Eat a chile and be spicy!

A variety of chiles to spice up your dishes

Additional Q&As: Kristina de Guzman

Paraiso Tropical Latin Market's variety of dried chiles from Mexico and Peru.
Photos: Poushali Mitra

One of the common questions that Paraiso Tropical Latin Market gets from its shoppers are related to chiles (chilis). If you’ve ever popped by for a visit to our stores, you’ll be sure to notice right away that we have a section specially dedicated to dried chiles and there is a whole variety of them to choose from! We even have fresh ones, too, in our produce section.

"Since the beginning of the store, we started selling the herbs, spices, and chiles," shares Paraiso co-owner and manager Bruna Campos Gonzalez. "Chiles and spices are a part of Central American and Mexican cuisine, and that was the focus of the store when Jesus Sr. and Alba [Gonzalez] opened [Paraiso Tropical]."

A local shop inside Guanajuato municipal market selling/displaying dried chiles. Photo was taken in October, 2018, Guanajuato municipal market, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Photo: Poushali Mitra

Particularly for Canadian shoppers, a question that pops up is how to use different types of chiles.

We sell around fifteen to twenty different types of chiles," Campos Gonzalez says. "The most popular ones are guajillo, ancho, árbol, chipotle, and habanero."

Other dried chiles grown in Mexico which Paraiso sells also include chile pequin (or piquín), which is from the Mexican state of Tabasco and is used to make hot homestyle salsas; chile california (also known as New Mexico chile or chile colorado), which come from dried Red Anaheim chiles; chile cascabel; chile mirasol; and chile japonés ("Japanese chili pepper" in Spanish).

These chiles are also a key ingredient in salsas and sauces, from hot chipotle to salsa casera (homestyle mild salsa).

Canned chiles such as pickled jalapeño peppers are available at Paraiso Tropical Latin Market.
Photo: Poushali Mitra

“We also sold the canned chiles, because that’s a great part of Mexican food,” shares Campos Gonzalez. “But we would bring in what the customers asked of us, too.

Part of some Latin American [meals] include having a fresh chile – not necessarily spicy or hot – with lunch and dinner, she adds that the chiles give the food a fuller flavour and can also help with digestion.

The Origin of the Chile

Christopher Columbus set sail in search of new lands for sugar, coffee, and spices, and he didn’t leave the hot chiles aside. Like many others, he claimed to have discovered these spicy peppers. In reality, humans have used chiles to add a spicy kick to their meals for over 6000 years. These peppers are said to have originated in Mesoamerica (the region that extends from Central Mexico to Central America and northern Costa Rica) and were used by people for both food and traditional medicine. Eventually, cultivation of this crop spread across the world.

A quick search on world agricultural trading sites will show that today, Mexico is a main chile exporter, sending out about 24 per cent of the world’s chiles.

Peruvian ajís (chiles), including rocoto and limo, can be found in Paraiso Tropical's freezer section.
Photo: Kristina de Guzman

“We mostly bring the chiles from Mexico and Peru,” says Campos Gonzalez. “We source our chiles from different suppliers at a time according to availability.”

Paraiso also sells Chilean ajís (chili sauces), such as Don Juan’s Ají Pebre and Don Juan’s Ají Chileno Crema.

How Hot are These Chiles?

If you have a look at our online store, you can find some very helpful information on our selection of dried chiles, including heat levels according to the Scoville scale. For example, chiles of the New Mexico/California/Colorado variety have a heat range of anywhere from 500 to 2500 Scoville heat units (SHU).

Paraiso Tropical's chile de árbol tostado (fire roasted de arbol chili).
Photo: Poushali Mitra