The KING as it is rightly said.

The hottest chili pepper in the world– bhoot jalokiya/naga jalokiya/raja mircha/u-morok

The King

The King

Since 1994 and until 2006 the record holder as the “hottest pepper” was the Red Savina Habanero with an SHU rating of 577,000. In 2006 two agronomists, Joy and Michael Michaud, in Dorset, England, bought some chili peppers at a Bangladeshi market in Bournemouth, took them home and found them extremely hot. They took some seeds and grew them in their garden and when they tested the harvested bite-size chilies they recorded an SHU of 876,000. They sent it to a laboratory in New York where it recorded even a higher SHU of 970,000. They called it Dorset nAgA recognizing that it is a variant of Bangladesh’s fiery Naga morich. With all the certificates of analysis they applied for the “hottest pepper” status in the Guinness Book of Records. At about a million SHU, the Dorset nAgA became the hottest pepper around. End of story? Not quite!

In August 2000, some Indian scientists from the Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur, Assam, reported on a new chile cultivar which they identified as Capsicum frutescens cv. Nagahari. It was dubbed Tezpur chili and also referred to as Indian PC-1. The native name is NAGA JALOKIYA, “chili of the Nagas”, after the inhabitants of Nagaland. Its heat index was 855,000 SHU. The results were published in the journal Current Science, (79, 287, 2000). However, the work invited considerable criticism for lack of proper calibration of the HPLC apparatus that was used in measuring the capsaicin content.

In addition, authentic NAGA JALOKIYA A material was not available outside of India for others to corroborate the results. Also it was questioned whether a Capsicum frutescens variety (to which the Tabasco pepper belongs) could engender such a high SHU material. However, in 2003, it was suggested that the Tezpur variant could belong to Capsicum chinense (to which the Red Savina Habanero belongs) which lent some credence to the heat claim. The Dorset Naga, which is a variant of the Bangladesh species, was characterized as C. chinense. It appears that NAGA JALOKIYA has the genes from both C.frutescens and C. chinense. This NAGA JALOKIYA is commonly grown in northeastern India (Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur) and Bangladesh

NAGA JALOKIYA is also called variously as Bih jalakia (“poison chili pepper” in Assamese language) in some places of Assam, Bhoot jalokia (“ghost” — perhaps due to its ghostly bite or a reference to its introduction from neighboring Bhutan), Nagahari, Naga morich, and Raja Mirchi (“king of chilies”). In Manipur it known as U-MOROK.Despite such different names they all refer to the same chili with the name Naga, a name associated with the warrior clan of Nagaland. Ripe NAGA chilies measure 6 to 8 cm long and 2 to 3 cm wide with an orange or red color. While similar in appearance with the Habanero peppers, the skin of NAGA peppers is dented.

The Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, decided to test the validity of the “world’s hottest pepper” claim from several entries starting in 2001.The director of the institute received seeds from one “bhut jolokia” from someone who collected it while visiting India.

The institute grew those seeds to get some bulk seed in order to conduct field trials and compare with other varieties. After a few years they had enough seeds to conduct field trials of seeds from bhut jolokia, orange habanero and red savina.

After growing all the three under controlled conditions, the pods were harvested and the SHU of each was measured by HPLC. The orange habanero measured 357,729 SHU while the red savina was even less than the orange habanero. The bhoot jolokia crossed the million mark at 1,001,304 SHU. DNA analysis also indicated that bhoot jolokia had genes of C. frutescens and C. Chinense. Correspondingly Assam-based Frontal Agritech had their Bih jolokia tested at 1.041,427 SHU thereby affording independent verification of the chile pepper from north-eastern India/Bangladesh being the “hottest chile pepper in the world”.

In February 2007, Guinness World Records certified the Bhut Jolokia (which is the preferred name for the Indian pepper at the Chile Pepper Institute) as the “world’s hottest chili pepper”. As noted above, all the varieties, bhut jolokia, NAGA jolokia, and Raja Mirchi belong to the same class and originated from north-eastern India/Bangladesh. The Dorset NAGA that was mentioned at the outset, likewise, is a derivative of the NAGA JALOKIYA. So, at this point and until some other species/cultivar can claim a higher SHU, the Bhoot Jolokia/Bih Jolokiya/NAGA Jolokia/Raja Mirchi/Naga Morich clan can hold the title as the “hottest pepper in the world” When a chemical called substance P is released from a neuron (nerve cell), pain gets propagated. Capsaicin reduces the amount of substance P in nerve endings and interferes with pain signal transmission to the brain. Capsaicin can be used in a cream or ointment form to relieve neuralgia (pain in the nerves near the skin), and minimize the pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, osteo-arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis. Capsaicin also relieves the pain caused by shingles (blisters around one side of the waist caused by the chicken pox virus) in adults. A Danish study confirmed the pain-relief effect of capsaicin when applied to the wound area during/after surgery


14 Responses to “The KING as it is rightly said.”

  1. Hi Ashish,

    Nice article! Never knew that there was so much to chillies.

  2. Ash, thanks for the details of “bhoot jolokia”! My family is crazy when it comes to chillies… sometime back we devoured about 250 gms of this chilli by turning it into a simple pickle. We just cut the chillies in small pieces and kept it in just about enough mustard oil to drench it. The chillies itself were too hot to be eaten right away… instead we use to take a few drops of the mustard oil with our meals… by God it was hot as hell 🙂 and we loved it… from what i remember.. we had to dip the chillies twice in oil till it was even remotely edible …. slurp!!!

    I am sure bhoot jalokia would be great if mixed with bambooshoot pickle as well..

    And by the way, your articles are the best appetisers I have ever known.. do try and write more often!

  3. Hello,
    Great article if you have any other articles or info on the bhut jolokia.You can publish them on my blog and link back to your site.I am also looking to use the blog for affiliate sales and promotion of the bhut jolokia.
    Maybe publish the above article with your permission?Google>bhut jolokia>find Bhut Jolokia Garden email me

  4. great article. bhut jolokias are very hard to find here in the uk. are this variety of chili easy to find where you are?

  5. There’s a version of the NAGA JALOKIYA in Kerala called “kandhari”. You’ve got to check it out to complete your research. Its HOT!

  6. rahconteur Says:

    Nice article. But it could do with a bit of correction. Bhoot or bhut is not the correct word (it was pushed by a couple of journos who wanted to play on its English meaning – ‘ghost’). The word is BHOT, which in Assamese means of Bhutiya origin or from the hills of Bhutan.

  7. ASH,



  8. habanos are used in west african cooking, blended with tomatoes, onions, garlic and it is really hot, and I thought it was the hottest in the world, so you’ve taught me something here. Actually I don’t like it that HOT, as the africans, and whereas they use 6 habanos in a soup for 4 people, i would only blend 2, and probably discard the seeds too, which add to the heat.

    thanks for the info Ashish.

  9. @rahconteur – its not Bhot jolokia as you said. This is Bhoot jolokia and that is correct and accepted by everyone in the world. There is no similar chilly in Bhutan who can compete with Bhoot Jolokia.. and it is no where related to Bhutan or Kerala. I have seen and tested the Kerala version . It looks alike but when you taste it .. its totally dull and does not have the smell of Bhoot Jolokia. People use to make sabji of it .. and you can easily it that Kerala Jolokia.

  10. @Rekha-thank you for taking out time and going through this post on my blog.I had typed it as bhut jalokiya is pronounced te same as bhoot jalokiya-however I have rectified the same.Thank you for your information
    peace and grace

  11. Abir and Anisha Says:

    Ace! If people even know what a drop of this chili-infused oil can do to the palate! I love the way you articulate your passion. Most of us get high at the thought of great food, but you make it happen rather nicely. Photos, writing, all!

  12. great to find ashthefoodie speaking on the Raja or Naga Mircha! I had heard about it while I was traveling in Nagaland a few years back. Friends in Kohima gave me some carefully dried seeds to take back to Singapore to grow. The seeds sprouted but did not survive after flowering. I took back more seeds in 2009. In December 2010 the first fruits appeared, and there are more than 6 ripening fruits at this moment. I can’t wait to test the hotness of the first ripe chilli!

    can I send photos for your verification? they are still green, and have deep furrows, and are thick instead of the usual pointy cylindrical shape.

  13. babina angom Says:

    in my place, that is in Manipur it is called u-morok. the aroma is heavenly, it is really good to eat this chili with fermented soya bean and fermented fish called ngari.

  14. my one and only plant is still producing Naga Mircha or Mirchi chillis! Can’t seem to propagate any new ones… It’s too hot and wet in Singapore!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: