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Prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival in Asia, the Thai people used peppercorns to add flavor to their food. A lot has changed since then, with nearly all of Thai dishes today featuring some type of chili.

For many Thai people, prik, which means “chili” in Thai, is a favorite ingredient. In Thailand, chilies are consumed dried, fried, pickled, and fresh. You’ll find different chilies used in salads, curries, soups, pastes, dips, and sauces. Below are the chilies found in Thailand, all of which play a major role in giving Thai dishes their unique characteristics and flavor.

Prik Ban Chang

This chili is found in the Ban Chang district in Southeast Thailand, and can be quite difficult to find. According to Prin Polsuk, the head chef of award-winning restaurant Nahm, at Bangkok’s Como Metropolitan Hotel, Thai people are eating fewer chilies nowadays, which means it is becoming harder to find good-quality specimens.

Prik Ban Chang is a long pepper with smooth skin that comes in green and red varieties, and is appreciated for its flesh and minimal seeds rather than its heat. It is commonly sun-dried and used for chili pastes and curries.

 

Prik Yuak

This light-green Chili is actually sweet rather than spicy. These large peppers have a wax-like texture and can be found in certain stir fry dishes or served deep fried stuffed with pork or shrimp.

prikyuak

Prik Mun

This chili has a glossy shine to its skin, and comes in red and dark green hues. These peppers are perfect for pickling and can be found served as condiments in vinegar at any food court in Thailand.

prikmun

Prik Noom

Moving along the spice scale is prik noom. This chili is light green like prik yuak, and is usually blackened over an open flame for a smoky flavor before being pounded into a stringy paste. Some Thai dishes utilizing this can be found in northern Thailand such as Nam Prik Noom, which is a dip that translates to “chili water”.

 

Prik Chee Fah

Translating to “chili pointing to the sky,” this chili’s vibrant red or green color is what intensifies the bright color of Thai red curry. Prik chee fah is one of the most common peppers to see in Thailand, and is often used as a garnish, either fresh or pickled.

prikcheefah 

Prik Lueng

This spicy golden orange chili is not used as frequently as the red or green chilies, but can be seen pickled and added to Thai salads for a pop of color.

prik-lueng

Prik Jinda

This chili comes in both red and green and is very spicy. It gives dishes their heat and flavor and may have you sniffling and sweating if you’re not used to it’s spice!

Prik-Jinda

Prik Ki Nu Suan

This is the most popular chili used in the Thai cuisine. Its name translates to “mouse dropping chili” due to its tiny size, and it is known to be one of the spiciest found in Thailand. These are the chilies used in tom yum soup, spicy salads, and green curry.

Prik-keenu-suan-

Prik Kariang

Prik kariang is the spiciest chili used in Thai cuisine and comes in a variety of colors, from pale yellow-green to florescent red-orange, and even purple. They are shorter and wider than prik ki nu.