Some of us have been caught out when following American recipes to the letter and adding the required 2 tablespoons of chili powder - only to end up with something that resembles a small nuclear explosion going off in your moth with the first bite. When this has happened you quickly realise that, in general, the chili powder used in American cooking is a lot milder than the chili powders that we can usually buy over here in the UK. It was not until I took a short course at the Santa Fe school of cooking that I got to know the difference. In the US the chili is there for flavour as much as, if not more than, the heat. The range of chili powders (and fresh chilies) that are available over there is incredible. To the uninitiated it is like after drinking Teachers whiskey all your life, then being introduced to the finest single malt Islay whisky.
Since that time I have stopped using the "generic" chili powders in my rubs and recipes and have switched to using a mix of specific chili types. I now stock and pretty much only use the following:
- New Mexico Chili - This is mild and very versatile. It is what gives the South West US dishes their distinctive flavour
- Ancho Chili - (I use this the most) It is mild and a little sweet, almost fruity and it has a deep smokey flavour. It will not overpower with heat any food it is used in.
- Chipotle - Robust smoke and heat. I use this in moderation to add the heat into my rubs and dishes
All are readily available online here in the UK.
What do others use - both here in the UK and also in the USA?