Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Friday Food 32 – Facing Heaven Chilli Peppers

Friday food is a weekly article about one of the more unusual food items to be found in Liuzhou that week. This week, we are staying in  Sichuan for Facing Heaven Chilli Peppers.

When you think how much of China’s cuisine uses the various chilli peppers, it is impossible not to wonder what they did before these were introduced by the Portuguese relatively recently. Sichuan food is particularly well known for its liberal use of chillies, but Hunan probably uses more. And what would luosifen be without a bit of chilli?

Of course, as elsewhere, chilli peppers come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colours and degrees of ‘heat’. One of my favourites are the (originally) Sichuanese 朝天椒, often translated as ‘Facing Heaven Peppers’. These are more commonly known in Liuzhou as 指天椒 which I will translate as ‘Point to the Sky Peppers’.

The names all come from the fact that, on the bush, the chillies literally point skyward, rather than hang down as do most other pepper varieties.

For culinary use, the chillies are nearly always dried.  They are available in small bags of around 50 grams at around ¥2.50. They are not particularly hot, but Sichuan cuisine uses them in huge quantities. One of my favourite dishes, 辣子鸡 uses the full 50g or more in one dish consisting of only two chicken breasts. (Recipe here.) There are less than 20g of the things in the picture below. The chillies are not actually eaten but impart a wonderful flavour to the dish. I’ve also had ribs cooked in this style.

Dried Facing Heaven Chillies 朝天椒 / 指天椒

Occasionally, the immature green chillies are sold fresh. These are known as 米指天椒 or just 米椒, although other unrelated peppers can also be called 米椒. literally means ‘rice’ but is also used to to mean ‘small’ or ‘baby (as in immature)’.

Baby Pointing to Heaven Chillies

Baby Pointing to Heaven Chillies

These are small but hot Handle with care.

. This entry was posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2012 at 11:15 am and is filed under Food and Drink, Friday Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Friday Food 32 – Facing Heaven Chilli Peppers”

  1. Da Wei Says:

    Who says one can’t eat the chillies????? 🙂

  2. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    No one said you can’t.

    I was once in a Liuzhou Sichuan restaurant, where, for a joke, a companion told a newcomer that you should only eat the chillies and not the chicken. The poor chap was nearly hospitalised.

  3. ThanksfortheCrepes Says:

    I was going to suggest the seeds be saved after you asked if anyone knew what to do with them on eGullet – I need to buy crushed red pepper (although I have about 3 oz. left), and like hot stuff. I use a lot on pasta, eggs, and other things. It’s hard to believe, even to me, but I go through at least a pound a year by myself.

    After hearing your description of just how hot the Pointing to Heaven peppers are, I have to concur that you were right by binning the seeds, which carry most of the heat.

    In fact, I’m wondering if I’d even be up to a dish cooked with them although they get discarded. I like hot and spicy, but who wants to hurt themselves over it?

    These almost sound like they could be weaponized. 🙂

  4. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    Actually, the laziji is not that hot, at all. The chillies and peppercorns re not eaten, but give a warmish glow to the chicken. No pain involved.

    Few people would be tempted to eat the chillies anyway – they remain rather dry and unappealing.

    I did think of making my own pepper spray!

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