Situated High in the South American Andes mountain range Peru, South America’s 3rd largest country sits nestled between Bolivia and Ecuador. It is home to many Inca temples on the high inner plateaus of the Andes mountains and hosts the Amazon river on the lower inland tributaries. Beaches and Peru’s capital Lima are along the southern coastline of the Pacific Ocean.
photo credit: Peruvian National Society
The world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon, covers nearly half of Peru. Called the Selva in Spanish, this huge jungle, which also covers half of Brazil, is home to plants and animals that do not live anywhere else on Earth. Some scientists think there may even be Indian tribes there that have never seen the outside world, however a majority of Peru’s population live in or around coastal cities.
photo credit: Peruvian state photos
The people of Peru are a mix of many different cultures including: Indians, Spaniards and other Europeans, descendants of African slaves, and Asians. Peruvian food and culture reflects the history and diversity of its people and the broad spectrum of culinary ingredients can be seen as an influence from each individual culture. You might see dishes including soy sauce from Asian culture, pasta from European culture, peanuts from African culture and of course chilies and potatoes from native Indian culture. Whatever it might be modern Peruvian food is both flavorful and eclectic.
photo credit: National Geographic
The Ancient Incas were among the first to inhabit Peru and were the first to grow native plants as food sources. Some of the early cultivation of potatoes happened in Peru. My favorite is the purple Peruvian potato. How is that for a tongue twister? The Aji Amarillo chili was another staple that was first cultivated at the time of the Spanish conquest. At that time Incas cultivated almost as many species of plants as Europe or Asia. The Aji Amarillo is among the first chilies to be planted in Peru. Aji means chili.
The Aji Amarillo is dark orange in color, has sweet, spicy, and earthy flavor profiles, and is grown in all the aforementioned areas of Peru. It is grown and available year round. When dried the pepper turns a burnt orange-red color and retains its heat.
I chose to use the Aji Amarillo Chili to make an amazing chicken soft taco recipe using the medium heat of the chili toned down with the sweet and tangy flavors of pineapple. Substitute tofu or your favorite vegetrian protein instead of chicken. Below is the recipe and a photo journal to go with it. Don’t be alarmed that the recipe is somewhat long. Follow the steps and you will have delicious food in no time! 🙂
Peruvian Aji Amarillo and Pineapple Chicken Tacos
4 large boneless /without skin chicken breasts whole
1 large white onion chopped
7 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
1 package Aji Amarillo Peruvian chilies
2-teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
1 teaspoon preferred salt
1 teaspoon ground black or rainbow peppercorns
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
2 cup bowling water
Monterey Jack cheese
Minced red onion
This recipe can be made in a pressure cooker to cut down on cooking time. Feel free to cook on medium low heat until chicken can be easily shredded with fork in regular pan /pot with a cover.
- Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, garlic, pineapple and sauté for a few minutes.
- Add chicken and spices and cook till lightly brown. Do not burn spices. Add 1/2 cup of water. Cook for 20-25 minutes in your pressure cooker. In your regular pot cook for 45-60 minutes or until chicken can easily be shredded.
- Remove stems and seeds from chilies and toast on low heat for 1-2 minutes.
- Place toasted chilies in bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water. Let sit for 15-20 minutes or until they are soft and pliant
- Add chilies to blender or food processor with 1 cup of soaking water. Blend on low for 2-3 minutes. Mixture should be completely pureed with no skin or chunks left. Transfer to sauce pan.
- After chicken if fully cooked add it to a bowl and cover. Take pineapple mixture and half remaining liquid and put it into a blender or food processor. Make sure mixture is cooled off a little bit before blended. Blend for 1-2 minutes until everything is completely combined and in sauce form. Mix together with chili sauce on stove. Add teaspoon of honey, more salt and pepper to taste. Mixture should not be thin. It should be a thick creamy texture. Add more water if you want a more loose sauce.
- Shred chicken using 2 forks to pull apart. Add sauce a little bit at a time until chicken is fully saturated. You will most likely have extra sauce left.
- Garnish: Shred cheese, heat corn tortillas mince onion and cilantro.
- Put together your yummy taco. Use extra sauce as a garnish.
Happy Cooking from Sonoma Spice Queen! You can purchase dried organic Aji Amarillo Chilies at my spice shop as well as other spices mentioned in recipe . SSQ 407 C St. Petaluma, Ca