The peppers vary in size and shape depending on the specific variety, but are generally small, conical, and slender, tapering to a point on the non-stem end. The pods range in length from 2 to 7 centimeters, and the skin is smooth, taut, and waxy, ripening from green to bright red when mature. Underneath the surface, the flesh is thin, crisp, and pale red, encasing a central cavity filled with small, round, and flat cream-colored seeds. The peppers have a fruity, subtly earthy flavor with a pungent heat that slowly builds and then lingers on the palate.
The peppers are a good source of vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants that can boost the immune system, increase collagen production, and help prevent vision loss. The peppers also contain fiber, copper, potassium, vitamins B6 and K, and capsaicin, which is a chemical compound that triggers the brain to feel the sensation of heat or spice. Capsaicin has been shown to provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
The peppers are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as sautéing, stir-frying, and boiling. The fresh peppers can be sliced and tossed into salads, minced into marinades and dressings, or blended into pastes, sauces, and dips. In Thailand, a popular table condiment known as nahm bplah mixes the diced peppers with fish sauce, spices, and garlic for a spicy flavor. The peppers are also incorporated into soups such as tom kha, curries, stir-fries, and cooked meats such as pla rad prik, which is a fried fish drizzled in chili sauce. In addition to food-based dishes, the peppers can be stirred into spicy cocktails or dried and ground into a powder for use as a spice. The peppers pair well with coconut milk, lime juice, garlic, onions, shallots, peanuts, herbs such as cilantro, mint, and Thai basil, bell peppers, yuzu, eggplant, potatoes, and meats such as fish, poultry, pork, and beef. The fresh peppers will keep for up to two weeks when stored whole and unwashed in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
The peppers are available year-round.