Pasilla Pepper de Oaxaca, Capsicum annuum, is pronounced “Pah-SEE-yah day Waa-HAAK-kah”, this chile is not well known in the US but it’s gaining in popularity among chefs and serious chile heads who enjoy its deep, smoky flavor. While we in the US are much more familiar with chipotle chiles (smoked jalapenos) the Pasilla de Oaxaca possesses a bit less heat than the chipotle but twice the smokiness. One of many Mexican chiles that are known as one thing when fresh and another when dried, when fresh this is known in the Oaxaca region as chile mije. Pasilla de Oaxaca is closely related to the Pasilla Negro chile (known as the chilaca chile when fresh).
Oaxaca is home to one of the world’s most diverse collections of chiles. The state of Oaxaca is located in the south of Mexico, bordered by the states of Chiapas (to its east), Guerrero (to the west), Puebla (northwest) and Veracruz (northeast) and the Pacific Ocean to the south. While representing less than 5% of Mexico’s total land mass, Oaxaca covers more than 36,000 square miles. Oaxaca is known for three mountain ranges converging together (Sierra Atravesada, Sierra Madre de Oaxaca and Sierra Madre del Sur. While Oaxaca has one of the most rugged terrains in all of Mexico throughout the mountain ranges are numerous narrow valleys, canyons, and ravines that grow some of the finest chiles in the world.
Some of the better known of these hard to find chiles are Chilhuacle Negro (a very sweet and smoky flavor) may be one of the best known of these rare chiles because of their use in mole negro, one of the most popular Oaxacan dishes. Chilhuacle Rojo, or red Chilhuacles, are used in mole coloradito. Chilhuacle Amarillo (sweet citrus like flavor), or yellow Chilhuacles, are really rare and used to make mole Amarillo. Chile de Agua is another very rare chile that is often stuffed with a pork hash and it also used in salsa, mole sauces and dried into a powder and added to seasoning blends. Taviche chiles are often paired by Oaxacan chefs with goat cheese and portabella mushrooms.
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