A dish that took England by storm. Night’s in just wouldn’t be the same without them. The spicier the better. Although some dislike the sensations of burning tongues and flaming taste buds, many become addicted to “inferno dishes” and have them on a regular basis. This curry addiction can be attributed to the release of endorphins as a response the stimulus of pain nerves- A fiery mouth is a happy mouth!
The main compound in chillies which gives them the “hot flavor” is capsaicin (C18H27O3N). This molecule is very similar in shape to “piperine” (C17H1903N) which also stimulates the pain receptors (also called nociceptive neurons). Capsaicin Binds to the receptor TRPV1 which causes Ca+ ions to pass through the membrane and into the cell so causing a knock on effect up the nerve, stimulating the brain. This is not a taste bud but a pain nerve. The bodies natural response to pain is to produce endorphines, proteins that create “happy feelings” so causing the person who has just set their mouth on fire to feel happy and content, which may lead them to become addicted.
The relative hotness of the chilli (or indeed curry) depends on the length of the alkyl chain. This is why gingerine (the main component in ginger), another much smaller molecule but relatively similar to piperine and caspaicin in structure, is a lot less hot than the other two.