Thai Chilis -
[C. frutescens and C. annuum]
Many kinds of chilis (Prik) are grown in Thailand, and terminology, by time it's translated to English, is very confusing and sometimes just plain wrong. Details of size and hotness are difficult to find for those not available in California. Asian sources don't bother with these details because "everyone already knows". Several of the smallest chilis are called "Bird Peppers", but this name is not at all unique to Thailand. Here you will find my descriptions as best I could gather from a multitude of sources.
While all chilis, from the tiniest beads to the big bell peppers, originated in Central and South America, chilis are so variable unique varieties have been developed in Thailand for local use. While more than 75 varieties are grown there, I list here the most important.
Unfortunately, of the Thai chilis only prik ki nu is readily available in Los Angeles. Even in Thai Town (Hollywood Blvd east of Western) they have only prik ki nu, serranos, jalapenos and maybe Fresnos, so substitutions have to be made - unless you grow them yourself (seeds are readily available on-line).
More on Chili Peppers.
Prik ki nu: [Rat Turd Chili, Prik ki nu] is the chili we most think of as "Thai Chili", and the only one commonly sold in North America. It is small, often less than 1-3/4 inches long as grown in Thailand, but there are many varieties and those grown in California are often up to 2-3/4 inches (more efficient to grow and harvest large sizes). They are narrow, pointy and grow point up, turning from green to red when ripe (they may be somewhat orange in between). Red ripe they are called prik ki nu daeng. They are very hot ( H8 to H9), slightly less hot when red ripe, and a little less than that when dried. Fully red ripe prik ki nu dry very well into the finest dried red chilis you will find, called prik ki nu daeng haeng. C. frutescens (some say C. annuum).
Prik Chee Fah: [Spur Chili] are pointy like the prik ki nu, but are much larger, up to nearly 6 inches long, and not as hot. They also grow point up, in fact the name means "pointing to the sky". In Thailand they are sold green, red and dried, but I haven't seen them in Southern California. Holland red would probably be closest to red ones, though around here the only fresh red chili much used is the Fresno, apparently found satisfactory by every ethnic group. C. annuum (some say C. frutescens but several scientific papers I found say annum).
Prik Kariang: [Karen Chilis] are shorter than prik ki nu, proportionally wider and even hotter. They are a classic "Bird Pepper", very small, very hot (H9) and growing point up. They may be green, yellow, orange or red, and can sometimes be found from an Asian grower in a farmer's market. C. frutescens.
Prik e noo kaset: These are regular Serrano chilis now grown in Thailand for use in table condiments and hot sauces. These were Introduced to Thailand by visitors and returnees from California. Before Thai chilis were much grown in Southern California we used Serranos for Thai table condiments. Now some restaurants have gone to a 4 cup condiment tray so guests can have both Thai chilis and the much tastier Serranos. I understand Sriracha sauce is now being made from red ripe Serranos. Serranos are thick walled and do not dry well so are always used fresh. C. annuum.
Prik Yuak: A larger, milder yellow-green to yellow chili very similar to Hungarian Wax chilis, which make a good substitute. They are used in salads, chili pastes and meat dishes. C. annuum.
Prik Luang: A bright orange aromatic chili, fairly mild and larger than prick chee fah. They are used in salads, chili pastes and meat dishes. I have never seen one here in Southern California and know of no substitute.
Prik Haeng: Small, very hot dried red chilis made from Prik ki nu, Prik Kariang or similar. Thai recipes using them often end in "Prik Haeng". Those in the photo I dried myself, as I do whenever one of the local markets has a batch of really fine bright red Thai chilis. Very hot, but not quite as hot as fresh chilis of the same type.
cp_thaiz 120121 - www.clovegarden.com
Prik Pasom Sot: Regular red, green and yellow bell peppers. Yes, they use them in Thailand, but not to nearly the extent they are used in China,