WHAT IS IT?
De Árbol (“deh ar-boll”) are cousins of the cayenne, and pequin peppers. The powder is primarily used, commercially, in bottled hot sauces. Native to Mexico, and Asia, if you like cayenne, you’ll find some depth, along with equivalent heat, in the flavor of árbol.
A bright heat, similar to cayenne, their flavor, with a touch more red-bell pepper sweetness, enhances other flavors in a recipe. This holds true in the powder. Most rate out at 15,000 to 30,000 SHU, but there are varietals that can go as high as 60,000 SHU.
Native to Mexico, they are believed to have originated around Jalisco and Oaxaca. Today they are also grown, comercially, in the “big chile” growing regions of Chihuahua, Nayarit, Sinaloa, and Zacatecas, in Mexico, in New Mexico, as well as in Pakistan, India, China, and Southeast Asia.
Yahualica, a small town in West Jalisco, is famous for its Chile de Árbol. They not only grow it, but about a third of the town, 9,000 residents, are employed in the bottling hot sauces. More work in the chile industry, which is árbol. In the early 2,000’s, the Chinese began not only exporting chile de árbol to Asia; they began exporting it to Mexico! 30% of the Chile de Arbol consumed by Mexicans, today, is from China. That has had a hard impact on the growing regions within Mexico, because the Chinese grow the crops for far less per metric ton. The Mexican government has not done anything to protect the farmers, to date.
The powder that our recommended provider, above, offers, is produced from the Chinese chiles.
- Hot sauces
- Pork vindaloo
- Thai beef
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- Goulash árbol – Sub 1/4 of the paprika for a spicier, more fruitful flavor;
- My Singin’ Wings get their pop from chiles de árbol;
- My take on French onion soup incorporates a dash of árbol to bring up the flavor, not too much heat, but it reduces the sodium;
- Hot Fortune Cookies – For something different, a fortune cookie dough that looks about the same, but has a Thai accent to the taste, with a little kick!
In Spanish, de Árbol means ‘tree-like.’ The chiles also get nicknames for their long, woody stems like “rat’s tail” and their shape, “bird’s beak.” We know that chile de árbol traces back to at least the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. Spaniards are also likely to have moved it to Chile and Peru. It found its way to Asia, where the Chinese, in the early 21st century, began exporting cheaply produced árbol to Mexico. This destabilized the price for the crops grown natively, and put pressure on the farmers who produce the native chiles.
- Pico de Pajaro (Birds beak)
- Cola de Rata (Rat’s tail)
- Chile de Arbol
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