Understanding your Chillies
Finding the high-quality dried chillies for your recipes would not be tough, but still, everyone faces some sort of difficulty in deciding the one because of their countless varieties. Furthermore, there are chillies, which are not labelled properly, and the ones that have been preserving on the shelves for years. A true chilli head longs not only for the heat, but also for the unique tastes of hot Mexican chillies. Americans, Caribbean’s, Asian Indians, Mexicans, Mediterranean’s, South-eastern Asians and South Americans use chillies daily to add flavour, colour, visual appeal and of course, heat to their cooking.
What is a dried chilli?
Dried chillies can be earthy, flowery, fruity, smoky, hot, or sweet and they come in a range of colours, sizes and shapes, and there are thousands of identified varieties all over the world. Although there are five varieties within the Capsicum genus, the two that offer the most popular chillies are Capsicum annum and Capsicum frutescence.
Capsicum annum chillies are inclined to be bigger varieties with flavours that are more complex and being gentler in heat.
On the other hand, Capsicum frutescence is inclined to be smaller, with simpler taste and more heat.
The heat of all dried chillies is focused on the inside ribs and seeds.
The most annoying thing regarding cooking with chillies both dry and fresh is the lack of consistency in naming. Almost every country has its own shape, variety, and size of wide chilli, black chilli, tiny chilli, and little raisin chilli. Among chilli varieties, Mexican chillies come in a maximum number of varieties, and they are most commonly seen in American supermarkets. Among these, Ancho, which is the dried poblano, is the most admired Mexican Chilli available on the market.
Knowing the difference between fresh and dried chillies
Before choosing the high-quality dried chillies for your recipes, it is better to know the difference between a dried chilli and a fresh chilli.
Generally, the fresh chilli is thick-skinned and meaty with a quick burn, meaning it heat hits you faster and it can be stronger. These chillies are herbaceous, grassy, and less sugary.
On the other hand, dried chillies are usually picked and dried out when they become red and completely ripened. As a result, they are inclined to be more complex in taste, sweeter, fruitier and floral.
Usually, green chillies will become black when dried, whereas red chillies will assume the colour of dark brick red when dried.
Types of dried chillies
Before buying your dried chillies, it is better to know their types, as it will assist you choose the right ones, according to the needs of your taste. Generally, dried chillies are broadly classified into three broad categories, such as mild, medium and hot, according to their SHU rating. SHU is nothing but the acronym of Scoville scale unit, which is a measurement of the spicy heat or pungency of chillies. Mild dried chillies carries the SHU rating, ranging from 500 to 5,000 units, whereas the medium and hot ones, range from 4,000 to 18,000 units and 15,000 to 18,000 units respectively. There are also crazy hot dried chillies that carry the SHU rating between 70,000 to more than 100,000 units.
Dried chillies that come under the mild category include:
Nora Chiles: The look of these chillies is similar to that of the Cascabel chillies, a type of Mexican chilli. Their body will feature the shape of a heart, with the body length and width of one inch. These chillies will be glossy with wrinkled flesh, and they will assume the colour of dark red. They assume the SHU rating of 500 units.
California Chiles: These chillies are darker and deeper red in colour than the New Mexico chillies, which has a brighter and glossier red colour, and they have the body length of 5 feet 6 inches. They develop from greenish-yellow, to red to yellow-orange. They assume the SHU rating from 500 to 1,000 units.
Aji Panca Chiles: These types of dried chillies will have the same shape and appearance as those of the Aji Amarillo chillies, but with a fresher, lighter taste. Their body length ranges from 3 inches to 5 inches, with medium thick flesh. They go from a yellowish green colour and ripen to a dark red maroon colour. They assume the SHU rating from 500 to 1,500 units.
New Mexico Chiles: These chillies are best recognized for both their chilli peppers and their green or red chilli sauce. They are usually seen with the body length and width of 5″ to 7″ and 2″ respectively while gradually tapering to a rounded end. They assume the SHU rating from 800 to 1,400 units.
Mulato Chiles: These are an element of the holy trinity of the Mexican chillies, together with the dried Pasilla Chile and the dried Ancho Chile. They have the body length and width of four inches and three inches respectively. They are dark brown in colour, having the average thick skin. They assume the SHU rating from 1,000 to 2,000 units.
Pasilla ‘Negro’ Chiles: These have an analogous heat profile as that of the popular Poblano chillies. They are narrow and feature a twisted shape with the maximum body length of 10 inches. They are dark green in colour when growing, and they change to dark brown when they mature. They assume the SHU rating from 1,000 to 2,000 units.
Cascabel Chiles: These are fleshy, round, soft and small chillies and they ripen from green to red. This colour will darken to a profound reddish-tan with an almost translucent, but chunky skin when dried. They assume the diameter of 1.5 inches and their SHU rating varies between 1,000 and 2,500 units.
Kashmiri Chiles: These are long and wrinkled chillies, which are dark red in colour, similar to that of the red wine. These soft and flexible chillies are seen with the body length, ranging from 3 to 4 inches. They assume the SHU rating from 1,200 to 2,000 units.
Guajillo Chiles: These are appear very similar to the Puya chilies, so they are smaller and pack additional heat when compared to that of the Guajillo chillies. They assume the SHU rating from 2,500 to 5,000 units.
Most commonly used dried chillies that come under the medium category include:
Ancho Chiles: These chillies are closely associated with the Ancho chillies, but their taste profile is different because they are picked and dried up at different times. They appear profound, reddish tan to black in colour and their texture is wrinkled. They are seen with the body length and width of 4 inches and 3 inches respectively, and they taper to a point. They carry the SHU rating between 4,000 and 9,000 units.
Pasilla de Oaxaca: These are under-appreciated chillies and they are extremely wrinkled. They assume the glossy deep rosy mahogany in colour, with thin skin. They have a sharp smoky flavour and they carry the SHU rating between 4,000 and 10,000 units.
Chipotle ‘Meco’ Chiles: These are smaller chillies and they are more leathery and flexible. There are also bigger sized Chipotle ‘Meco’ Chiles, which are firmer with the greyish-tan complexion. They carry the SHU rating between 5,000 and 10,000 units.
Puya Chillies: These chillies appear very similar to the well-liked Guajillo chillies. They are inclined to be somewhat smaller and pack extra heat, with the SHU rating between 5,000 and 10,000, when compared to that of the Guajillo chillies that carry the SHU rating between 2,500 and 5,000 units. These chillies are a little curved and lengthened with the body length that ranges from 3 inches to 4 inches, while narrowing to a point. These chillies contain a light fruity taste profile, with cherry and liquorice undertones that call to mind wild berries. They are largely cultivated in Mexico.
Dried chillies that come under the hot category include:
DeArbol Chiles: These chillies are less popular Mexican chillies and they assume a narrow, curved shape and somewhat pointed at their tip. Their body length ranges from 2 to 3 inches and they have a body width of 0.5 inches or less. They have a thin fleshy body and they are bright red in colour. They bear the SHU rating between 15,000 and 30,000 units.
Japones: These are small and pointed dried chillies with the body length and width of 2 inches and 0.5 inches respectively. They have a distinctive flavour and they bear the SHU rating between 15,000 and 30,000 units.
Aji Amarillo: With the unique flavour, these dried chillies are considered the exact Latin American chillies unlike the better-celebrated Caribbean and Mexican chillies. They are seen with the body length that ranges from 4 inches to 5 inches, with the SHU rating between 30,000 and 50,000 units.
Pequin Chiles: Resembling a hot volcanic blown rice kernel, these dried chillies are roughly has a body length and width of 0.5 inches and 0.25 inches respectively. They assume the colour of reddish orange, with the SHU rating between 40,000 and 58,000 units.
TienTsin Chiles: These chillies are seen in brilliant red in colour, and they are slender with the body length and width of 1 to 2 inches and 0.25 to 0.5 inches respectively. They closely look like Japones and Cayenne chillies, and they carry the SHU rating between 50,000 and 70,000 units.
Wiri Wiri Chiles: These are one among the hardest to find chillies and the bear a cherry- or berry-like look. These dried chillies assume a diameter of 9.5 inches and they carry the SHU rating between 60,000 and 80,000 units.
Some of the dried chillies that come under the crazy hot category include:
v Thai Chiles with the SHU rating that varies between 70,000 and 130,000 units.
v Birdseye Chiles with the SHU rating that varies between 100,000 and 225,000 units.
v Chiltepin Chiles with the SHU rating that varies between 100,000 and 250,000 units.
v Habanero Chiles with the SHU rating that varies between 150,000 and 325,000 units.
v Chocolate Habanero Chiles with the SHU rating that varies between 400,000 and 575,000 units.
v Bhut Jolokia (Ghost) with the SHU rating of more than 1,000,000 units.
How to buy dried chillies
Generally, dried chillies are soft, flexible, and intensely coloured, such as brick reds, black and mahogany. They would be fragrant, and would feel, similar to a prune or raisin solid, but fleshy. If you find chillies, which are dry, brittle, or dusty they are most likely old and will contain little flavour. Maintaining dried chillies appropriately would keep its flavour and freshness. Better store dried chillies in a sealed container or resalable plastic container. For comprehensive storage, freeze them in airtight containers or in freezer bags, and allow them to come to room temperature about one hour before using.
Whenever feasible, buy loose dried chillies, rather than the packaged ones, so that you can check them closely. Familiarize yourself to the shape of these chillies so that you can be convinced that you are buying the correct one. Usually, packaged dried chillies are habitually mislabelled.
Choose dried chillies, which are still a bit flexible and not dried to be crunchy. If only crisp chillies are available, put them on a warm pot before using because while they heat, they will turn into pliable. Conversely, do not buy humid dried chillies, for it denotes that either they have been wrongly stored or the seller has dampened them so that they will carry more weight. Odds are that the dampness will cause the formation of mould.
While buying your dried spicy peppers, check them to make sure that the fruit moth has not spoiled them. If it has, the skin of the chillies will be transparent, and there will be dark visible eggs. Before shopping for the high-quality dried chillies, know their SHU rating if possible.
Whether you name dried chillies as dried chilli peppers or dried peppers, there is something supernatural about them when you name a chill head by yourself. It is just about like an elite membership in a heat hunter’s cult. Chillies are supposed to be native to the Andean area of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador dating back over 10,000 years. They were an important ingredient in the Malayan diets and later in the diets of the Aztecs. Leading chefs in the South western part of the United States, Mexico and into the different parts of South America take the advantage of the sophisticated use of dried chillies by employing them to put in charming background complexity in conjunction with other seasonings and spices. They know it is not just concerning with the amount of heat you can manage, but the amount of flavour. The cuisines of Asia, Africa, and India are inclined to use more amounts of dried chillies for pure heat.