There is nothing bland about it!
Chilies – Variety of Flavors!
I have been thinking to write about the unbelievable variety of chilies of different origins and flavors are available to us. Most people are familiar with paprika, chili powder and/or cayenne, however, there is an immense number of chilies which we really don’t think about on a daily basis. I usually use the guajillo or de arbol chilies in my cooking because I really think by using just one kind of chili provides a clean but deeper flavor to the dishes. Guajillo chilies are slightly milder compared to de arbol so, if you are in the mood for some heat then reach out for the de arbol chili powder. These are my two favorite chilies I use to make my Harissa, a north-African chili paste.
Some of the other chilies to try are, Ancho, Serrano, Chipotle, Anaheim, Habanero and the list goes on. This is how I would describe each one of them:
Ancho – Most people are familiar with the Poblano peppers, Ancho chilies are a dried for pf the Poblanos. They are fairly mild and almost have a fruity flavor. They are usually sort of dark brown in color and have a very wrinkled texture. I would use these in hamburgers to give them a slight heat with a mild fruity flavor.
Serrano – These chilies are of Mexican origin with pungent heat and a sweet, earthy flavor. These chilies are similar to jalapenos but slightly hotter. These chilies work great to make chili oil. Add whole chilies to a bottle of olive oil and leave it for a couple of weeks for the chilies to infuse the oil. The oil can be used in different recipes and as a dipping oil with bread.
Anaheim – Mild and subtle, also called Mild California chili. These chilies are mostly used in southwestern cuisine, mild enough to be eaten raw. I remember my dad used to eat similar chilies deep fried in a garbanzo bean flour (See recipe at right).
Habanero – These chilies are full of heat and flavor, a hundred times hotter than jalapenos. Add it to any recipe. They look different than most chilies and stand out right away due to the smaller shape and orange color.
Pakoras are a popular traditional Pakistani/Indian appetizer. The batter is made of garbanzo beans and some spices like chili powder, whole and ground cumin and salt. As I mentioned earlier my dad used to love whole chilies drenched in this batter and then deep fried. The pakoras can be made with any vegetable, some of my favorites are sliced zucchini, fresh spinach and sliced onions.
1 cup garbanzo bean flour
½ teaspoon chili powder (your preference)
¼ teaspoon whole cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup water (this is an estimate, add a little water at a time to get the right consistency)
6 Anaheim whole chilies
1 cup vegetable oil for frying
Add all the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly. Slowly add a little water at a time and continue to mix everything until the batter has the same consistency as a pancake batter. Heat up the oil in a frying pan. Dip the Anaheim peppers in the batter. When the oil is hot but not smoking then gently add the peppers, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve warm with a yogurt side sauce (Raita).
-Huma Siddiqui-Seitz is an entrepreneur, published author, cooking class instructor and owner of White Jasmine.