With so many varieties and common use of spices and chillies in preparing food in South Asia, it seems there's No Life without Spice for South Asians.
There are over 400 varieties of chillies in the world and almost 16% of the world's food production is attributed to chilli. India is the largest producer of chilli followed by China. There are many varieties that are grown across India and a few are mentioned below.
Known more for its colour than its spice, this chilli is ground into powder and used not only in Kashmiri recipes but in many dishes across the country and the world. It adds a beautiful red colour to the dish and enhances its taste. It's so mild that it measures barely 2000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). The SHU measures the spiciness or the hotness of chilli. The highest is Pure Capsaicin and Dihydrocapsaicin, which measure 16,000,000 SHU. Now you know how mild the Kashmiri Chilli is.
Andhra cuisine is famous for its extremely spicy dishes and the chilli responsible for this is the Guntur Sannam - S4. The Sannam chilli has many varieties that are grown not only in Andhra but also in Madhya Pradesh. Known for its heat, unless one is used to such a high level of spiciness, you will find many people in tears when eating Andhra dishes. This chilli has become so popular; it is exported all over the world. It accounts for roughly 30% of India's chilli exports.
Bird's Eye Chilli - Dhani
Dhani is grown in the North East and is tiny but packs a punch of spice. It is used not only in cooking but also in chutneys and pickles. When eating a pickle made of these chillis, it is best to literally take half a teaspoon on your plate to begin with and to savour it by eating tiny portions of this quantity. That way your tears don't flow in torrents!
These are considered as one of the hottest chillies in the world. Supposedly the Indian Army wants to use Naga chilli as weapons! These are extremely hot. After eating it, people have reported of eyes burning, leaky noses; people collapsing, vomiting and getting stomach cramps. Some have even retired to their beds for a day or two to recover from the effects!
Grown primarily in Gujarat, this chilli is used widely for cooking in India. Though its green initially, once it matures it turns red in colour. They can even be grown at home. It is one of the country's most important crops.
This chilli is grown in Karnataka. It is long and has a thin skin, and when it's dried has a crinkly appearance. It is known for its colour and pungency and is consumed across India. The Byadagi Chilli is similar to Paprika.
There are many more varieties that are produced across India and are consumed in South Asia and other part of the world. Chillies are integral to Indian cooking and most of us have developed stomachs of steel having grown up eating chillies. Used in almost every dish, it's a major commercial cash crop in India and synonymous with Desi cuisine.