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Aug 10, 2007 04:38 AM

Best store for fresh hot peppers/chiles?

I spent all of yesterday searching for green bird's-eye chiles and never found them (I just went to nearby places, Jefferson Mkt, Lifethyme natural, citarella, dean & deluca). I'm also looking for ancho chiles. Where's the best place to go for a good pepper selection? Kalustan's? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Do you mean fresh "anchos"? Those are chiles poblanos, though the varieties used for the fresh version and dried are somewhat different, and poblanos are rarely eaten ripe. (Chiles anchos and mulatos are dried, ripe fruits from different varieties of the same basic strain as poblanos.)

    What are called bird-chiles here, I rarely see outside of Indian or Asian groceries though they do pop up once in a while at Garden of Eden (for no particular reason as far as I can tell.) The ripe ones are even harder to come by, I never see those anywhere but Vietnamese, Thai and other SE Asian groceries, rarely in Korean, even more rarely in specifically-Chinese stores; you might find them in season in an Indian grocery, but they don't seem to go out of their way to obtain them like the SE Asians.

    On the whole I think Kalustyan's fresh vegs are overpriced and rarely in good condition, but there are also 3 (exclusively) Indian grocery stores within a block of them and between the 4, you can usually, but not always, find the small, green chiles in decent enough condition to bother with.

    Otherwise, I've always found chiles to be a crapshoot - since the different sorts are used by different cultures, and since they're fairly perishable and not all that popular among mainstream Americans, it's hard to find a "one stop shop" whose produce is reliably good quality. Fairway usually has a few, including poblanos, and their turnover is pretty good; the produce store in Chelsea Market always has some, but they often look like hell, even if I were desperate I'd rather substitute. Unfortunately the places you list are probably the least likely suspects for a decent selection in worthwhile condition, though D & D sometimes has a variety or two that are otherwise scarce in the retail trade.

    If you're willing to pay "organic" prices ($8-12 /lb), the Blew Farms stand at Union Square has started getting in the smaller, hotter peppers recently so unless the weather turns really wet, gray and cold for the rest of August, you should find some decent stuff there. (Including, now that I think of it, plants of several varieties much like the Thai chiles you mention.) I think they usually have poblanos, too....

    1 Reply
    1. re: MikeG

      I never really had a problem with the chilis at Chelsea Market. I use a lot of chilis in my cooking and find that Chelsea Market has become my go-to for anchos, serranos, habaneros and other Mexican/Southwestern chilis. I still have far too much trouble locating Scotch bonnet, bird's eye and other non-Mexican chilis, though. I am told that if I want Jamaican or Asian peppers, I need to hit up the Jamaican and Thai stores.

    2. The best hot pepper selection in NYC is at the Union Sq market. They have the most varieties and the freshest peppers. Some are mad hot!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: princeofpork

        Agreed. They definitely have the best selection in August, early September. Something like 20-30 different kinds of chile peppers. Great habaneros too.

      2. I have the same problem finding chiles - I can usually find jalapenos with no problem, but it is usually hit or miss from there - if any one has any other ideas on the UES or the Village I'd appreciate them too. Even Eli's often doesn't have much of a variety.

        2 Replies
        1. re: MMRuth

          Thanks so much for the suggestions! I found a little Mexican grocery store on Ave A & 13th that had the dried anchos. However, I'll definitely be going to Greenmarket at Union Square to stock up on fresh chiles. Many thanks.

          1. re: ruby21702

            I missed somehow that you were also looking for dried anchos. The only place I found them in my neighborhood was Graces Marketplace, but I think I've also seen them at various Whole Foods.

        2. The wonderful Thai market, Bangkok Center Grocery, on Mosco St. in Chinatown (off Mott, just before it ends at Bowery) always has thai chilies (birds-eye) available. They are in the refrigerator, packaged in little plastic pouches. They are usually mostly green chilies, with a few red ones thrown in there too.