Aji is Everything
Aji is a kind of salsa made in Colombia and other countries. It is much more watery than a typical Mexican or Caribbean salsa. It is a condiment, offered at most meals, made up of chilies, citrus, garlic, cilantro, tomato and other ingredients. The word “aji” actually means “chile,” as in chile pepper. You can make it as hot or as mild as you like. It can be made in a blender or food processor, or chopped by hand.
I’ve been to restaurants where the aji they serve is far to hot to use at all! I thought I was in a Peruvian restaurant! Their aji is very hot and many of their dishes are hot too. Colombian-style aji is meant to complement the meal, not make it hot. Which brings me to the point. Well, not the point, but I want to make a point. My jalapeno peppers are amazingly hot – and not in a good way. There is a certain heat you expect from a jalapeno, but it should not rival a habanero, for goodness sake! Mine are very hot. I read that when they are growing, if they do not get enough water, they will be hotter. So, farmer! Water your dratted jalapenos!
I found a nice recipe for empanadas with aji, then proceeded not to follow it, but I did make the aji right. Except I was afraid to use too much of the jalapeno. This version is decidedly vinegary and I decided to add hot pepper sauce to make it hotter rather than risk using more than 1/4 of my extra-super-duper-hot jalapenos.
I did not make these tamales. They were purchased frozen and are Salvadoran chicken tamales. They come wrapped in a corn husk. They differ greatly from Colombian tamales. Colombian tamales are much larger because they have more filling. They also have precooked masa harina and are wrapped in banana leaves. These Salvadoran ones are like those found in Mexico. They are thin, with more tomato, and the masa is the type used for making tortillas rather than arepas. I liked them a lot. It will be hard to get my Colombian husband to try them, but perhaps after his colonoscopy. That’s right. He’s having one on Tuesday, so I have to hide food on Monday because he cannot eat any solids.
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (remove seeds and veins for less heat)
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1/2 Roma tomato, chopped
- Hot pepper sauce to taste, optional
Chop everything up fine and combine. Or process in a food processor to desired consistency.
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