When my parents first arrived to the UK, finding ingredients for Lao foods was difficult. Exotic and Asiatic Herbs and Spices were almost unheard of at that time. Papaya, Coriander and other such ingredients could be purchased in the market stalls specialising in Indian vegetables, and some of the early Chinese Supermarkets would carry Fish Sauce, though in limited supply.
When the first Thai store opened it was like a blessing. It took more than an hour to get there, but when you did, you stocked up on such goodies like Lemon Grass, Purple Basil Leaves, Galangal and Ka Pi. It was like a revelation, once more my folks could enjoy real home cooking.
Glad to say that times have changed and now you can easily find such herbs and spices in most large supermarkets.
One thing that I took for granted was the everyday Chilli. It is very difficult to find hot Chillies in Spain, it is true that the market is slowly opening up, and some Thai imported products are (very) slowly becoming available, though they fetch high prices and fresh produce is rare.
Last year on a trip to London, I returned with some fresh Chillies and decided to plant them. Previously I had only ever planted Tomatoes, so I had no idea how to take care of the Chillies. After a bit of Net-Research I found the answer.
My Chillies started off indoors, actually above my Refrigerator and under some Cling Film. When they first started to emerge, I was delighted. When tall enough, I moved them to larger pots, again indoors near the window sill. I must have been doing something right because they started to grow.
When the first flowers arrived I was delighted, then more arrived, and more and more. Now I had a blossoming Chilli Plant, my pride and joy.
Then I started to notice that the flowers were dropping off, and no fruit emerged. Something was wrong. I knew that they should be transplanted outside, but I was afraid that the weather, which was still temperamental might harm them. Then I thought about the Birds and the Bees!
With a Cotton Bud I started to scrape off some pollen from some flowers and brush it against others, and soon enough, I started to see fruits. Okay, it wasn’t a big harvest, but it was my first home grown Chilli, which I proudly ate with some Pho.
After telling the A Team about my pride and joy, they quickly told me (actually they did it themselves) to transplant them in my garden. Out of the 10 plants that I had, only 6 survived (you really need to Prove them first by letting them stay outside for a little while at a time, let them get used to the outdoors).
Now I have a much larger crop that I cant eat them fast enough and it has got to the point where I am now drying them in the sun after picking them. They have grown with zest and now stand taller than a metre with strong stems and branches going out everywhere, I have been told that I will soon have to “Cut them back”, but I cant bear to do that.
Funnily enough, now I can sometimes find fresh Thai Chillies in the local Grand Supermarket if I am lucky (must be others that are buying them too). However, I say that my ones taste better!.
I wish that I had started a Photo-Diary when I first planted the seeds, but I never thought that it would actually work!. I am happy to say that I was wrong…
After a slight tinge of Red appears, within days the whole fruit is bright and glorious.
They seem to be emerging from all angles.
Apart from Drying them, they also freeze very well. Good things really do come to those who wait….