Chinese chilies are a small, spicy pepper popular in both Central American and East Asian cooking. The flavour is sharp, bright, slightly acidic, and quite spicy. The pepper is native to Central America, but is grown extensively in China. In Mexican and Central American stores they’ll generally sold under the name Chiles Japones. In Asian grocery stores, they’re generally sold as Chinese chilies, Tianjin (or Tian Tsin) chilies, or simply hot chilies. They may also be sold as Thai chilies, though this name generally refers to a separate group of hotter chili peppers common in Southeast Asian cooking.
Nomenclature is something of an issue for this pepper. Several very similar small hot chilies are sold under a variety of similar or identical names, and these names are affected by differences in language, location, and marketing. For clarification on this, consult the “Types and Varieties” section below. Regardless of the confusion, there is significant overlap in the flavour and spice-level of these various chilies, and they can be used more-or-less interchangeably.
Chinese chilies are generally available whole (as shown in the picture), and ground or crushed, though it is generally difficult to find crushed or ground Chinese chilies that have been accurately and specifically labeled as such.
Chinese chilies should, ideally, be differentiated from the group of thin, hot chilies called Thai chilies, though this can be difficult at times.
Scoville Heat Units