Cut chilies on restaurant tables in Malaysia are a thing like salt and pepper shakers are in American eateries. They are usually accompanied by soy sauce, so you can make a chili soy sauce dip to go with your food. What can I say? We really like chilies. Even those who can't take the heat like chilies. Pickled green chilies are usually not very hot but sweet and sour instead and it's quite common to find a jar sitting next to the other condiments.
I can't tell you which kind of heat-less green chili we use in Malaysia. Most recipes there will simply list the ingredient as green chili because as far as we're concerned, there are only red and green chilies. But I'll tell you that when I make this here, I use either jalapeno or serrano chilies (below) with a preference for the latter because I like the sharper heat.
To put things into perspective, allow me to borrow some words from the author of the book, Maricel E. Presilla: "I think of the jalapeno as the chicken of the pepper world, since US cooks who need a substitute for any other hard-to-find hot pepper routinely turn to it as a safe backup. Mexicans might prefer the sharper, cleaner heat of serranos to make salsa crudas (uncooked table sauces), but they love the fleshy, larger, and somewhat sweeter fresh jalapeno as a vegetable."
Whichever you choose to use, pickled green chilies are a delicious condiment to have on hand. I especially love them with Asian noodles but they are also great in sandwiches (just like the usual pickle but with a bit of kick), salads, and as pizza toppings.
How to Make Pickled Green Chilies
You will need:
6-7 serrano or jalapeno chilies
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
A jar with lid
1. Wash the chilies and pat dry. Slice them into 1/8-inch thick. To deseed the chilies, place the sliced chilies in a colander and shake vigorously over the sink. It helps to hit the side of the colander against the wall of the sink to help remove as many seeds as possible.
2. Blanch the sliced chilies in hot water for about 10-15 seconds and drain. Set aside.
3. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the white vinegar, sugar, and salt. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. Pour the vinegar mixture into a jar and add the sliced chilies. Cover and leave overnight or at least 1-2 hours. The pickled chilies will turn a lighter shade of green. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. They get better with time!
Use it! Pickled green chilies are often enjoyed with noodles. Try Malaysian Soy Sauce Noodles.
The Pepper Lessons
When I was living in Malaysia, I only knew chilies by their color and size: green, red, and the tiny, pointy red devils we know as cili padi. I never learned their names or cultivars until I moved to California. And then I found out that we also call a particular meat stew chili here! What?
Since we're on the subject, I knew bell pepper as capsicum and only referred to pepper as the seasoning in a shaker that always sat next to salt. You can tell I was really confused! Can you imagine how thrilled I was when a new book entirely focused on peppers was released?
The book is an essential reference filled with fascinating historical information, useful descriptions alongside great photos, and even gardening tips and recipes. I learned that the Portuguese were responsible for bringing hot peppers to Malaysia through their outpost in Malacca (a coastal state in the peninsula that was part of the Portuguese colony for more than 100 years in the 16th century) and that we didn't have many cultivars but the tiny bird pepper I mentioned above has been the most popular.
Presilla stated that while she was researching this book that "the US pepper scene began changing along with emigration from many parts of Latin America." I'm excited to know that my chili options have grown beyond green and red. With the help of this book, I look forward to spicing up my cooking here!