I never met a hot pepper I didn’t like. Its pretty sheen, phenomenal flavour and searing heat invite lovers of spicy foods to keep on eating despite the tears and sweat beads! I’m not the only one—global pepper lovers and researchers have come up with a verifiable list of the world’s hottest chilli peppers.

By now, most Trinidadians have heard that the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is the hottest, baddest pepper on the planet. Yes, that bulbous-shaped pepper, with its scorpion stinger-like curve at the bottom has been making grown men and women weep all over the world.

Crowned victorious by the New Mexico State University’s Chilli Pepper Institute (www.chilepepperinstitute.org), the Moruga Scorpion seared the Scoville scale at 2,009,231 Scoville heat units (SHU).

The scale measures the heat level (or piquance) of a chilli pepper and the number of SHUs indicates the amount of capsaicin present. The scale is designed to measure whether the pepper has the propensity to possibly burn a hole in your face. Safe to say the Scorpion Pepper packs quite a sting!

Harvested in rich, fertile South-Central Trinidad soil, the Moruga Scorpion has garnered much admiration from heat-seeking sadists, I mean, lovers! One such admirer is Roger Mooking, a Trinidadian-born chef and Food Network host of Heat Seekers.

Born in Icacos, “behind God’s back,” as locals say, Mooking, like the Scorpion, also hails from South Trinidad. His love affair with food came from his experiences working with his grandfather and father in the restaurant business. These elements propelled Mooking on to his own culinary journey as a restaurateur, author and celebrity chef.

But it’s on the Food Network show Heat Seekers that Mooking really shines and sweats, literally. Along with co-host Chef Aaron Sanchez, he traipses all over the United States, sampling the country’s hottest dishes, from Indian curries to authentic Jamaican jerk chicken. Mooking has proven his Trinidadian-ness by ousting his co-host on almost every fiery challenge.

Mooking admits that while he’s braved the previous record holders, Ghost Pepper and Naga Viper, he has yet to meet a Moruga Scorpion.

Many years after Mooking left Trinidad for Toronto, Canada, his culinary accolades as one of North America’s best began increasing each year. Mooking is the host and co-creator of his own internationally broadcast television series Everyday Exotic and was featured in an episode of Chefography. Both series air on the Cooking Channel.

His award-winning cookbook Everyday Exotic hit the shelves last year and Mooking is slated to begin shooting another Food Network series called Man Fire Food. His culinary travels have led to appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Top Chef Canada and Iron Chef America to name but a few.

Despite his worldly gastronomic adventures, Mooking remembers home often. He names a “real good goat roti, shark and bake, a real spicy callaloo and my grandmother’s stewed chicken” among his favourite Trinidadian dishes. Now, if only we could get him to sample a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper!

Hot Facts

• Capsaicin (pepper) is a safe and effective topical analgesic agent in the management of arthritis pain, herpes zoster-related pain, diabetic neuropathy, post mastectomy pain, and headaches.

• Red chillies contain high amounts of vitamin C and carotene (provitamin A). White, yellow and especially green chillies (which are essentially unripe fruit) contain a considerably lower amount of both substances.

• A good source of most B vitamins (B6 in particular). They are very high in potassium, magnesium, and iron. Their high vitamin C content can also substantially increase the uptake of non-heme iron from other ingredients in a meal, such as beans and grains.

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