So What Kind of Chile Should I Use?


After my recent post on chile-laced tamarind ice cream, a friend sent me a recipe for cooked apples with ancho chile.

I wasn’t paying attention at the supermarket, and found myself with all the necessary ingredients except ancho chile. I’m a resourceful guy, so I thought “what the heck” and substituted chipotle… with disappointing results. I ended up with an oddly smoky, brown-sugary mess that just didn’t work with the sour granny smith apples.

That’s when I was reminded that it’s high time I learned the difference between the many different chiles.

Here’s a great starting point. A summary that features 12 commonly available chiles, with a quick description of each, and an indication of their heat level.

I wasn’t surprised to see how hot the habaneros can be. I have a vivid memory of tasting a tiny dollop of habanero salsa one evening in Mérida, and pretty much ruining my dinner with the pain.

Here’s the link:

Chichén Itzá – Los Angeles – Mesquite Grilled Shrimp



Several years ago, when I learned that Chichén Itzá served Yucatán style venison tacos, I dropped everything and went to try them. They don’t seem to be on the menu any more, but they were absolutely delicious. Since then, I have been back many times to their South Grand Avenue restaurant, as well as to the short-lived MacArthur Park location. I’ve had perfectly executed red and green pipiáns, Yucatán specialty poc chuc and many other wonderful dishes. There’s always a feeling of anticipation while driving there, because, out of character for me, I haven’t settled on a single favorite dish.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting Gilberto and Gilberto (yes, two Gilbertos) at the East LA Meets Napa fund-raising event for AltaMed. Each of the participating restaurants presented a specialty dish for the sophisticated crowd of over 1,000 people, and Chichén Itzá’s mesquite grilled shrimp with a habanero cream sauce was a stand-out success. Served on a bed of julienne zucchini, the distinctive flavors of the shrimp and mesquite were beautifully balanced by a flavorful cream sauce with just enough habanero heat to add a whole new layer to the experience.

A consistently good restaurant, run by really nice people… what more can we ask for?

Here’s the website: