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Dec 15, 2010 07:58 PM

Peruvian grocer - looking for Aji paste!

Can anyone recommend a place to find Peruvian or south american products downtown...?

I'm trying to replicate a delicious chicken dish I had recently at a Peruvian restaurant in Washington DC called Aji de Gallina, the key ingredient of which is a yellow pepper paste called Aji or Aji amarillo paste.

Just waking up to the wonderful flavours of Peruvian cuisine, and need some direction (and a good shop).

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  1. Salamanca, 204 Baldwin St, (416) 593-9814.

    Run by some very friendly guys from Peru. They have dried Aji spice powder or flakes, and the Aji Amarillo paste (Goya brand). They also have other Peruvian ingredients like Huacatay en Salsa paste (Peru Gourmet brand), Anatto (or achiote) spice powder, and Peruvian oregano. I use all these ingredients to make an excellent rotisserie Pollo a la Brasa.

    Aji are yellow South American hot chilis but I haven't found fresh. If you want to add some fresh hot peppers instead of (or in addition to) the Aji powder, substitute a smaller amout of Habanero but be careful.

    Tell the guys at Salamanca what you are making and they will give you some very good tips.

    PS If Salamanca is out of something, try two doors further east. They have some of the ingredients but I prefer Salamanca.

    5 Replies
    1. re: PoppiYYZ

      PPS. Was the Washington restaurant El Pollo Rico?

      1. re: PoppiYYZ

        I have ordered aji amarillo chiles (dried) from in Ottawa. They were quite hot, about a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-10+ and in good condition. I loved them, but my better half didn't like that type of heat (made him flush really pink). He has a pretty high tolerance for hot spices but certain chiles and spices do that to him. I didn't have that problem at all, though I have similar reactions with different chiles from him.

        1. re: PoppiYYZ

          Great, I will head over to Salamanca on Baldwin. Thanks for the tip. Do you know whether they (or anyone around K Market) make empanadas ? I'm not sure whether Jumbo Empanadas is still open, and the homemade version seems too ambitious to tackle on my own for an upcoming dinner party.

          The Washington restaurant we went to was Las Canteras, in the Adams Morgan area. We actually wanted to try a place called Inti, but it had just closed down earlier that week (after many years). Las Canters was just up the street from there, and was excellent. Trio of tiraditos (cebiche) were incredibly tasty, Pisco sours tasted just like the ones we'd had last summer in Santiago, the wine list was interesting and the atmosphere very cosy.

          1. re: cheesegal

            Three main places for empanadas in Kensington. Jumbo do larger ones that take the approach of having varied ingredients (ie hard-boiled eggs). El Gordo do smaller ones in 40 combinations of flavours. Segovia make a few varieties, and also some of the dessert kinds. People are regularly B-slapped on these boards for expressing a favourite, which is bizarre, as all three have common threads in their past (ie family, employment).

            El Gordo
            214 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON , CA

            1. re: cheesegal

              Thanks for the Washington tips CG. Don't forget to try El Pollo Rico next time you are in DC (nothing fancy but amazing chicken).

              Sorry but I can't help on the TO recommendations for Empanadas, but I'm sure the Salamanaca crew can help. Please share your AdG recipe.

        2. I returned from an amazing vacation in Peru last week and have been keen to cook some traditional Peruvian dishes at home. Having planned to visit a grocery store in Lima on our last day, which unfortunately didn't pan out, I visited Salamanca at 204 Baldwin St. today. The two guys who run the place are, indeed, very friendly and we had a nice chat about Peru and my favourite foods there.

          I bought aji amarillo (hot yellow chile) paste, huacatay (black mint) paste, rocoto (hot red chile) paste, and achiote powder there; they did not seem to have powdered aji amarillo. Two doors east I found aji de huacatay, a great condiment that's often served with rotisserie chicken (pollo a la brasa) and grilled meats. And at Perola on Augusta, I found another brand (Incas Food) of aji amarillo. By the way, I also found dried aji amarillo at Perola (in bulk at the front of the store).

          I made a delicious seafood stew tonight using aji amarillo and achiote. Can't wait to make pollo a la brasa and aji de gallina next.

          PoppiYYZ, would you mind sharing your recipe for pollo a la brasa? I've found a couple online and am leaning towards this one:

          247 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: Tatai

            You got it !


            There are other interesting recipe links on the above thread too. Enjoy...

            By the way Tatai, have you seen any mini serving bowls like these:

            1. re: PoppiYYZ

              Thanks so much, PoppiYYZ. Will try your recipe as soon as possible. I'm already salivating! Any chance you also have a great recipe for aji de gallina?

              As for the serving bowls, I don't think I've seen those around but will let you know if I ever do.

          2. The original comment has been removed