and range from green to yellow, orange, and then red. It is the basis for the hybrid cultivar "Numex twilight", essentially the same, but less pungent, and starting with purple fruit, creating a rainbow effect. These peppers can grow wild in places such as Saipan and Guam.

In health

Due to the slow release of capsaicin through small ventilated pores within the skin of the chili, it has been regularly used throughout India for its antibacterial qualities. Having been applied by lightly grazing the affected area with a ripe chili, it can help clean wounds and fight the risk of infection.[9]

See also


  1. ^ DeWitt, D.; Bosland, P.W. (2009). The Complete Chile Pepper Book: A Gardener's Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking. Timber Press. ISBN 978-0-88192-920-1. 
  2. ^ "The world's 10 hottest chillies". Australia Geographic. 
  3. ^ "Easy to Grow Chili – Birds Eye Chilis". 
  4. ^ Andrews, Jean (1995). "Historical Background". Peppers: the Domesticated Capsicums. Austin, Texas, USA: University of Texas Press. pp. 1–10. 
  5. ^ "How the chili spread from its South American home and spiced up world cuisine – TIME's Summer Journey – TIME". 14 June 2007. 
  6. ^ Joe Cummings (2000). Thailand. Lonely Planet. pp. 79–. ISBN 978-1-86450-026-4. 
  7. ^ Bird's Eye Production –
  8. ^ "Nam Pla Prik น้ำปลาพริก - The Ubiquitous Thai Table Sauce". SheSimmers. 
  9. ^ Cichewicz, RH; Thorpe, PA (1996-06-01). "The antimicrobial properties of chile peppers (Capsicum species) and their uses in Mayan medicine". J Ethnopharmacol. 52: 61–70. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(96)01384-0. PMID 8735449. 
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