Glossary of Oaxacan Chile's
Glossary of Oaxacan Chiles
The very dark, intensely robust flavor of the black chilhuacle pepper is integral to both the color and flavor of mole negro. The name chilhuacle, means "old chile" in the Nahuatl language (the language of the Aztecs). Very expensive and hard to acquire, the negro chilhuacle is one of the ingredients that makes Zocalito's dishes unlike those of any other restaurant.
The red chilhuacle pepper is typically used in making mole coloradito. (Both "rojo" and "coloradito" mean various shades of the color red—and yes, Colorado's name derives from this Spanish word.) Zocalito is currently the only U.S. importer of these rare chiles from Oaxaca.
The yellow chilhuacle pepper is used to make the mole amarillo, one of the seven major Oaxacan moles. Over the past few years the chilhuacle amarillo has pretty much not been grown by the farmers due to the higher demand and price for chilhuacle negro. On our recent trips to Oaxaca, we have helped convince the farmers to start producing more of these wonderful chiles.
A close cousin of the chilhuacle pepper, but with a little less earthiness and more fruit-forward flavors, chicosle chiles are very much part of what makes Zocalito unique. Like the yellow chilhuacle, this chile has largely been ignored by the farmers in the La Canada region of Oaxaca due to the high price that the negro chilhuacle fetches.
This intensely flavored pepper is not grown in the Cuicatlan area with the previously mentioned chiles, but more to the south of Oaxaca City in the Ocotlan area. Used to make the sauce in the grilled skirt steak and cactus dish on the special tapas menu, taviche chiles contribute the "dry" yet robust flavors that accent the portabella mushroom and the goat cheese.
Pasilla de Oaxaca Chiles
This smoke-dried pepper comes from the Mixe region of Oaxaca and can be found in the U.S. However, Zocalito is the only importer of the really large pasilla de Oaxaca that we stuff and make into a relleno. Check out our website for more information on the Mixe region of Oaxaca.
Grasshoppers are a popular snack sold on seemingly every market corner of Oaxaca, fried with water and seasoned with lime, chiles, garlic, or sometimes all three. While Oaxacans generally sort the different sizes of grasshoppers and keep the flavors separate, some of the larger chapulines will be cooked with all three flavors. We are working on importing chapulines and may start as early as next spring.
Guasanitos de Maguey
A small red worm that lives in the agave plant and eventually turns into a butterfly. The guasanito has an intense oily-earthy flavor and is instrumental in Oaxacan cooking. Again, we are going to start importing them, although they are very expensive (ten cents each). Santa Leaf: A large anise-flavored leaf used in Oaxacan cooking. Also known as hoja santa, it's grown here in the U.S. and can occasionally be found in Mexican markets.
A paste made of the brick-hard seeds of a tropical tree (Bixa orellana), also called annatto. By itself achiote has a mildly peppery, slightly dry saffron-like flavor, and is commonly used to provide a beautiful color to recipes.
A ping pong paddle shaped leaf from the prickly pear cactus (the word "nopale" derives from the Nahuatl, and means "pad") this vegetable is very popular in Mexican cooking. The pads are removed of their needles before cooking. They are commonly served julienned or diced, and have a fresh, green bean-like flavor.