WHAT IS IT?
The tepin chile’s round “berries” are about double the size of a peppercorn. They’re bright red or green in color fresh, a sort of red-orange when dried, with smallish seeds like any other capiscum pepper. They have a really nice bit of savory punch along with a short-hot heat “pop” that doesn’t stick as long as other peppers.
They’re awesome in all kinds of dishes, from my riffs on Asian soups to using them to pickle carrots and onions for latin dishes without going to the more distinct flave of the Jalapeño. Crush one or two in a ramen bowl and it takes your A game up a notch at noodle time!
Although these peppers are tiny, they are potent with a slight sourness and subtle rich mouthfeel that makes them unique in flavor, with a savory flavor. The fresh can have a slightly fruity flavor in addition. In Mexico, the heat of the tepin is called arrebatado (“rapid” or “violent”), because, while the heat is intense, it’s very short lived. High on the Scoville scale (50,000 to 100,000 Scoville units) these peppers rank an 8 on a scale of 10.
Tepin chiles are native to southern North America and South America. They grow wild in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico. They are thought to be one of the oldest species of capsicum peppers. Dubbed the “Official State Native Pepper of Texas,” it’s certainly a favorite in Latin and Tex-Mex cooking.
- Added to oils to heat up the oil
- Sauces and dressings
- Chile con carne
- Tortilla soup
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Add one to sunomono, Japanese marinated cucumber slices and fish, for some added pop and savory
- Puts a little roar into my ramens
- Crush a couple into bone broth to add dimension to it
- Add one to egg wash for my Mexi take on a Croque Monsieur with a jalapeño jam.
- One crushed over white rice adds a little nice flavor, color, and spice!
Like most peppers, bushes produce more pods during wet years, and very little fruit during droughts. Tepin chiles are very small, so they are very sensitive to rainfall and sunlight. Their heat can vary not just season to season, but week to week. Find out more about how to pick/use Tepins and other chilies in my write up “Masters of the Heat.”
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