The final spicy instalment of the letter C/Ch
I debated whether or not to do a third blog on the letter C, but I realized that I cannot talk about Oaxacan cuisine without at least mentioning one chile.
Chile de Agua – A Oaxacan Chilli Pepper
In the streets of Oaxaca city you will often find a chile relleno which is, as you would expect, a pepper stuffed with either picadillo (ground meat with spices) or queso fresco (fresh cheese). The one thing that makes Oaxacan chiles rellenos different is that the pepper used – chile de agua – is an heirloom variety that is native to the Valley of Oaxaca region.
You could say that the chile de agua is my favourite pepper to eat fresh because the flavour is so intense (second favourite would be the chile poblano and my favourite dried pepper is the chile de arbol). It is very spicy, but somehow more mellow than serrano or even jalapeño because it is sweet and a bit sour in addition to being spicy.
Oaxacan Chiles rellenos
The chilli is roasted, stuffed and then covered with egg white before being deep fried. The fried chile relleno is served in a large blanda or tlayuda tortilla with arroz rojo (red rice), a hard boiled egg, and frijol molido (black bean paste) and is one of our favourite street food breakfasts.
In the summer of 2013 we received some of these chillies at my work (I work for an organic produce distributor). They were red (more mature) and had been grown in California. I was very excited and bought a whole bunch of them. My wife and I were both surprised by the flavour – they were the spiciest chiles de agua that we had ever tasted. Nevertheless my wife made chiles rellenos and some of my family members managed to eat them without crying.
We also used them to prepare a relish that is often served in Oaxaca by slicing the chilli and a red onion into very thin strips (rajas) and soaking them in lime juice and salt overnight. The lime and salt reduce the spice of the chilli and it makes a tasty topping for tacos.
Stat tuned for my next post, it is now time to finally move on from the letter C.