May 28, 2021
Or how marketing can change the way you perceive things
Recently, I was at a discount store when I saw a bottle of paprika for sale. I grab it and then immediately used it for my first home cooked meal. To my disappointment, it tasted exactly like chilli powder. When I checked the label, I discovered that despite the shelf labelling the spice as paprika, the bottle was actually labelled as chilli powder.
Stung by the minor deception, I then researched what paprika really was. It is technically correct to call it chilli powder.
It is made from grounded European pepper which is related to the original New World pepper except there is very little capsaicin. For those who do not have a clue what capsaicin, it is the stuff that people eat at room temperature and then complain that it is spicy or “hot”. It is so effective that people use as a weapon or even as a bear deterrent. Capsaicin works as long as it comes into contact with the skin or other tender parts of the body.
There is a catch though. Paprika also has mild or even spicy versions. But I was more curious as to what the mild version tasted like. So I forked twice the amount to buy chilli powder that was without any heat. To be safe, I added it carefully to a few dishes. (I have been conned by too many people about how mild chilli is. It has always ended in tears. With chilli, the tears are literal.)It tasted like there was a hint of chilli. Adding more did not change the taste.
Confused, I tried taking it neat. It tasted exactly like chilli. Except that I had been eating chilli for the capsaicin burn that now its taste without any capsaicin confused me. Eating chilli is like living in a humid place. You expect the discomfort. Paprika is like being in hot weather with low humidity. You can still sense the heat but the discomfort is totally absent.
I am not a fan of paprika. I can see my myself using the spice as a change in certain dishes but it is definitely not a substitute for chilli powder. On to new adventures like cayenne pepper and Harissa.