What Is Aji Mirasol?
Aji Mirasol is the sun-dried Aji Amarillo. It isn’t a true chili pepper in its own right; nonetheless, it has all the important flavor profiles features of Aji Amarillo. The unique sun-drying process employed by the Peruvian farmers gives the dried chilies a sweet fruity flavor with very little heat. The flavor of Aji Mirasol becomes even more intense when you fry or roast the dried peppers.
Importance of Peppers In Peruvian Cooking
Aji, also known as pimiento chile, is believed to have originated in South America and have been cultivated for around 7,000 years. Hot and mild Ajis is important to Peruvian cuisine and these peppers are of different colors; vibrant and subtle. In Peruvian history, Ajis played an important role Inca mythology as well as Inca foods. In fact, the pictures of Ajis in different colors and shapes decorated the ceramic and textiles of coastal pre-Colombian cultures like Chimu, Nazca, and Moche.
Currently, there are over three hundred varieties of chili peppers cultivated and used in Peru. Most types of chilies are regional and rarely found outside a particular region. Peppers like Aji Amarillo, Aji Panca, Aji Rocoto, Aji Mirasol, Aji Limo are the most popular ones.
Method of Sun-Drying Aji Amarillo
Here is a simple method of making Aji Mirasol on your own. Take the fully ripened Aji Amarillos and carefully cut open them to remove the seeds; also remove the pedicel and calyx. Don’t remove the seeds if you want the chili to be highly spicy and crunchy. Place the peppers cut-side facing down onto a cookie sheet, and place them in direct sunlight. If you don’t have an open place to sun-dry the chilies, you may put them on a windowsill if necessary. On a hot sunny day, dry the peppers for a minimum of 8 hours. Turn the peppers over, let the cut-side face the sun, and continue drying for one or two more days till the Amarillo chilies are fully dehydrated. Store the dried chilies in an air-tight container and in a dry place.
Aji Mirasol Flavor
The sun-dried Aji Amarillo chili pepper has a unique flavor and intensity. After drying, it’s less floral and citric than the fresh Amarillo chilies but has a more complex and concentrated flavor. A staple of Peruvian cuisine, Aji Mirasol with its unique fruity flavor is a versatile pepper that goes well with a wide variety of Peruvian dishes, but especially salsa. This dried pepper tastes best when combined with fresh cilantro and citrus juice like lime or lemon.
The drying process makes the chilies lightweight and gives long shelf life, and their pungency stays intact for several months. Before using Aji Mirasol needs to be toasted and dehydrated in lukewarm water and blanched two to three times, change the water each time to reduce its heat.
Uses Of Aji Mirasol
Ground or whole Aji Mirasol has most of the flavor features of the fresh chili and has several uses in cooking. This dried chili, a staple ingredient in Peruvian cooking, is popularly used to add depth and flavor to soups, stews, and sauces. It’s mixed with huacatay (black mint) to make ocopa sauce. Fried in oil with garlic and onion, this pepper is used as a base for several regional dishes like Kapchi.
Most cooks prefer to deep-fry the whole chili until golden and serve it over dishes like tacu tacu, chupes, or beans. The deep-fried chili is both spicy and crunchy.
Aji Mirasol Paste
Aji Mirasol paste is a very commonly used ingredient in Peruvian kitchen. The paste is used to season a multitude of dishes such as meat, vegetables, stews, and soups. This paste is made by processing the chili in a blender with vegetable oil or little water. Store it in an airtight container and preserve it in a refrigerator. Mirasol paste has a wonderful earthy flavor and is a flavorful addition to soups and stews such as kapchi, or ocopa.
Other Varieties Of Aji Peppers
There are many different strains of Peruvian and South American aji peppers and here are the links to some of the most popular aji peppers: