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Today we're delving into the diverse world of chillies, looking at a variety of flavour combinations various countries use in their food culture. Smoky, spicy, sweet, fruity - this blog covers it all!
Mexico and Central America
Mexican dishes use both fresh and dried chillies to create different flavours. Fresh chillies such as jalapeños pack a bit of a kick, whereas dried chipotle chillies provide a deep smoky flavour with a heat that builds gradually (think beef and kidney bean chili). Some dishes, such as chiles rellenos (traditionally a stuffed, roasted poblano chilli pepper), use the whole chilli whereas others may only use part of the pepper depending on how much heat is required.
Dishes often use a mixture of chilli flavours, too. For example, you might combine chipotles with paprika and cayenne pepper for a really leathery, smoky taste that warms your throat. For a more refreshing zing, try mixing green chillies with lime juice and coriander; this combination has a more aromatic flavour which is great for shellfish and white meat.
Thailand and East Asia
Many Thai and Vietnamese dishes use Thai chillies (commonly referred to as Bird's Eye chillies) which are very pungent and very hot, much more spicy than jalapeños. These chillies are used in a variety of dishes from soups and salads to curries and are even eaten raw. In Thai cooking they are traditionally used alongside other fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger), garlic, coriander, and lime.
Many Thai and East Asian dishes do not follow strict recipes, rather the recipes serve as a guideline and measurements can be adjusted to suit personal taste. In the case of chillies, heat is meant to accompany a combination of four key flavours: sweet, sour, salty, and creamy. Therefore, it is important that the key flavours are balanced so that the chilli can complement the entire dish. You can measure the flavours to suit your taste but remember to balance them out.
Tanzania and East Africa
As the MaRobert's fans will know, the Tanzanian use of chillies (or 'pili pili') creates rich, smoky, fruity flavours with plenty of spice. At MaRobert's we like to use Habanero chillies to achieve the balance between sweet, pungent fruitiness and sharp heat. You could also use Scotch Bonnet chillies for this purpose, as well as other varieties such as Jamaican Hot, Mirasol, or Calcutta.
East African food is somewhat influenced by Indian flavours which means a lot of spices which are used in traditional Indian dishes - cumin, turmeric, and cardamom for example - are likewise used in Tanzania, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and Rwanda.