Friday 25 March 2011

Aji Amarillo

My favorite chilli is aji amarillo, long and thin peppers, about 3-5 inches in length. Don’t be fooled by the name – amarillo means yellow in Spanish – because ripe aji amarillo are bright orange and unripe ones are yellow. The seeds inside will make a dish very spicy so just remove them to lower the heat level. The aroma and its fruity, somewhat sweet flavor add to the spiciness, making it unique from other hot peppers.

Aji Amarillo is consider the most important ingredient in Peruvian cooking by the famous Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio.

Here at Sabor we use aji amarillo in dishes such Papa a la Huancaina, potatoes with a yellow creamy sauce; Causa, a cold potato dish colored and flavored with yellow aji; and as a garnish on Escabeche, pickled fish. Another common use is as a side dipping sauce that can accompany any meal.

In addition to flavor, aji amarillo has health benefits as well due to its high levels of capsaicin, a natural ingredient in hot peppers located in the pepper’s ribs, which is good for pain relief, as a digestion aid, and in fighting inflammation.

In the UK the supply of this Aji is very irregular, so when we get it, we buy a good quantity and make a paste that we can use later in various recipesj, and we would advise anyone to do the same.

Pasta de Ají Amarillo

This chilli paste is use in many peruvian recipes especially in ceviches (we have even done a sorbet and is great with pasta). It can be freeze in small containers so that it can be easily thawed when needed.


1lb (½ kg) ají amarillo

½ cup sugar

¼ cup vinegar

2 tbsp vegetable oil


Wash, stem, seed and devein ají amarillo. Place in a large pot of cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes until ajíes are soft. Strain ajíes and place in a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the other ingredients. Blend to form a creamy paste. Press through a fine mesh sieve to remove any pieces of skin.

Chillies at South American kick to the world food

Ajíes (Capsicum)

Ajies mean hot chilli peppers in Spanish (also spelled chili), is the fruit of the plant capsicum of the nightshade Solanaceae family, in their various forms are what give every dish its essential flavour.

Ajíes feature prominently in pre-hispanic mythology; one of the legendary brothers who were the forefathers of the Inca Empire, Ayar Uchu, is named for ají in Quechua. Cultivated since prehistoric times in Peru and Mexico, it was discovered in the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus. He thought them as a more masculine version of Old World peppers, so he named them pimento in contrast with pimenta. Diego Alvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus' second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chile peppers to Spain, and first wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494.

Ajíes are used in two basic forms; as an aderezo which is a seasoning or dressing included in the preparation of a dish or as accompanying sauces or salsas. Just add a little aji to soups, stews, meats of ceviches to give a wonderful kick to the food. They are used dried or fresh and can be blanched to reduce spiciness. The various ajíes can also be bought in jars ready made in markets and specialty food stores. Here at Sabor we used a different types and always get asked about to describe the differences, I’ll be posting on many different types of aji in this blog since they are intrinsic to South American cooking .