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Feb 10, 2011 10:26 AM

What Dose Chili Taste Like to You?

I know chili is hot and there is a scale for that, but I am intrested in the flavor. I see some noted cheffs use 3 or 4 or 5 different types of drided and fresh chili in thier recipes so I assume there is a difference in flavor and not just heat.

So if you are a Chiliholic, can you descripbe the flavor of your favorite chili?

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  1. It is true that different chiles have different tastes. In fact, there is a pretty wide spectrum of flavors to be experienced. It is easier to perceive the distinct flavors in chiles that have less “heat,” but they possess less diversity of savors. One, however, can “acquire" a taste for chiles through repeated consumption resulting in the desensitization of pain receptors. Consequently, the ability to perceive a great variety of otherwise masked flavors emerges.

    Habanero peppers, for example, although containing a great deal of capsaicin, have a bright, fruity flavor. Jalapeno peppers have less spice and are more bitter and earthier; although some of this softens when the pod ripens to red. One Asian pepper I use frequently possesses a floral, grassy quality and a citrusy tang that I particularly enjoy.

    Chiles can be dried which will affect their flavor when cooked into dishes. Similarly, chiles will sometimes be smoked adding even more distinctive tastes. Chipotles are the best known, resulting when smoke is used to infuse flavor and dry out jalapenos. As you may have guessed, chipotles have a smoky taste. Then, there are other smoked chiles, including moritas which are also made from jalapenos, that possess distinguishable flavor elements – smokier, fruitier, etc.

    I may have only scratched the surface, but thought it might help. Ultimately, you must taste different chiles to experience their flavors. To provide you with a reference to the vast number of chiles, here is a link to a database containing information on 3,000 or so:

    1 Reply
    1. re: MGZ

      One way to tame the habanero is to remove not only the ribs and seeds but also the inner membrane. This lets the wonderful fruit flavor come forward and there will still be enough heat.

    2. It may also help to differentiate between chiles, and chili. The former referring to individual peppers, and the latter being a dish featuring meat stewed in a chile based sauce.

      My personal favorite chile for use in chili are anchos which are dried poblano peppers. In powdered form it is mild in terms of heat, but has a rich, roasted earthy flavor. Unfortunately in competition cooking it isn't particularly useful as it tends toward a brownish color, and one major goal in producing an award winning bowl of red is, obviously, a bright red color. Blends of various California and New Mexico fully ripened dried chiles tend to dominate competition recipes.

      For heat my personal favorite chile is the De Arbol. These feature a bright, searing heat that doesn't linger on the palate like a lot of the more incendiary habaneros and scotch bonnet types. Lemon drop peppers are also great for a lot of applications, especially asian dishes. These are scorchingly hot, but feature definite lemon/citrus notes.

      In my opinion the ultimate chili should feature beef flavor, but secondary to a rich chile blend which ranges from mild with a nice burn on the finish, with a floral edge from a hefty does of cumin.

      1 Reply
      1. re: laststandchili

        I'm glad you mentioned cumin since this is a dominate flavor that I associate with chili. I may be a little heavy handed since I like cumin.