- Native to Mesoamerica: chile is one of the distinctive ingredients of Mexican cuisine from pre-Hispanic times.
- It is believed that there are at least 140 varieties of chile in Mexico.
- Mexican cuisine is Intangible Cultural Heritage in part for chile, because it is one of the basic elements of our culinary system.
Fresh, dried, pickled, in salsas, in powder and as the basis for all mole sauces, this is how chile is consumed in Mexico. In and with everything. It is so multifaceted that it can appear on the table any time of day, in dishes ranging from Mexican style eggs (with onion, tomato and chile) or chilaquiles (tortillas with a spicy sauce) for breakfast,chiles en nogada, (poblano peppers stuffed with meat-nut-fruit mixture in nut-cream sauce), stuffed peppers or mole sauces ; for lunch; and of course, as the perfect touch on tacos or any Mexican traditional dish at night.
Even though in classic cuisine fresh and dried chiles are rarely mixed, today’s young chefs combine them in innovative ways with superb results. For now suffice it to say that fresh chiles can be kept for up to about two weeks in the refrigerator, while dried chiles seem to be immortal in a pantry. Because chile has so much personality, you need creativity to combine it and a degree of restraint to serve it.
To control the spiciness, you should toast them on a griddle, remove the veins and seeds inside, although culinary knowhow will dictate how much to add to each dish. When selecting a chile, it should be carefully checked, eliminating any that have broken skin, that are missing the stem, or that have any pricks or puncture marks.
Skeptical palates might be inclined to eliminate the possibility of adding them to desserts, but their influence can even be found in some recipes: in the home of filmmaker “El Indio” Fernández, coconut-filled chiles used to be served to top off a meal. What’s more, lots of chocolates and sweets (e.g., tamarind) contain chile as the king of flavor.
"Chile is what identifies us gastronomically, because when we Mexicans speak with the truth, we speak ‘in chile.’" Ricardo Muñoz Zurita.
- According to the Sagarpa (Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries, and Food), the principal varieties of chile that are cultivated in Mexico are the jalapeño, serrano, poblano, sweet peppers, and habanero.
- The habanero chile was granted the Designation of Origin in 2010
- For more information on the subject, we recommend the book Los chiles de México by Ricardo Muñoz Zurita. It includes 136 varieties of chiles, where they come from, the calendar for their cultivation and harvest, traditions, and recommendations.