WHAT IS IT?
Peru’s hottest peppers are still pretty tame, in today’s world of super-spicy hybrids. The powder adds a pleasant pungency, without going overboard,
What may pass for a small bell pepper, the aji rocoto is the hottest of native peppers in Peru. Smooth like a bell pepper, the black seeds inside, and the strong pith that connect them, are the difference difference in pungency. There are two types of aji rocoto pepper: Rocoto de Monte, and Rocoto Serrano. Their size, and heat vary a lot, depending upon what soil conditions they are grown in.
At 30,000 to 100,000 SHU, this is Peru’s spiciest pepper. Visually, fresh, the Aji Ricoto Serrano is smaller. Its colors run red, yellow, or orange, fresh. The Rocoto de Monte is more green to greenish-dark red. The powders have slightly different color as well. They run from an orange-red for Serrano, to a red more like a Korean gochugaru for the de Monte.
This pepper is native to the forests at the foothills, of the Eastern Peruvian Andes. Oxapampa-Pasco produces what most people consider to be the best rocoto pepper in the world. Arequipa, Huanuco, and Junin are also top producers. The pepper is also grown in Bolivia (Locoto), Argentina (Aymara), and Mexico (Manzano Pepper).
- Ricoto relleno – Ricoto pepper stuffed with cheese;
- Crema de Ricoto – A spicy aji ricoto sauce;
- Quinoa chaufa – spicy stir-fry quinoa;
- Papas a la Huancaina – Boiled potatoes with a spicy peanut sauce
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Roasted corn, and Great Northern Beans with olive oil, salt and rocoto powder;
- Ricotta/Ricoto handpies – Stuffed with fresh Italian cheese and a bit of Crema de Ricoto;
- The Spicy Shepherd – A smoked-lamb shepherd’s pie. Meat filling has hints of garlic, mint, peanut flour, and ricoto.
- Quinoa & Chick Pea salad – Puts a little pop into a cold salad of quinoa, over greens.
As of this writing, the paste, and even the frozen peppers themselves, are easier to obtain than the powder, outside of the countries where it is grown. We list a provider that carries Locoto, the Bolivian equivalent of Aji Rocoto. Do let us know if you have a better source!
Rocotos are native to Peru. Like many, carbon dating of peppers traces found in the Guitarrero Caves tells us that the Rocoto dates back to pre-Incan times, cultivated at least about 5,000 years ago. In Quechua, its name was rukutu luqutu.
- Locoto (Bolivia)
- Aymara (Argentina)
- Luqutu (Argentina)
- Rukutu luqutu (Quechua)
- Manzano pepper (Mexico)
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