The Chile Japones, aka Japones pepper or "Japanese pepper", is a popular ingredient in Asian, Latin and Caribbean cuisine prized for it's wonderful heat.
Scoville Heat Units: 15,000-30,000 SHU
If you are a fan of Asian cuisine and want to replicate as best as you can the authentic flavors of the delicious foods of this region, you need to know about Chile Japones. Also known as the Hontaka, Santaka, or Oriental style chili peppers, the Japones pepper is a popular ingredient in many Asian, Latin, and Caribbean dishes. Often referred to as ‘fire bringers’, they are used in Schezuan and Hunan cuisine to add a kick of heat without overpowering the existing flavors, making for a complex and tasteful combination.
How Hot Are Japones Peppers?
While they have a rating of 15,000-30,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville scale, Japones peppers are considered to be mild peppers compared to some of their brothers, sisters, and cousins. The milder heat levels, however, make them a tasteful and popular addition to most foods and dishes.
Compare them to the popular jalapeno pepper, which averages around 5,000 SHU and you'll find these peppers are 3 to 6 times hotter, which is a nice level of heat.
What Do Japones Peppers Look Like?
The peppers are typically small and elongated, appearing like regular chilis for the most part. They tend to be around 2 inches long and half an inch wide with a pointed tail. Most Chile Japones are available in their dried forms and have a characteristic rusted or burnt red color that screams ‘spicy!’. You may also find some peppers with a brighter, yellower color. These chilis start off with a typical green color but become reddish-brown as they mature, simultaneously intensifying in the heat factor as well.
What Are Chile Japones Used For?
Chile Japones are extremely popular across Asian dishes. You will find them used frequently in foods like stir fries and sauces across Japan and China. The chilies are added in their full forms for an infused spicy flavor and to make the presentation more vibrant and appealing.
They are also a great, fiery addition to spicy chutneys, salsas, sauces, and infused oils. Speaking of infusion, these chilis are also popularly used to add a spicy kick to beverages and cocktails and added to bread. You can also grind up dried Japones chiles to be used for dry rubs and roasting purposes or simply add them to meals in place of powdered red chili or red chili flakes. Just be sure to store them in an airtight container in a cool dry place.
What Does Chile Japones Taste Like?
Japones chile peppers do not contribute much to the dish when it comes to flavor. The dried, mature form of the chili does have more of a bite to it than a fresh Chiles Japones. Its primary characteristic is the moderate spice it is able to provide without being too much. This is why it is frequently used as a heat inducer in already flavorful dishes.
Where To Buy Japones Peppers?
Chile Japones are native to Mexico and are grown across Asia as well. You can easily find seeds for the pepper online and since the plants are not that difficult to look after, you can grow them yourself as well. Chile Japones are typically available at specialty stores or online sources. You will be hard pressed to find this pepper at your nearest supermarket. Since they are sold in dried form, you can have them shipped to you safely.
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What Is a Japones Peppers Substitute?
Japones peppers are frequently used as substitutes for Chile De Arbol, hence the latter can be used as an alternative to the Japones pepper as well. Chile De Arbol does, however, have a more fruity and complex taste as compared to Chile Japones. Their heat levels are comparable to the Serrano and Cayenne peppers. Also, the walls of the japones are thicker, making them ideal for powders.