While many countries across the world consume some dishes that are hot and spicy, there are some that use a higher level of chili peppers and spices in general. Some countries, such as South and North Korea and Bhutan, incorporate chilies into their daily diet. Other countries, such as India and Mexico, do not eat as much hot and spicy foods but still have a lot of dishes that incorporate chili peppers and other ingredients that give heat.
North and South Korea
Korea split into two separate states, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North) and the Republic of Korea (South), in 1948. While they are no longer a unified country, they still share the same culinary habits. One staple of the Korean diet is kimchi. Sometimes spelled kimchee, kimchi is fermented vegetable, commonly cabbage, made with a mix of chili peppers, garlic, salt, vinegar and other spices. Besides cabbage, vegetables such as cucumber, radish and mustard leaf are also pickled and covered with a spicy chili paste. Kimchi is served at every meal, either as a small side dish or mixed in with noodles or rice. Kimchi is also used in dishes as varied as soups, pancakes and pizza. On average, Koreans eat about 40 lbs. of kimchi per person each year. Another popular dish in Korea is bibimbap, a bowl of rice topped with a variety of sliced vegetables and a spicy red pepper paste called gochuchang. Gochuchang paste, which is used for many other dishes, is commonly sold in Korean supermarkets.
Bhutan is a small landlocked country east of the Himalayas that is bordered mostly by China and India. Traditional Bhutanese cuisine uses a lot of chilies and they are actually used as a vegetable rather than a spice. Ema datshi, the country's national dish, is made from just chilies and cheese. Other variations of ema datshi are kewa datshi, which is potatoes and cheese with chili, and shamu dashi, which mixes mushrooms and cheese with chili. Most other Bhutanese dishes consist of steamed rice, which can be red or white rice, with vegetarian and meat curries that are hot and spicy.
Bhutan's neighbor, India, also consumes a lot of chili peppers. Red and green chilies are added, either whole, ground or dried, to the nation's many different types of curries to give them a hot taste. Curry refers not to a single spice blend but to a type of dish. Some types of curries that are made with chilies are aloo palak (spinach and potatoes), palak paneer (spinach and cheese) and aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower). Spices such as turmeric, coriander, mustard seeds, cumin and peppercorn are routinely used to add taste and complexity to curries and other dishes. Garam masala, a basic blend consisting of cloves, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, peppercorns and other spices, is commonly used for many dishes. Literally meaning "hot spice," garam masala can be purchased ready-made in supermarkets.
Chili peppers are native to Mexico and have been used as an ingredient for thousands of years. Mexico has a lot of dishes that use chili peppers as an ingredient and condiment. Poblano peppers, which are dark green and vary in hotness, are one of the most used chili peppers in Mexican cuisine. Chile relleno is roasted poblano pepper stuffed with meat or cheese, covered in egg batter, and fried. Mole poblano is a dark sauce made from poblano peppers, chocolate and other ingredients that is served over meat. Jalapenos are very hot peppers that are used often in salsas and marinades. Other types of chili peppers used often in Mexican cooking is habanero, chipotle and serrano peppers.
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