Hot, hotter, Chilli Festival!
My favourite thing to do on a Saturday morning is to go to one of Cape Town`s many markets for a hearty breakfast. Although, I have to admit, one of the best markets in the Western Cape (I think) is in Stellenbosch – the Slow Market at Oude Libertas. There is always something happening there and on Saturday, 12 March 2016, they hosted the vibrant and mouth-watering (read mouth-burning) Chilli Festival.
The shaded outdoor market and the food hall were decorated in bright red and green shades and some visitors even dressed up in chilli colours. Apart from the prominent stall in the middle of the market selling chilli of all kinds, colours and hotness, most food traders had created a little something for the Chilli Festival. Chilli pastes, chocolate with chilli, smoothies with chilli for that extra zing, chilli bread, chilli-infused oils and liqueurs and extra hot biltong are only a few examples of the wide selection of products on sale. There were even pickled chillies all the way from Texas.
My tongue is certainly not one to take on chilli lightly, but chilli is truly versatile and the offers ranged from mild pickled chilli perfect as pizza topping or tapas to devilish hot chilli paste one should only use for cooking. Even chilli plants for the gardeners among the visitors were on sale. And the craft vendors cleverly incorporated the red and green theme in their decoration and merchandise, too.
And what would be a chilli festival without a chilli eating contest?!
13 brave souls with asbestic taste buds made it to the 2016 Western Cape Chilli-eating Championship showdown, but after a few rounds only the most hard-core chilli fans made it to the finals.
The contestants had to eat their way through a small but certainly challenging pile of chilli peppers from hot to hotter to tearing hot to burning hot to on-fire hot chillies. And for the first time in the 7-year history of the Chilli Festival, there was not one but three winners, who shared the first place. Not even the Devil’s Tongue chillies, with heat units exceeding 90 000 units on the Scoville Heat Scale, could make them reach for that saving glass of milk that would have signalled their exit.
Other (less burning) entertainment included a self-defence demonstration and live music by the up and coming band Cherry Vinyl. The South African artist Mandri Sutherland created some beautiful living art installations walking around the market. Oude Libertas also opened the doors of its gallery with stunning art works to visitors of the festival.
The Chilli Festival started out in 2009 to present this often misunderstood culinary delight in its many variations. Over the years the traders have conjured many strange and wonderful creations with this spice and some have even become permanent offers at the Slow Market thanks to their popularity. The Slow Market has become the official host of the Chilli Festival in the Western Cape, and the crowning of the Chilli champion is featured across national and international media channels.
All in all, a hot and fiery event, not only for chilli fans.