Hot Peppers

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Are Hot Peppers the Perfect Food for the Hot Tropical Climate?

One of the more astounding things about living in the tropics is the absolute love for hot spicy food. The varieties of hot peppers are numerous and can be found in many forms from the Americas, to North Africa,

These peppers have a bite
Red Hot Chili Peppers

from the Mideast to Southeast Asia. While the Spaniards spread a number of hot pepper varieties found in the Americas across the world, local varieties have been used by the indigenous cultures of many regions.

There are ways hot peppers help make tropical life easier.

First, the spicy burn caused by chili peppers makes the body sweat which cools it off and that is the most evident practical way hot peppers make tropical life easier. That combined with their varied rich flavors and levels of heat are most likely the reasons they are so widely consumed. In addition to these observable effects there are a number of health related reasons to eat these bites of fire.

Health benefits and medical uses of peppers

  • Large concentrations flavonoids including Alpha Carotene, Beta Carotene, Lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • High concentration of antioxidants and other vitamins A, B1, B6, C and E
  • A good source of several minerals including Potassium, Iron, Manganese, Copper and Magnesium
  • The alkaloid chemical Capsaicin that is the key ingredient that gives the peppers their heat and much of their flavor has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and lower arterial inflammation.
  • Capsaicin also provides the analgesic heat in many creams and rubs used to treat sore muscles and arthritis.
  • Capsaicin is also the active ingredient in hot pepper defensive spray used to deter attackers.

Suffice it to say hot peppers have practical, medicinal, and excellent nutritional benefits.

Red Hot Peppers, Where to Find them or How to Avoid them

Asian Hot Sauce
Southeast Asia Hot Sauce

Red hot peppers are found in many foods but the following list contains the principal uses we have encountered.

  • Salsas and Sauces
  • Pickled vegetables and hot oils
  • Red pepper powder and flakes
  • Curries
  • Prepared foods
  • Soups, stews and marinates
  • Fresh produce
  • Dried peppers

In Latin America hot chili peppers are called picante, in Asia hot oil is called Fire Oil and the sauces go by many names including Badjak and hot garlic sauce, in North Africa the sauces are called piri piri or harissa, in the Middle East it is called Zhug, but whatever it is called the fundamental ingredient is hot peppers. If you plan to retire in the tropics or just visit be prepared to develop your heat tolerance, both to the weather and to the food.


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Plantains not your everyday banana

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You may have been among those who have asked what is a plantain

You should not feel embarrassed if you have asked what is a pantain

ripe plantain
Not your everyday banana

because it is not commonly available in north American supermarkets.  We find  this surprising because it is such an integral part of tropical foods from Thailand across Africa to Latin America.

Plantains are a member of the banana family but unlike the banana most are accustomed to eating the plantain is too fibrous to be eaten raw.  They need to be cooked to be enjoyed.  Fried, twice fried, baked, stewed or boiled are all preparations used for plantains.

Green or ripe is another distinction to consider in how to prepare your plantain.  Like all  fruits the plantain sweetens as it matures

twice fried plantain

so green plantains are used more as a vegetable style preparation and ripe ones more as a dessert.

One of the most popular preparation of plantains is a twice fried preparation that goes by several names including patacones and tostones .  This is a simple yet delicious preparation of green unripe plantains where they are sliced and fried in oil.  After the first frying they are smashed as close to flat as possible and then refried. They are typically salted and served like a french fried potato most often with ketchup.

Adding a bit of sweet to savory soups, stews and vegetable dishes is another classic use of plantains because they are sweet but not overbearingly so they add a unique twist of flavor.  They are most commonly found in bean, chickpea, lentil and pigeon pea stews where they add just the right amount of sweetness to brighten up these savory dishes.

Ok so I held the best for last like everyone does at dinner, desserts!

fried plantains
Sweet goodness

For these plates the riper the plantain, the better.  The first question that you need to answer is how sweet is sweet enough?

Simply frying a ripe plantain caramelizes the natural sugars and makes a tasty sweet dessert by itself but if you sprinkle  a bit of powdered cinnamon on top be prepared fo enjoy a whole new sweet delight.



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