Chili Burn

Photo Credit: Larfi.
Creative Commons License

Although, I enjoy eating spicy food, I don’t cook with chilis much.  There has been two incidences that have made me anxious about cooking with bird’s eye chili pepper’s.

The first one happend innocent enough.  One of my favourite snack foods/appetizer is the Vietnamese spring roll.  It has the sweetness of the taro combined with the pork, shrimp and mung bean noodles, and is not complete of course without the fish sauce that is infused with bird’s eye chilis and lime juice.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I had seen enough posts about Vietnamese spring rolls, it was time to tackle it myself.  I found this recipe on Nibbledish (Back then, it was known as Open Source Food).  I followed the recipe other than omitting chilis from the spring rolls stuffing – just in case it was too much kick since the sauce already had chilis.

It looked like a pretty big task (a full day kind of a task), so I booked a day off from work.  I spent the early part of my morning buying the ingredients.  The middle of my day I was preparing, mixing up the stuffing and assembling the rolls. The part I hated the most was the frying.  It scares me.  Knowing I was alone in the house only scared me more.  That was probably the last time I deep fried anything.  Anyways, after frying a couple of bad ones (I threw put them in the oil before the oil was hot enough), I managed to get into a steady rhythm and fry the rest of the batch.

When everything was done, all I had to do was make the sauce.  This was supposedly the easiest part.  Just chop the lime and squeeze out the juice, chop the garlic, chop the chilis and throw it all together with fish sauce, water and sugar.

Only, this was the first time ever I was handling chilis.  I heard about the seeds being the culprit of the burn.  So, I carefully took deseeded the peppers and chopped up the knife.  I then proceeded to clean up.  Including scrubbing all the utensils and cutting board (without wearing gloves).  When I was done packing up, everything, I noticed my fingers felt like they were burning.  The burn got worse and worse.  It felt like my hands were in some invisible fire.  Aaah!! The pain is indescribable.  I wanted to stick my hands into a bucket of ice.  Of course, I was already on my way out to my boyfriends (with a batch of the spring rolls).

When I got to his place, we tried everything we could find online.  Washing my hands in milk and then lemon juice.  I can’t remember what worked out that day, but I think it was the lemon juice.

Now, I forgot all about the spring roll story until one of the last days of 2011.  I had handled chilis earlier that evening for a noodle soup.  And it wasn’t until I was washing up for the night, that I felt like something was in my eye.  You know that annoying feeling of an a loose eyelash or sand in your eye.  Yeah, it was like that.  Only, this time it was different.  I washed my hands with soap, and then proceeded to fish this thing out.  However, as I moved my right eye around, I couldn’t find anything.  What I did notice was that my eye wouldn’t stop tearing, I thought maybe I irritated it by keeping my eye open, then I noticed bulging on the right side – MY EYE WAS BULGING OUT, and I tired to blink, every blink felt very uncomfortable like something was there – that something was my eye bulge.  I rushed to my boyfriend to ask him to confirm that it was indeed a bulge and I wasn’t losing my mind.  He compared both eyes and confirmed that it was bulging.

He tried to help me google reasons for why an eyeball would bulge.  I figured it was two things: dander/dust from playing with the dog or the birds eye chili’s.  I was the only one that touched the chilis and washed the cutting board and knife with the chilis.

I didn’t know what to do and was freaking out at this point. I’m going to the hospital, I decided.  I quickly finished washing up and then I remembered Telehealth Ontario.  So, I had my boyfriend call while I applied a cold wet cloth to my eye (boyfriend’s idea).  It helped to soothe the eye.  The nurse told me that whenever you get spices in your eye you should irrigate it with water.  So stick your eye under a tap of running water or right under the shower.  I went with the shower. I stuck my eye into the shower and opened it as much as I could looking straight at the stream of water.  After irrigating my eye and then applied the cold wet towel again.  I forgot to ask the nurse how to wash the chilis out of my hands and nails.  So, we just went with what we remembered doing the last time this happend and washed my hands with lemon juice.  After about an hour, my eye was back to normal.  It was a pretty big scare and I haven’t handled fresh chilis since.

Recently I found this link on how to get chili burn out of your hands.

Do you have any tried and true methods for handling bird’s eye chilis?

How do you cook your favourite spicy foods without leaving the burn on your hands/nails?

2 thoughts on “Chili Burn

    1. It’s okay, I completely understand. Sometimes, we are just so thankful that it no longer burns and we have tried so many things we are not sure which method worked out. I’m going to probably cook with them again, but for now, I’m going to use dried chilis.

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