👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
I never tire of talking about Peru. It's my happy place (well, one of a couple). 💕 Having spent June of 2017, 2018, and 2019 in the Cuzco region of Peru, I've had plenty of opportunity to get to know its flavors and smells.
Ají - or chile pepper - is an important ingredient in Peruvian cooking, and one of the most important ají peppers is the rocoto pepper. Yes, they're hot. On rocotos Scoville scale, they rank 30,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). That translates to 4 to 40 times hotter than the familiar jalapeño. Uchucuta (or uchukuta) is a Quechua word for "ground hot pepper."
I cannot over-emphasize the variation in heat level of the rocoto pepper! I've had salsas that gave me pause because they had no heat at all. AND. I've had sauces that blew my mind and might have caused lasting damage to my mouth. LOL.
It is difficult
if not impossible to get fresh rocoto peppers in the US, but we can often get their very similar cousin manzano peppers. Manzano peppers come out of Mexico, but originate in the Andes. They tend to be 12,000 to 30,000 SHU - well below the rocoto pepper - making them about twice as hot as the jalapeño.
My photos include fresh manzano peppers. Their sweet heat is delightful in this salsa. By all means use rocoto peppers if you are able to get them!
My recipe for rocoto aioli was born out of a pouch of uchucuta I brought home from Peru last summer. Amazon, in fact, has the specific pouch I brought home from Orion in Cuzco.
The uchucuta sauce definitely reminded me of a mayonnaise based sauce, and that's the direction I decided to take this recipe. It is really very simple - roasted garlic, rocoto (or manzano) pepper, lime juice, salt, vinegar, olive oil.
🌶 What is Uchucuta
Uchucuta (uchukuta) is a Quechua (indigenous people) word for "ground hot pepper." That makes it a pretty broad term. LOL. As I mentioned above, my reference point for "uchucuta" is a pouch with a mayonnaise based rocoto sauce... which I love by the way!
By this definition, my Peruvian ají verde salsa is uchucuta as well. That seems a bit confusing to this home cook. We'll just set that aside for now!
🌶 What is a Rocoto Pepper
As I mention in the first section, rocoto is Peru's HOT PEPPER. Sometimes it is as hot as a habañero, but in my experience, it is more like a serrano pepper. In other words, the heat level really varies.
Enter the manzano pepper. Manzano peppers are grown in Mexico at high elevation. They are a member of the species C. pubescens like the rocoto (Peru) and the locoto (Bolivia). They all have a bit of fur on them, they're thick-walled and apple shaped, and have large black seeds.
Manzanos are still hot, but they're usually less hot than a rocoto. AND we can get them in the US because we get a lot of our produce from Mexico!
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- chile pepper - Rocoto, manzano, or locoto pepper are preferred. You can also use a bit of rocoto paste. Remember: Rocotos are hot! If you can't get these Peruvian chiles, substitute serrano, Fresno, habanero (if you're brave!).
- garlic - Roasting the garlic is worth the extra time!
- coarse sea salt
- juice of 1 lime
- vinegar - I like sherry vinegar. White wine or champagne vinegar are good options as well.
- olive oil
- 1 egg yolk - This is a fairly loose sauce. If you want it thicker (like mayonnaise) use 2 yolks.
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper
🎥 How to video
- Purée the rocoto (manzano) pepper - Remove the seeds and stems from the pepper. Cut into small pieces. Pulse until smooth.
- Add the roasted garlic, coarse sea salt, and lime juice - Add the (hopefully) roasted garlic, the generous pinch of coarse sea salt, and the fresh lime juice to the bowl of a small processor. Blend until smooth.
- Add the vinegar and egg yolk - Once again, purée the rocoto mixture with the vinegar egg yolk. Smoothness is key!
- Add the olive oil - The olive oil needs to be added while the blender or processor is going - in a slow but steady stream - to emulsify it. I have a hole in the top of my processor that is ideal for this process (see video).
- Taste for seasoning!
How long can I keep my rocoto sauce? It is best fresh, but it will keep in an air-tight jar for a week in the refrigerator. Store in the refrigerator if not using immediately!
I can't get manzanos or rocotos. What else can I use? If you're brave enough, substitute a bit of habanero. Serrano is a good option, but the color will be green rather than yellow, orange, or red. Keep in mind the flavor will be different as well.
Can I use rocoto paste or whole jarred rocotos? Yes! I have used both of these products in my Peruvian cooking. Of course fresh is always best, but you'll still have a good aioli with either option. Proceed cautiously. You can add but you can't subtract. I used 1 whole rocoto on photo day, and while delicious, it is SPICY!
🧂 Useful Stuff
Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊
While rocoto (manzano) peppers are not for the faint of heart, their fruity heat is delicious! Tempered with aioli or in combination with tomatoes or other fresh ingredients, they'll bring vibrant Peruvian flavor to the most simple dishes. I hope you'll give this salsa a try!