Name: Chao Tian Jiao, Facing Heaven Chili, Bullet Head Chili
Origin: Henan Province, China
Partner: Pu Yuan Qiong
Harvest: Nov 2020
Character: Sweet, fruity, deep flavor with medium and lingering heat.
Pair with: Green beans, potato, peanuts, spinach, eggplant, beef, chicken, pork, duck, rice, fish.
Chao Tian is also known as facing heaven chili as the chili fruits grows upwards towards the sky facing gravity itself. It is a pantry staple in Sichuan cuisine. We source our Chao Tian from Henan province by the Yellow River of China.
The regions hot, humid, monsoon summers are perfect for growing chili especially when cold, windy, dry winters supports the cultivation of a very sturdy plant ready to grow in the seasonal climate. It is used in the iconic dishes like Kung Pao/Gong Bao Chicken, LaZiJi (spicy chicken) and Shui Zhu Yu (water boiled fish).
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The first time we ordered LaZiJi chicken in Chengdu we just could not believe our eyes. The plate was completely covered by large red chopped chili rings with an aroma that filled the whole room deep into the nostrils. Where was the chicken? And where we supposed to eat all that chili? We later discovered marinated deep fried pieces of chicken underneath all that chili that was absolutely delicious. The chilis used were toasted facing heaven and er jing tao, rather mild and aromatic chilis that are there for the fragrance and taste.
Facing heaven are bullet chili peppers which are often considered too hot to eat fresh so is mostly used dry either whole, roughly chopped or ground to add spiciness, fragrance and open up your tastebuds to more flavor. Use them whole in quick vegetable stir fries or in meat stews. Ground them up and use with green beans, potato, peanuts, spinach, eggplant or with meats like beef, chicken and duck.
Add a bit when making chili oil for added heat with the er jing tao.
All chili is native to Central and South America as is believed to have arrived to the southern parts of China in the 16th century through Portuguese merchants.
The seasonal hot, cold, wet and dry weather of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou was perfect climate for this plant and since then many uniquely, distinct local varieties have been cultivated. In turn spreading new cultivars across the globe as Chinese immigrants brought seeds with them as they relocated to other parts of the world.