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History of the Chilli
Chilli peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. There is archaeological evidence at sites located in southwestern Ecuador that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago, and is one of the first cultivated crops in the Central and South Americas that is self-pollinating.
Christopher Columbus was one of the first Europeans to encounter them (in the Caribbean), and called them “peppers” because they, like black and white pepper of the Piper genus known in Europe, have a spicy hot taste unlike other foodstuffs. Upon their introduction into Europe chilis were grown as botanical curiosities in the gardens of Spanish and Portuguese monasteries. But the monks experimented with the chilis’ culinary potential and discovered that their pungency offered a substitute for black peppercorns, which at the time were so costly that they were used as legal currency in some countries.
Chillies were cultivated around the globe after Columbus. Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Columbus’ second voyage to the West Indies in 1493, brought the first chili peppers to Spain, and first wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494.
From Mexico, at the time the Spanish colony that controlled commerce with Asia, chili peppers spread rapidly into the Philippines and then to India, China, Korea and Japan. They were incorporated into the local cuisines.
An alternate account for the spread of chilli peppers is that the Portuguese got the pepper from Spain, and cultivated it in India. The chili pepper figures heavily in the cuisine of the Goan region of India, which was the site of a Portuguese colony (e.g., vindaloo, an Indian interpretation of a Portuguese dish). Chili peppers journeyed from India, through Central Asia and Turkey, to Hungary, where it became the national spice in the form of paprika.
The indigenous populations of Mexico first collected chilli peppers from the wild, and later cultivated them for use in cooking or used them as a preservative for meat and fish because of their anti-microbial properties.
Chilli in Mexican Food
Chilli peppers, which are technically a fruit (berry) but classified as a vegetable, are high in vitamins C and A (as beta-carotene), as well as potassium, iron, and fiber. There are more than 150 varieties of chili peppers in an amazing number of sizes, shapes, colors, flavors, and degrees of hotness–from mild to very hot. A chili pepper when fresh may even have a different name when it is dried.
Mexico is a large country with many diverse regions. In turn, each region has its own specialty dishes. Accordingly, chili peppers are used in different ways. Contrary to popular belief, chilli peppers are used in Mexican cuisine for the subtle flavors they impart to the dish–not to make it hot and spicy.
For example, chilli peppers can be used as an ingredient in meat rubs or dry marinades for meat or fish before roasting or barbequing or they are roasted and blended with cream to make a sauce for meat. Chili peppers are also used raw in salsa or as pickles or condiments.
Types of Chilli Peppers
1. Poblano peppers are the largest peppers used in Mexican cuisine. They are mainly used to make chili rellenos (chiles stuffed with cheese and then deep fried) or mole poblano, a sauce that is served with meat and poultry. Poblano peppers can be either mild or hot and are dark green in color with an earthy flavor that comes out when they are roasted.
2. Serrano peppers are bright green with a hot fiery taste and are mainly used in salsas.
3. Chipotle peppers are dried jalapeno peppers that have been smoked. They are often used in sauces to add a smoky flavor.
4. Ancho peppers are dried poblano peppers. They are reddish-brown in color with a mild flavor. They are typically used in sauces, and are the most commonly used chili pepper.
5. Fresno peppers look like a smaller version of the sweet green pepper. They are mainly used as an ingredient in guacamole and dishes featuring black beans.
6. Jalapenos are very hot peppers that are often pickled or used in salsas. They turn from green to dark purple, and finally to red when they are ripe. Jalapeno chili peppers are probably the most well known of the chili peppers.
7. Habanero peppers are the hottest of all the chili peppers. Except for their bright orange color, they look like miniature versions of sweet green peppers. Habanero peppers are used as an ingredient in salsas.
Typical Dishes Made With Chilli Peppers
Chili peppers are an essential ingredient in salsas, along with tomato, cilantro, onion, and spices. Salsa can be mild or hot depending on the type of chili pepper it is made with. Some salsas are made with a mix of several different chili peppers.
Mole sauce is made from poblano chili peppers, nuts, spices, fruits, vegetables, and chocolate. It is used as an accompaniment for beef and chicken dishes mainly for special occasions and holidays.
Chillis en nogada or green chili peppers are stuffed, fried, and topped with cream and topped with pomegranate seeds.
Chillaquiles are a breakfast dish made with eggs and pieces of fried tortillas, topped with cream and salsa.
Chillate is a drink made from chili peppers, raw chocolate, and toasted corn ground into a powder, and water.
How to Buy Chilli
When buying fresh chili peppers, look for firm ones with intact skins. They should not be discolored, spotted, or shriveled. Store fresh chili peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen to use later. First remove the seeds, and cut into small pieces, and then freeze. Dried chili peppers should be stored in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Canned chili peppers are also used in Mexican cuisine.
San Diego, CA
GREAT Mexican food! the chips and salsa are really good! I pour that salsa on all the food I order there! I usually get the combo platter with the chile relleno and enchilada and tostada, all are always good and its a lot of food! They serve beer there and have good margaritas, on the rocks, just like I like them!
I’ve had most things on the menu and haven’t been dissapointed in a long time, our family has been going there since I was a kid, and now my family loves it too! My son always orders the steak ranchero and my husband the chile colorado…all combos come with the soup of the day and a salad.
The jukebox has old school tex mex-country style music, its nice and reminds me of my dad.
So if you just want to eat in a laid back environment with great food, Salazars is the place to go!
San Diego, CA
This place is awesome. The 70’s motif, the music they place and the food is all great. It’s almost as if it’s the last holdout of an era of Mexican diners. Their menu is very simple with tons of great choices and huge portions; don’t expect to see a California burrito on the menu. It’s relatively inexpensive, authentic and really, really good. If you feel like breaking the mold, and trying something a little more old fashioned and less crowded, then this is a great restaurant to try