There are a lot more shops carrying dried chilies in Vancouver (where I live) than even 3 years ago. The kind from way down south. I suspect it’s because there are a lot more Hispanics here needing their flavours from home. I welcome them – we are richer for them – and their food.
Lots of the recipes will ask you to rehydrate dried chilies. This is what they mean:
- Slit dried chilies (any kind) with a knife, place in a deep bowl and cover with boiling water.
- Cover bowl and let sit for a couple of hours or overnight
- Strain out stems and seeds (or keep seeds). Do not throw away the water
- Whir up chilies in a blender or food processor, adding some of the water to make a paste or all of the water for a stock.
- Some chilies don’t seem to grind up like the others, don’t worry.
What you will get from this method is a more concentrated alternative to the powder form. Also, it’s more helpful in ascertaining the distinct flavours and heat of various chilies. A confusing thing if you’re uninitiated.
Recipes usually call for pureed chilies in sauces. But having created the base, break out and use wherever you think the flavours will enhance other seasonings. It is better cooked than not. Freeze unused portion in ice cube trays.
- the broth is great as the liquid base for beans or for chili
- stir paste into sauces, shredded meats, polenta, pilafs
- add to frying onions and garlic
Different regions use different chilies. To be really authentic follow a recipe. I like to experiment because flavours call to me in this way. Sometimes it doesn’t work and sometimes it’s spectacular.