Aji criollo is an Ecuadorian hot sauce made with hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime. Sometimes people assume that food from Latin American countries is the same in each country and while there are a lot of similarities, the cuisine and ingredients are not only very different in each country but also regionally in each country. The reason I mention this is because several times when I tell someone I from Ecuador or just in general from South America and we talk about food it is assumed that South American food is the same as Mexican food: “Oh, you guys must eat a lot of tacos, etc”. Well, in fact Mexican food (and I mean good Mexican food not crappy Tex-Mex fast food – I like Tex-Mex but with good quality ingredients) is just starting to be available widespread in Ecuador.
About 10 years ago you could probably find something decent in the main cities of Quito and Guayaquil but not anywhere else. My mom grew up in New Mexico and really missed the food, when we we’re growing up she always made tortillas from scratch because it was impossible to buy them already made (now you can). Most of my Ecuadorian friends were introduced to enchiladas and guacamole through my mom’s cooking. She always talked about all the varieties of hot peppers and chilies and the sauces you could make with each one. Now that I live in the US I can find the chilies she missed but I can’t find my Ecuadorian hot peppers, however jalapeños, serranos and habaneros are good replacements.
Aji criollo is an Ecuadorian hot sauce made with hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime
- 4 ajies or hot peppers
- ½ bunch of cilantro (stems and leaves)
- ½ cup of water
- 3 garlic cloves
- Juice from ½ lime or lemon
- 3 tbs finely chopped white onion (scallions can also be used)
- Combine the hot peppers, cilantro, water, garlic cloves and lime juice in the blender or food processor and blend well.
- Add the chopped white onions or scallions and salt to taste.
Another assumption is that Ecuadorian food is spicy (from using hot peppers) and that is quite untrue, a lot of Ecuadorians don’t like their food too hot (but some do), so almost all restaurants will serve meals accompanied by hot sauce, some are mild and some very spicy, so that people can add it if they want it hot. Aji criollo is a fresh hot sauce or salsa that is very popular and a lot of typical dishes are served with it, I’ve mentioned in a few of the previous recipes so I figured it was probably time to post the actual recipe, which is very easy to make and should be consumed ideally the same day but can last up to 3 days. I used serrano peppers to make this aji, they are usually spicy enough to make it pretty hot. You can also use jalapeños but I find that they are inconsistent and one might be spicy and another is not spicy at all (but the red fresno peppers are spicier). Or if you want it, as my five year would say, super hot burn your mouth on fire, then go for the habaneros. Also if you are going for mild, remove the membranes and seeds, leave them in completely or partially if you want it spicier.