The people of Assam have a love-love relationship with chillies. We eat simple food, light in masalas, but heavy in chillies. Most people like to consume them raw, with lunch or dinner. The hotter the pepper, the better the taste. There are competitions all over the state to produce some of the hottest chillies. The people in Assam argue among themselves to claim which region in the state can produce the spiciest chilli. Residents here will laugh at the Carolina Reaper’s claim as the current hottest pepper in the world.
Pickling is an effective way to preserve and enhance the flavour of chillies while slightly reducing their heat. In Assam we pickle hot chillies regularly, especially the really spicy ones. My mother recently turned some Darjeeling mountain chillies to their pickled state using just salt. They are known as cherry peppers due to their cherry-like shape, while it’s called Dalle Khorsani in the local tongue.
My mother added the chillies to a jar and filled it with a large amount of salt. After two days, the chillies had released a lot of water and oil due to the salt. You can add that oil to curries and daals and it will really give a good punch of heat.
I tend to stay away from these pickles. They are too hot for my liking. But my mother tells me that the cherry pepper pickle has medicinal properties. After from increasing your water intake when you bite one of them, people suffering gastritis can apparently consume this pepper without any ill effects. Such patients are usually recommended avoiding chillies and spicy food in their diet. I have not verified the information, so please consult your doctor before consuming any of them.
My mother even dares to pickle the much-feared Naga Ghost Chilli (or bhoot jolakia as we know it), bare handed! I would not recommend you to touch that chilli without gloves though. The oil can give you a burning sensation once in contact with your skin! My uncles consume more than half of a Ghost chilli with lunch. They are real daredevils, I tell you. But not as brave as Anandita Dutta Tamuli. Don’t know her? Check out this video of her eating the chillies as she tried to break the world record. Gordon Ramsey was there that day!