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Teach me about chiles: fresh, dried, smoked, whole, ground...


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General Discussion

Teach me about chiles: fresh, dried, smoked, whole, ground...

crackle | | Jan 9, 2009 11:01 PM

I already know this might be too broad a topic.

I like chiles of all types, from all places, in nearly all possible forms. I like them dried and ground, I like them Thai, I like them warm off the plant from the backyard, I like them smoked, salted, tinned in sauces, packed in oil, deep-fried, powdered and combined with other spices, I like them Central American, Indian, Malaysian, African, Sichuan, I like them mashed with garlic. I like them dark, sweet, bitter, hot, mild, smoky, I like them even when they don't seem to belong. (Chiles or lovers?)

But I don't know anything about them. I've heard of anaheim, ancho, aleppo. By now everyone knows chipotles. My knowledge mostly stops there.

I have a lot of questions. You do not have to answer any of these, of course. But I would like to learn everything you can tell me about chiles. Chile? Chili? Chilli? Capsicum? Whatever. Maybe you happen to be an expert on one particular smoked type of one particular cultivar? Tell me.

What types are commonly used in what cuisines? What do they look like? (Is there a fetching visual guide I could find anywhere?) What purposes does each one serve?

Which ones can I readily buy fresh in North America? Which ones can I grow? What dried, smoked, ground or otherwise processed chiles can I order online and where should I order them from?

How do I store them? How can I cook with them? Where can I eat the best foods that really play on the strengths of a type of chile? What are your favorite sauces or dishes to cook with them? Have you come up with any unusual but brilliant combinations that use chile where it's unexpected?

Is it true that I can make lanterns out of them?

Most importantly: what safety tips should a neophyte learn for handling chiles in the garden or the kitchen?

I especially appreciate book recommendations if you have any.

Thank you all, you are all my sweetest burn.