There are more than 400 varieties of chilies in the world, the vast majority of which are cultivated in Mexico. Such great diversity is impressive and can lead to confusion, judging by the faces of our clients when confronted by our fully-laden chili shelves. It’s not easy to choose the most appropriate variety for one recipe or another and knowing how to use the spice when cooking poses another predicament.
In order to simplify the task and without producing a complete guide to chilies of the world (there is an excellent one here), we’ve decided to list what we consider to be the top 5 on our personal Hit Parade.
As far as we’re concerned, this is by far the gold medal winner in the all-purpose chili category. In the Middle East Aleppo chili is usually used as a finishing touch. Not too hot and very fruity, a little like Espelette pepper, Aleppo is a great garnish on soup or home-made hummus, and can easily be added to a marinade for meat or fowl.
Pasilla is probably one of the most popular chilies throughout Mexico; the ones that we select are still smoked in the traditional way in some valley villages of Oaxaca and are therefore extremely rare. This chili adds a fruity, smokey heat profile and has notes reminiscent of, well…. good bacon!
An Indian chili which is in fact a type of Cayenne, and is often used to heat up many a curry dish in its native land. It is as hot as it is flavorless, which is, believe it or not it’s most appealing characteristic. It is possible to add Reshampatti to many dishes to make them hotter without altering the other flavors of the dish. It’s easy to recommend this chili to be used in any type of cusine.
Habaneros are the base of many a Caribbean “pepper sauce”, as well as the indisputable foundation of a variety of salsas throughout Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. It’s rich and extremely fruity fragrance is as legendary as its notorious heat factor. Used sparingly, especially when fresh, it is also available dried, and once ground, is easy to use in a wide variety of sauces and salsas. Essential to many Caribbean dishes such as Jamaica’s jerk.
Little is known about the Mulato outside of Mexico where it is used in the preparation of the famous Mole Poblano. Interestingly, this chili has an inimitable fragrance coupled with complex notes of licorice, cocoa and dried fruits. Once rehydrated and puréed, it can easily be added to meat ragouts, chilies, soups or even to mayonnaise for making dips. The purée can be kept for several weeks in the freezer. Don’t hesitate – make large batches.