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There is a pepper which is identified in all the books and other reference I can find as the Poblano - nice dark-green thing, heart-shaped and shiny, about 4-6" long. It's fairly hot when raw, more so than your typical Anaheim, but mellows to just barely spicy when cooked and has a great flavor. The other thing I like about it is the skin's so thin you don't have to peel it. As Mrs. O despises sweet peppers but loves the hot ones, I have been using these in any recipe calling for bell pepper, with excellent results.

Only thing is, in the regular commercial grocery and produce markets these are labelled "Pasillas." This despite the fact that a real pasilla is a long skinny dried pepper, as ALL THE BOOKS will tell you. It's as though we woke up one morning and suddenly cucumbers were being sold under the name of Banana, and no matter what evidence there was to the contrary they'd be labelled that way, they'd scan that way, and if you wanted your grocer to stock cucumbers you'd have to ask him to order bananas.

Perhaps this is a silly thing for an elderly man to be fussing about, but I just can't understand how a vegetable can get mislabelled in the first place, and then how that mislabelling can take on the quality of settled fact without anyone's hollering, "Hold it there, bud!"

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  1. I've found the same thing in my supermarket, and it drives me crazy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pikawicca

      Me too. Love the peppers though no matter what they are called. Some of my favorite to cook with.

      1. In my semi-regular market a Poblano is labeled a Poblano. Thank goodness.
        A rose by ay other name.......just wouldn't be the same.

        1. Applying 'pasilla' to this fresh pepper is mainly a California quirk. Bayless mentions this in his 1987 Authentic Mexican. I don't know if it can be traced to neighboring parts of Mexico, or how far back it goes.

          Poblano - from Puebla
          Pasilla - raisin like. The skinny, wrinkled ones (dried chilaca) fits the name, but the dark Poblanos are also raisin like in color.
          Dried poblano is usually called 'ancho', wide.


          1 Reply
          1. re: paulj

            Diana Kennedy, Regional Cooks, 1978, also notes these regional variations in names.

          2. Will Owen, just because some GS-1 produce clerk, who normally labels plural potatoes as being possessive potatoe's with that blasted apostrophe, says it is a "Pasilla" doesn't make it so.

            You know the difference, as does Mark Miller (Coyote Cafe) who writes:
            "PASILLA, also known as the "chile negro", literally "little raisin", the pasilla is a dried chilaca chile. There is some confusion over the name of this chile: in California and northern Mexico, the fresh poblano and its dried forms, the ancho and mulato, are referred to (mistakenly) as pasillas." .....From the mouth of the knowledgable horse.

            For the time being, we'll have to make do with their mistaken nomenclature, at least until we can persuade the store owners that they look silly with this mis-labeling. (If said owners are Easterners, this may be a challenge)

            4 Replies
            1. re: Sherri

              And from Dave DeWitt, "The Pope of Peppers"
              Note that the dried chilaca is called chile negro in some places.
              Elsewhere DeWitt writes that the Poblano is called 'miabuateco' in southern Mexico. And the dried poblano is called, in some places, 'mulato' - black.

              Variations in regional names of chiles is quite common, especially for ones that were well established before modern commerce.

              1. re: paulj

                Exactly... aside from Scientific Names... no one really looks silly for using their region's terminology. I may be wrong but I don't the Mexican government has ever come up with official names for any of the chiles... and has just allowed the regional terminology to prevail... so you can't blame people for having different descriptions.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Then we should all feel at ease with the fact that in Tennessee (Middle Tennessee, at least) daffodils are almost universally referred to as buttercups... most rattling to me, since where I grew up (SE Illinois) half the population called them daffodils, the other half crocuses. But we definitely knew what a buttercup was!

              2. re: Sherri

                Here in the east ----Western MA--- where good Mexican food and supplies are really challenging to come by, at least our supermarkets label poblanos, poblanos. Maybe if your CA store owners WERE Easterners, there would be less confusion? ;-)

              3. As I think about more, customers who learn about these peppers by the BOOK should be able to buy them by the BOOK. Erroneous names like 'pasilla' should be restricted to places where old time Angelinos shop. :)


                1. Amen. I'm from Phoenix and some of the variations on dried chile nomenclature are the same way. Chile negros ancho vs. chile negro mulato vs. chile negro pasilla, etc. And these are all on the packaging, no miscommunicaton from the grocer. Makes it hard to know what your getting sometimes by the label alone without knowing what the chile should look like. I work with dried enough that I keep a cheat sheet to help minimize confusion. :)

                  1. From your mouth to God's ears, Will. On my first visit to a local (Colorado) Latin supermarket, I spent a good 20 minutes in the produce section debating with myself whether the pasilla was in fact a poblano. I eventually decided in the affirmative and brought them home.

                    My new approach is to bring my Mexican cookbook with me to the store, so I can resolve any questions that I have on nomenclature and produce idenitification on the spot.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Megiac

                      You mean you haven't committed at least one of the many illustrated chile-pepper charts to memory?? You just aren't serious about this, are you? ;-)

                      Seriously, I think we can assume that ANY medium-to-largish fleshy heart-shaped deep green pepper is going to taste really good when cooked, especially if it's either easy to skin or doesn't need it, and the seller can call it Fred for all I care.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Stuff "Fred" with some Monterey Jack cheese mixed w/ hominy, toasted cumin, crema and cilantro (or Mexican oregano) for a quick, delicious supper. Bake until cheese melts and it smells like you need to eat this right NOW.

                    2. A pasilla is a dried chilaca chile. Poblanos, when dried, are called anchos or sometimes mulatos.

                      1. Will Owen, well, here it is, May of 2014, and I just purchased a beautiful Poblano from Sprouts in Phoenix, labeled "Pasilla". There is no doubt about to, I could send you a picture, but your described it perfectly in 2007. Sprouts is known mainly for it's produce, so it seems like they should be able to get it right. I guess I'm getting to be an ornery old coot myself.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: robertcobb

                          The packing box probably was marked pasilla. Grocers use the terminology that is common with their distributors and the industry. They don't read CH and cookbooks.

                          1. re: paulj

                            I've come to the conclusion that "Pasilla" has entered the FDA's (or whoever runs it) USA-wide SKU system and is firmly lodged there. There's a Food4Less (discount Kroger affiliate) nearby that has bags of frozen poblano strips, all roasted and peeled (and terrific!). They're from Huerta, a Mexican brand, and though the shelf tag says "pasilla" and the printed-out receipt does too, the bag itself says POBLANO STRIPS. I know, rolling my eyes will get me nowhere.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Recently I've bought Herdez brand 'diced poblano peppers', marked as 'product of USA'.

                        2. Regarding calling something the wrong name and then the practice spreads, I have one word: YAMS

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: sandylc

                            Which kind, Japanese, purple, red, white?

                              1. re: sandylc

                                " African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. "

                                The history of this terminology (including the origin of 'potato') is interesting, but I don't see why people are bothered. Has anyone been hurt by the use of 'yam' for certain varieties of batata? Who as tried to follow some Caribbean or African recipe, and bought the wrong kind of 'yam'?

                                Speaking of word history, what is romantic about 'raining potatoes' (Falstaff)?
                                " Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of ‘Green Sleeves;’ hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here."

                          2. That has driven me nuts for a long time too, Will. In fact, just yesterday I saw a Bobby Flay video where he referred to a Poblano as a Pasilla. A Poblano is a fresh chile, the dried form of which is called an Ancho. A Pasilla is a dried form of the fresh Chilaca chile.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: BobBray

                              One more good reason to pay more attention to Rick Bayless than Bobby Flay!

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                Bayless in his first 1987 book notes:
                                "Regional names include: chile para rellenar ... and simply chile verde ...; in the United States I've heard them called pasillas (mostly California) and, occasionally, anchos."

                                Doesn't sound like the 'pasilla' usage drives RB nuts.

                                Speaking of RB, I just passed through O'Hare and had a torta at one of his restaurants. It was OK, but I prefer my local taco truck's version - not as much meat, but a lot more avocado.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  I had my first menudo at Topolobampo (his more "down home" Chicago restaurant) in 1984 … at night! I did not yet even know that most REAL Mexican places have it only during the day on weekends. First of very many, though while I was eating it I kept wondering how close to the stockyards we were …

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    I was living in Chicago when the 1st RB cookbook came out, but ate a Frontera Grill only once. The only dish I recall was a salad with clementines (and probably jicama). I remember it because it was so different from anything else I'd had at area Mexican restaurants.