Too hot to handle

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BUENOS dias! Oh, and feliz Nuevo Ano (happy New Year).

So where was I….?

Oh yes, chilis, that’s what I really want to talk about today.

I’ve referred to them often enough in this blog without really going into detail about my encounters.

So as they’re a cornerstone of meals in Tijuana and Mexico, It seems right to shed some light on the little buggers.

Firstly, no matter what anyone says about how great they are and how a dish 'simply isn’t the same' without them, bear this little fact in mind…

Capsaicin, one of the main substances found in chilis, is one of the key ingredients of pepper spray - you know, the WEAPON.

I rest my case.

These things are armed and dangerous. And they should carry a health warning.

Jacky’s dad swears blind that they’re actually “muy bueno” and won’t hear a bad word said against them.

“Different chilis have different effects on your body,” he told me yesterday as I once again mulled over adding some to my soup.

“Some are irritants, some help your stomach, and some make you sweat. Some are bad for you, and some are good.

“If you’re feeling rough after a night out drinking, you can eat some habanero chilis and you will feel better.

“You sweat out the alcohol.”

Okay, fair shout. Although personally I think the last thing I’d want to eat on a hangover is something which would ultimately make me feel sick.

The habanero chilis are a particularly violent and nasty variety, as I found out a couple of weeks ago.

Contrary to my previous belief, the small ones are the more powerful.

Who’d have thought that something so tiny, orange, and kind of cute-looking could pack such an evil punch?!


Behold the habanero - cute but violent


I was having some soup over Christmas and Jacks’ dad suggested I add some habaneros to “add some flavour”.

Holy sh*t. Within seconds of eating a spoonful I turned into a cartoon character complete with steam bursting out of my ears. I started sneezing uncontrollably, and my nose streamed like Niagara Falls.

My tongue suddenly wanted nothing to do with the rest of my body ever again.

Of course my pain and suffering generated immense pleasure and hilarity with my Mexican family.

“This is GOOD for you?!” I attempted to argue as torrents of sweat poured off my forehead and onto the once dry tablecloth.

I struggled to see any ‘good’ in the meal’s late addition.

“If it’s too hot for you add some lime?” he said offering up a solution.

How about passing me the fire extinguisher and a couple of towels? I thought.

I did try and reply verbally, but my tongue refused to allow me to speak properly so I simply generated a noise.


Habaneros - should be sold with health warnings, or painkillers


I had no idea that there were so many varieties of chili.

In England, chili is chili. Or at least for me it was.

Here they seem to have different ones for every day of the week.

Chili de arbol, guajillo chilis, habanero, pasilla, jalapeno and ancho chilis... to name but a few.


Dried chili de arbol


A light snack Jacks?


Dried guajillo chilis


Each one boasts a different level of flavour and heat.

One of the many things I find weird and wonderful about Jacks is the way that when we go to the cinema, she adds jalapenos and their brine juice to the popcorn box.

She throws the chilis all over the popcorn and adds the liquid on top just to give them some extra flavour.

Being a Brit with a definite sweet tooth as opposed to sour, I stick with the sugar-coated popcorn.

So when we have a ‘half-and-half’ box of popcorn I definitely know when I’ve reached the bottom.

I always joke that Jacks would put chili on her cornflakes if she could, and it’s no exaggeration.

In her view (and the rest of the family’s for that matter) no meal is complete without something which turns you bright red and makes you reach for a glass of water.

Soup? Add chili. Noodles? Add chili. Quesadillas? Add chili. Scrambled eggs?! Add chili. Potatos chips? Chili sauce.

Chili? Of course, add some more chili.


"Would you like some crisps with your chili sauce?!"


Towards the end of our recent trip to England she actually began shaking due to the lack of chili in her diet.

I had to hide my small chili plant away for fear of it being chewed in the middle of the night.

For most Mexicans chili is the staple ingredient of any meal.

Even the chocolate here has chili in it!

They very obviously have stomachs lined with lead.

According to Wikipedia chili peppers have been part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500BC, so the Americans (whether it be northern or southern) really should no better.

I guess after that amount of time their stomachs and digestive systems have got used to the effects of eating the buggers.

And yes, it seems that they truly do have medicinal uses.

In retrospect, I don’t think that seven months is nearly long enough for an English gut to get used to consuming chilis – whatever variety they are.

I think I’ll stick to the ‘Flaming Hot’ Monster Munch… if only I could find them out here…

Tristan Nichols

Tristan is a multi award-winning journalist from England.

In his professional capacity he spent nearly a decade-and-a-half travelling the world covering breaking stories for the UK-based newspaper, 'The Herald'.

During this time he spent approximately four-and-a-half months on Afghanistan's frontline working as a writer/blogger/photographer and broadcaster for The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS).

In his career he has worked in countries including Iraq, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Norway, The Falkland Islands, Bahrain, Brunei, and of course Afghanistan.

In his personal life he's travelled far and wide lapping up the atmosphere of some of the world's most beautiful, and undoutedly most unbeautiful places imaginable.

Having quit and boxed up the life he knew, he's relocated to Tijuana in Mexico to learn Spanish and be a fiance to the beautiful Jacky.

His popular travel blog 'Once Upon A Time In Mexico...' is regularly updated with unusual and humorous observations on his new life across the pond in the land of tacos and banda music.

Oh, and of course he's going to bullsh*t on about writing a book or a solo album for years to come.

For full details and biog, photographs, travel features and stories, and other interesting bits and bobs visit

Alternatively find him on Twitter by searching for: tristan_nichols


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