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The Chilli Pepper Man
From their sunny homeland of Mexico to the sweltering heat of Kerala or the sandy beaches of Thailand, chillies are associated with warm climates and exotic dishes flavoured with coconut and cumin, coriander and cinnamon: aromatic curries and stir-fries, mellow “tagines” and gutsy “moles”.
The Chillies of Mexico
Capsicum Annuum was first cultivated in Mexico around 7000BC and is the ancestor both of all modern Mexican chillies, and of the vast majority of chillies found today outside the Americas: all the hot cuisines of the world owe their fire and fragrance to the original Mexican chilli.
The Chillies of Mexico - El Chipotle
The smooth and glossy jalapeño chilli loses much of its looks when it is transformed into one of Mexico’s most popular and widely used dried chillies, the chipotle, but its flavour, far from deteriorating, thrives on this transformation.
The Chillies of Mexico - El Habanero
El Habanero is a Yucatán lad who emigrated to Mexico from South America, probably Brazil or Peru, via Cuba, where it may have acquired its name, “from Havana”. It is the hottest chilli in the region itself and in fact in the country, as well as the most widely used in the Peninsula.
The Chillies of Mexico - El Jalapeño
The jalapeño chilli, plump, smooth and glossy, has a lively rather than fiery ardour, and while it notches up a creditable 7/10 on the heat scale, it is often relatively mild, warm without too much punch - but be warned, it can sometimes be very hot indeed and catch you unawares.
The Chillies of Mexico - El Mulato
Broad-shouldered, long, dark and handsome, El Mulato is sultry and wizened, tasting of ripe fruit and chocolate, with a whisper of smoke and a dash of sweetness which are barely tempered by its gente warmth.
The Chillies of Mexico - El Pasilla
Pasilla translates as “little raisin”, which is an obvious indicator of its flavour: faintly sweet and reminiscent of dried fruit, even of sun-dried tomatoes, quite earthy, even woodsy or herby, with a hint of sharpness and acidity in the background, and a lush, full aftertaste.
The Chillies of Mexico - El Poblano
El Poblano, as its name implies, is a native of the state of Puebla but it makes an appearance in virtually all the regional cuisines of the country. It is a handsome chilli, mild-mannered, well fleshed, broad-shouldered, with a smooth shiny skin and a rich dark green to near black colour.
The Chillies of Mexico - El Serrano
The bullet-shaped serrano chilli, small, slender and dark green, reminds me of a delightful Mexican song, which goes: “soy como el chile verde, picante pero sabroso”, “I am like the green chilli, hot but tasty”.
The Chillies of Mexico - Pickled Jalapeños
Jalapeño chillies make a regular appearance at the Mexican table as a condiment or relish, in the form of pickled chillies or “jalapeños en escabeche”. These sparky, tart pickles make their way into a great variety of dishes and their uses and popularity are endless.
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