Bird's eye chilli, Coorg
While the women of Coorg have long been lauded for their beauty and grace, there’s one local lass whose petite visage disguises a fiery personality. Meet Kanthari, or the ‘dangerous lady’, whose writ runs across the hills and dales of Coorg, and makes even grown men quail. One of the spiciest chillies in the world, the Kanthari is also known as the Bird’s Eye Chilli in South East Asia and Kochchi in Sri Lanka, where it gives the native Sambols their potent ‘kick’. Used extensively in kitchens across Kerala (in small doses, and with lots of respect), this spice girl flourishes in Coorg and warms the hearths of the large Malayali expatriate population here. Occasionally, an adventurous native may slip a chilli or two into her Pandhi Curry, giving the boar a bite it never had in its original avatar. Like a lot of the citizenry of Coorg, however, the provenance of the Kanthari isn’t local. Like the rest of the chilli family, she too was brought into India by the Portuguese in the 16th century and introduced to a nation that promptly made it her own, and invested upon them honorary citizenship, much like another import: cricket, which many believe to be an Indian sport accidentally invented by the English! In the northeast of India, however the Kanthari isn’t given the same kind of respect, which can be gauged from the fact that the Garos of Meghalaya call it the Jal-ik-Meseki, which sounds impressive, but literally means ‘mouse-droppings chilli’, which isn’t exactly complimentary. But this is to be expected of a region that produces the World Heavyweight Champion in the spiciness stakes, the Naga Bhut Jolokia! However, while not in the same pin-code as the Jolokia, the Kanthari is one hot babe who punches way above her weight and is pungent enough to warrant keeping a fire extinguisher as standard equipment at your dining table.