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Cooking with dried chillies is like being handed a colourful palette of paints and a blank canvas. Each variety of dried chilli brings its own unique combination of flavours and characteristics to a finished dish, with varying levels of sweetness, smokiness, umami complexity and, of course, spice. Some have a faint mushroom flavour, while others bring a hint of chocolate. Citrussy highlights and earthy base notes are common too.
Mixing and matching chillies gives you incredible control over the exact flavour profile of your finished recipe, like in this salsa macha recipe, where the raisin flavours and medium spice of pasilla chillies meet the bright fruitiness of ancho and the nutty intensity of arbol.
A smoky, luscious peanut sauce, salsa macha is a versatile and ubiquitous Mexican condiment traditionally made from any number of combinations of dried chillies, nuts and oil. We love slathering it over tacos filled with barbecued meat, grilled vegetables or fried fish, but it’s just as delicious enjoyed among a selection of salsas with homemade corn chips.
This recipe is based on the salsa macha recipe published by Bon Appetit.
Prepare the chillies by cutting off the stems (scissors work well), and massaging the seeds and white membranes from inside. Discard the stems, seeds and membranes.
Heat the oil in a saucepan until it reaches 170C. Add the garlic to the oil, and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until it has browned all over. Having flavoured the oil, remove the garlic and use it for another purpose (smear over garlic bread or crush into a salad dressing).
Add the chillies to the oil in batches (cut the chillies in half if needed to fit in the pan), frying for about 30 seconds or until puffy and aromatic. Transfer them to a tray to cool once cooked.
Turn off the heat and leave the oil to cool for 10-15 minutes.
Transfer oil, chillies and peanuts to a blender and blitz until it smooth. Season to taste.
Serve as a sauce for tacos, spooned over braised vegetables or grilled chicken, or serve with homemade corn chips (made by frying wedge-cut corn tortillas) and avocado.
1.5h prep | 4h cook
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