The Ajíes of Peru

A mix of Fresh Rocoto (red) and Aji Amarillo (orange) with Limes (green)

A mix of Fresh Rocoto (red) and Aji Amarillo (orange) with Limes (green)

Peru is a remarkable country with various food products and ingredients to offer the culinary world.  Their unique geographic location as well as historical roots have all helped to produce a diverse array of flavours and dish selections.   From a diet rich in seafood, corn, potatoes, ancient grains and meat to a plethora of natural yet functional plants, fruits and herbs.  Ajies or Pepper varieties abound in Peru.  As other countries, the pepper varietals come in vibrant colours and range of pungency.  The more commonly used varieties are Rocoto, Amarillo, Mirasol, Limo and the Panca pepper.

Rocoto (Capsicum prubescens)

copia-de-img_0574-copia2This is a meaty pepper that comes in a variety of vibrant colours, from yellow to red.   It has plenty of shiny, black seeds.    It is one of the hottest peppers of Peru with scoville units ranging from 30,000 to 70,00o – it depends if the seeds are used in the recipe.

Aji Amarillo

The Amarillo pepper is most widely used in Peruvian cooking. Always orange in colour, even though it is called the green aji.  It is about 10 cm long.  Although not very spicy, this peper is normally seeded and deveined before it is used in cooking.   It is milder than the Rocoto and is a main component in making  Huancaina sauce.     Huancaina sauce is a creamy blend of goat’s cheese, evaporated milk, amarillo pepper paste, garlic and cumin.    The dried version of this Amarillo pepper is called Aji Mirasol.

The Aji Mirasol is often seeded, scraped and left to soak in water for 12 hours or more before it is pureed and used in a sauce.  It has a mild, smoked flavour and it is used to make Panca paste.

Limo Pepper

The Limo Pepper is very similar to the Aji Amarillo in shape, but its colour is almost always red.  It is used fresh in ceviches.

Fresh Limo Pepper

Fresh Limo Pepper

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