Let’s talk-a Oaxaca: Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles 101

Let’s talk-a Oaxaca: Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles 101

Imagine standing at the edge of a steep sloping chile field two hours into the mountains of southern Mexico. In the distance, a fire is tended by hand turning over ripe red chiles and a delicious rich-smelling smoke fills the air as they do. If this sounds like where you are- you might be in the sacred Sierra Mixe region of Oaxaca, Mexico- AKA the only place these peppers are cultivated in the world. 

The basics: Fresh Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles change from bright green to burnt orange, to an almost black, deep red. These are then harvested and roasted on wood for several days. Smoked Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles possess an unmatched complex fruity, smokey flavor, used in many traditional Mexican dishes like Oaxacan-style mole sauce, salsas, soups, and marinades. They are cultivated almost entirely by the Mixe people, whose chosen name,  Ayüükjä’äy means, “people who speak the mountain language.” 

The smokiness: Chiles from the Mixe region (otherwise known as Mixe chiles) are nearly impossible to smoke in the sun due to the cool and humid mountain air- so they are dried on wood coals over the course of several days. From start to finish- a batch of these chiles is 120 days of work, plus 3 days of smoking. 

The secrets: Farmed on small-holdings properties by mostly indigenous people, these chiles, and the sacred process is fiercely protected. In fact, at one point it was said that even if you wandered the streets and markets, nobody would sell a fresh pasilla chile to an outsider, but rather would stop you and interrogate you about what you were doing there.

We love our Smoked Chili Bitters, and we love our Pasilla chiles. Like the rest of the Hella ingredient lineup- every ingredient is hand-picked and chosen with intention and deep respect for its history and culture. 

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