When asking the world's hottest chile pepper, most people would answer the Red Savina Habanero. Yes, you would be right couple of months ago. That is the old champion. The new one is called 'Bhut jolokia' (probably due to its ghostly bite or introduction by the Bhutias from Bhutan poison chile) as twice as spicy as the previous record-holder. It is also called 'Bih Jolokia' in some places of Assam state of India (Bih = Poison, Jolokia = chile pepper; in Assamese). Other names are Borbih Jolokia, Nagahari, Nagajolokia, Naga Morich, Naga Moresh and Raja Mirchi (the king of chiles). These are all the same chile but named differently at different places. If you have trouble to remember those Indian names, you could called it 'ghost chili'. Let us read how people said about this thumb-size chili pepper with frightening potency.
"The pain was exquisite. It was like having your tongue hit with a hammer. Man, it hurt. My tongue swelled up and it hurt like hell for days."
"Anyone foolhardy enough to eat a whole Dorset Naga would almost certainly require hospital treatment."
"This chilli is so hot, you'd have to drink 250,000 gallons of water just to put out the fire."
"If you eat one, you will not be able to leave this place." a farmer living at Changpool, India, who spent a lifetime eating this strange named chili pepper, insists that outsiders shouldn't eat it. "it is like dying."
For those who living in Assam state, northeastern India, it is a cure for stomach troubles and, seemly paradoxically, a way to fight the crippling summer heat.
A few months ago, Guniness World Records made it official. Bhut jolokia has more than 1 million (1,001,304) Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. This were measured by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute. For comparison, the old champion the Red Savina Habanero has a score about 580,000. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. Basic jalapeno pepper measures anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.
You might want to know what the Scoville units are. The Scoville Scale is a scale to measure the heat level in chillies. It was first a subjective taste test, but since, it has been refined by the use of HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography), the unit is named in honour of its inventor Dr. Wilbur Scoville developed in 1912.
There are other methods, but the Scoville Scale remains the most widely used and respected. The greater the number of Scoville units, the hotter the pepper. Of course, being a natural product, the heat can vary from pepper to pepper, so this scale is just a guide, not precise, due to expected variation within a species—easily by a factor of 10 or more—depending on seed lineage, climate and even soil (this is especially true for habaneros).
The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is a chemical compound which stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucus membranes. The highest Scoville units for non-nature pepper products is from pure capsaicin, 15,000,000–16,000,000, 9,100,000 for Nordihydrocapsaicin (an irritant, a lipophilic colorless odorless crystalline to waxy compound). A standard US grade pepper spray, also an irritant, is used in riot control, crowd control and personal self-defense, has a range of 2,000,000–5,300,000.
Reference: Argus news Wednesday, August 1, 2007