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Siling Labuyo Chile Peppers
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Siling Labuyo chile peppers are small pods that grow upright in clusters, averaging 1 to 3 centimeters in length, and have a short, conical shape, tapering to a rounded point on the non-stem end. The skin is smooth, firm, and glossy, ripening from green to red when mature. Underneath the surface, the flesh is crisp, pale red, and aqueous, encasing a central cavity filled with tiny, round, and flat, cream-colored seeds. Siling Labuyo chile peppers have a subtle earthy flavor that is overpowered by its pungent, searing heat.
Siling Labuyo chile peppers are available in the late summer through early fall.
Siling Labuyo chile peppers, botanically classified as Capsicum frutescens, are small, fiery pods that belong to the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Native to the Philippines, Siling Labuyo chile peppers are one of two main varieties found throughout the tropical country and are spicy with intense heat, averaging 80,000-100,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. The peppers were once highly used for their heat in sauces and condiments, but due to a recent influx of other pepper varieties from neighboring countries, Siling Labuyo chile peppers have declined in cultivation becoming endangered. In 2014, Siling Labuyo chile peppers were listed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, which is a database of food items that are at risk of extinction. Efforts are being made to raise awareness around this variety in order to preserve its place in traditional Filipino culinary applications.
Siling Labuyo chile peppers are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and contain iron, folate, magnesium, fiber, and riboflavin. The peppers also provide capsaicin, which is a chemical compound that triggers the brain to feel spice or heat and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In Filipino folk medicine, the capsaicin in Siling Labuyo chile peppers has been used as a natural pain reliever for toothaches. The leaves are also consumed and are known to provide a source of calcium, fiber, and iron.
Siling Labuyo chile peppers are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as boiling and sautéing. The peppers can be utilized whole or chopped in fresh green salads, or they can be tossed into soups, stews, or curries. It is important to note that chopping the peppers and using the pods whole with the seeds included will add the highest amount of heat into dishes. For a mellower spice, the peppers can be blanched, and the seeds and membranes are removed. One of the most common uses of Siling Labuyo chile peppers is crushing them into a mixture of vinegar to make liquid hot sauces, chile sauces, and chile oils. The peppers can also be dried, ground into a powder, and utilized as a seasoning for fish and vegetable dishes. In addition to the peppers, the leaves are known as “dahon ng sili” in the Philippines and are utilized in dishes such as monggo, a pork stew, and tinola, a warming soup. Siling Labuyo chile peppers pair well with shellfish, seafood, poultry, sautéed vegetables, papaya, mango, calamansi, sweet potato, ginger, garlic, onion, sugarcane, vinegar, soy sauce, and coconut milk. The fresh peppers will keep 1-2 weeks when stored whole and unwashed in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator.
In Tagalog, Siling Labuyo translates to mean “wild chili,” which is a nod to the pepper growing extensively throughout the Philippines. It is rumored that Siling Labuyo chile peppers were once distributed all over the country by wild chickens, who favored the small pods and scattered the seeds through excrement, creating a natural source of pepper plants. The Luzon Islands of Mindanao and Bicol in the central Philippines are renowned for their spicy cuisine, which prominently features the use of the Siling Labuyo peppers. The pepper pods are commonly used in a dish known as gulay na lada or bicol express, which consists of Siling Labuyo chile peppers, sliced pork, spices, onion, garlic, and coconut milk. They are also used to make a popular hot sauce available in commercial markets known as Mama Sita’s Pure Siling Labuyo Sauce, typically sprinkled over fried rice, meat dishes, and eggs. In addition to hot sauces, the peppers are traditionally incorporated into sweet and spicy ketchup made with tomatoes, bananas, and spices for a unique flavor.
Siling Labuyo chile peppers are descendants of original pepper varieties that were introduced to the Philippines via Spanish and Portuguese explorers traveling from the New World. After years of growing wild and adapting to the soil and climate of the Philippines, the original pepper varieties naturally evolved into the Siling Labuyo chile peppers that are found in the modern-day. Siling Labuyo chile peppers quickly became a staple seasoning in the cuisine of the Philippines and were highly utilized for their strong spice. Today Siling Labuyo chile peppers have seen a decline in cultivation due to the introduction of other chile varieties and are considered a rare species to find in the local markets in the Philippines. The variety is also sometimes seen growing in home gardens and is cultivated in pots for use in home cooking.
Recipes that include Siling Labuyo Chile Peppers. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Bicolana Express||Bicol Express|
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